Irish Ministers Pose for Charlie Hebdo Free Speech, While Blasphemy Law Remains


'Je suis Charlie. Vive la Liberté (mais le blasphème est interdit!)'

More members of the hypocrite's identity parade. If these politicians were serious about protecting free speech, beyond posturing in photo-ops, they would be fast-tracking a referendum on abrogating the blasphemy law and not fast-tracking redundant 'anti-terror' legislation (which has been used all over the world to stifle dissent).

The greatest irony is that while they make a spectacle of defending the blasphemous Charlie Hebdo against Islamist violence, repressive Islamist governments use the Irish blasphemy law as justification for their persecution of blasphemers, and advocate the exact wording of 'our' law to the UN as international best practice to spread blasphemy laws to other countries.

In fact, this is the most important reason that the Irish blasphemy law must be abolished immediately. It will likely not be applied in Ireland, though it is certainly unjust and ridiculous. Although Dr. Ali Salem, of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, has warned that he will invoke it against blaspheming Charlie Hebdo cartoons if they are re-printed here.

The Pakistani state, one which praises and cites the Irish law, will soon execute Asia Bibi for committing blasphemy. In 2012 Indonesian civil servant Alexander Aan was assaulted by fellow workers, arrested, and imprisoned for 2 and a half years with an €8,500 fine (only about a third of Ireland's hefty €25,000 fine). All this for sharing material about the prophet Muhammed and questioning the existence of Allah on Facebook. In 2010, Ireland's blasphemy law was cited by the Indonesian constitutional court as strong evidence to uphold its law prohibiting blasphemy. Interestingly Aan was ultimately convicted for inciting religious hatred and not blasphemy.

The recent Constitutional Convention recommended that the blasphemy law be removed from the Irish constitution and replaced with an incitement to religious hatred law (even though Irish law already provides for that). The government responded on October 2nd 2014 by announcing that a referendum would be held sometime within the government's term of office. Despite this, the government have reneged on their promise (by saying it will be 'unlikely', read between the lines).

Naturally the government is far too busy stage-managing the water charges debacle. And of course, having too many referenda would be madness. Deviate too much from the undemocratic ritual of elections every 4 years and people might get ideas about themselves.

The law to be amended is Article 40.6.1 of the constitution, and Section 36 of the 2009 Defamation Ac . In 2009 Fianna Fáil decided to update the blasphemy law into a brand spanking new one rather than hold a refendum. We remember a Fianna Fáil TD explaining this on RTE news at the time by essentially saying that referenda cost money and sure weren't they not arsed. Funnily enough the law was updated to make blasphemy better defined, yet it remains a paragon of vague and meaningless legislation.

Maybe when they say 'Je Suis Charlie', they say it precisely because Charlie was massacred. That is, they support free speech as long as it is dead.

More information on the Irish Blasphemy law