Dublin, 27 October 2018
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has welcomed the Yes vote in the referendum on blasphemy as an important step for free speech and the modernisation of our democracy. ICCL campaigned for a Yes vote in this referendum and we have consistently advocated this change over many years. This positive result brings Ireland into line with international best practice in human rights, as called for by the UN Human Rights Committee.
Echoing the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention, we are now calling on the government to repeal sections 36 and 37 of the Defamation Act 2009 which define the criminal offence of blasphemy.
We are also calling on the Government to take immediate action to coordinate state bodies’ responses to hate- and hostility-based crime and to bring forward legislation to protect from hate- and hostility-based crime.
Executive Director of the ICCL, Liam Herrick, said:
“During our campaign for a Yes vote, our guiding principle was respect for freedom of expression. However, we have also argued that the right to free speech is not absolute and should be limited to the degree necessary to protect people from hate- and hostility-motivated crime. Hate crime is something which is entirely different to blasphemy as it is directed towards individuals or groups, rather than ideas or institutions. There is no legislation in place to deal with hate crime in Ireland at the moment.”
Ireland is obliged by European and international human rights law to have in place a robust framework to respond to and prevent hate- and hostility-based crime. In April ICCL released a report which showed that Ireland is seriously deficient in addressing hate crime when compared to other EU member States. The Lifecycle of a Hate Crime: Country Report for Ireland shows that from the point at which a victim reports a crime to An Garda Síochána to the point at which a judge sentences an offender, the hate element of a crime is filtered out of the criminal justice process.
For comment or queries:
Sinéad Nolan: firstname.lastname@example.org 087 4157162
The Life Cycle of a Hate Crime report is here: https://www.iccl.ie/hatecrime/