General scheme of Blasphemy Bill published
Minister Flanagan says Bill will ensure Blasphemy prosecutions will no longer be possible
20 December 2018
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has published the General Scheme of the Repeal of Offence of Publication or Utterance of Blasphemous Matter Bill.
Commenting on the publication, the Minister said he was pleased that Government had moved quickly to approve the drafting of a Bill which will implement the legislative changes being proposed to give effect to the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.
The Minister noted: “During the course of the referendum campaign, it was made very clear that, in the event of the referendum proposal being agreed, the Government would respond by bringing forward legislation which would repeal sections 36 and 37 of the Defamation Act 2009 which provide a statutory basis for the offence of blasphemy. The repeal of those sections is the key element in the General Scheme which has been published on my Department’s website. The proposed repeal is fully in accord with the policy that it should no longer be possible to initiate a prosecution for blasphemy in this jurisdiction.”
The Minister referred briefly to the wider issue of defamation law reform: “I would like to confirm that my Department is finalising a review of the Defamation Act 2009 which will address issues other than those falling within the scope of the Scheme which has just been published. Following a public consultation, issues to be covered by the review will include the following:
The respective roles of judge and jury in defamation cases;
The defences available to the media in the context of public-interest news reporting, and
The level of damages which can be awarded by Irish courts in defamation cases.
This review is a priority for me and I expect that it should be completed during the first quarter of 2019”.
The President signed the Thirty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution (Repeal of offence of publication or utterance of blasphemous matter) Bill 2018 on the 27th of November last.
The text of the General Scheme can be found on the website of the Department of Justice and Equality at: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/General_Scheme_of_the_Repeal_of_Offence_of_Publication_or_Utterance_of_Blasphemous_Matter_Bill_2018.pdf/Files/General_Scheme_of_the_Repeal_of_Offence_of_Publication_or_Utterance_of_Blasphemous_Matter_Bill_2018.pdf