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Cork East Fine Gael TD and Minister of State at the Department of Justice & Equality, David Stanton is encouraging people to vote yes in the upcoming referendum to remove the crime of blasphemy from the Constitution.

Speaking on the significance of a yes vote in the referendum on Friday 26 October, Minister Stanton revealed: “Fine Gael’s 2016 General Election manifesto proposed a package of constitutional reforms including the holding of a referendum to propose the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution. This referendum is taking place on Friday 26 October, when voters will be presented with two ballot papers asking them to vote on the blasphemy referendum in addition to the Presidential Election.

“Ireland is a modern democratic republic that places high value on free speech. As such the crime of blasphemy has no place in our Constitution and that’s why I am calling on voters to remove it. Freedom of belief and expression are important values in a democratic society and criminalising blasphemy is not consistent with these values.

Minister Stanton went on to say “Ours is a country that respects religious diversity and religious freedom at home and around the world. However our own outdated law means a person could be fined up to €25,000 if they say or publish something intending to cause outrage, or that is grossly abusive, offensive or insulting to adherents of any religion.

“The blasphemy provision dates back to 1937 when the Constitution was framed. It was defined in the Defamation Act 2009 by the then Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, who said at the time that he felt he had to put it on the statute books to satisfy constitutional requirements.

“When Ireland speaks out on human rights issues around the world, our voice will be stronger if we remove blasphemy from our own Constitution. A blasphemy provision has no place in the modern Constitution of any democratic society and on Friday 26 October the people of Ireland will be presented with the chance to remove this provision from our Constitution once and for all”.