May 16, 2021

Ireland votes to elect president and abolish blasphemy in referendum

Ireland votes to elect president and abolish blasphemy in referendum



The voting centers in Ireland opened today at 0600 GMT for the electorate to participate in presidential elections, a mainly representative office, and in a referendum on the abolition of the crime of blasphemy.

More than three million people can vote for 15 hours, until 21.00 GMT, in two appointments with the polls whose results could be known on Saturday, when the official recount will begin.

The polls suggest that the current president, veteran Labor leader Michael D. Higgins, 77, will renew his post for another seven years, while the majority of the electorate would support the elimination of an article of the Constitution that outlaws blasphemy.

The latest polls have confirmed that Higgins' support stands at around 70%, far ahead of businessman Seán Gallagher (12%), whom he already defeated in the 2011 elections.

They are followed by Liadh Ní Riada MEP (9%), from the nationalist Sinn Féin party, the only political party that has submitted a candidacy to test the enormous popularity of the current head of the Irish State.

Regarding the referendum, which would go forward with a simple majority, 51% of the electorate would vote in favor of eliminating the crime of blasphemy, compared to 19% who reject it and 25% who remain undecided, despite the fact that all political parties, social groups of various kinds and the Protestant Church have asked for "yes".

The Irish Catholic Church is also in favor of this change, arguing that blasphemy is a "totally obsolete" concept and that the laws that persecute it have been used "to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world."

The Defamation Law was reformed in 2009 by the coalition government of the centrist Fianna Fáil and the Labor Party, and prohibits blasphemy because it is established by a clause of the national Constitution, although no one has been prosecuted for this crime since 1855.

The legislation provides fines of up to 25,000 euros for those who "publish or proffer material that is seriously abusive or insulting in relation to sacred matters for any religion, thus intentionally causing indignation to a substantial number of followers of that religion."

The Executive headed by the Christian Democrats now considers that its abolition would be an "important step" in the path taken by this country to improve its "international reputation", while "setting an example" to countries where blasphemy carries "the penalty of death".

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