“A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.”So what exactly would they define as "blasphemous matter", I hear you ask. According to the Irish Times, it would be any material “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”
The bill is still making it's way through the Irish parliament, so it's as yet unclear how this blasphemy clause will fare. Interestingly, the Irish Republic already has a constitutional prohibition against blasphemy, which declares that “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent material is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law”, but, as the Irish Times informs us, in the one legal case in which that clause was cited the Irish Supreme Court decided that it was impossible to say “of what the offence of blasphemy consists”.
So as we wait to see how this pans out, let's have an Irish view on the matter courtesy of my predecessor at New Humanist, Padraig Reidy. Not only is he a fully fledged Irishman, but he also now works for Index on Censorship, which makes the issue of censorship and blasphemy something of a specialist subject. In this piece on the Index website, he reminds us that the Irish bill is the latest development in a worrying global trend towards outlawing blasphemy and the criticism of religion.