Removal of blasphemy from constitution "an important step" for Ireland

Expression

In October 2018, Irish voters decided by an overwhelming majority to remove blasphemy as a criminal offence in the constitution. The provision, which was included in Article 40.6.1˚i of the Constitution of Ireland, had been in place since the constitution was written in 1937, at a time when the Catholic church held significant influence over public life in the country. The proposal put before voters in the referendum removed blasphemy as an offence but retained the "publication or utterance of seditious or indecent matter" as criminal offences. The referendum saw 64.85% vote yes to remove the offence of blasphemy. Rights group the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) welcomed the result, saying it was:

"an important step for free speech and the modernisation of our democracy...This positive result brings Ireland into line with international best practice in human rights, as called for by the UN Human Rights Committee."

ICCL also used the opportunity to highlight the continued need for hate crime legislation, something which is lacking in Ireland, but which is required by European and international human rights law.

Peaceful Assembly 

Protests on the right to affordable housing are ongoing in Ireland. These have led to tensions with police, which was previously reported by the CIVICUS Monitor. Recent protests in the Roscommon town of Strokestown were sparked by strong community reaction to the eviction of local residents. Thousands of people also marched in Dublin on 1st December to urge the government to take action on Ireland's continuing housing crisis, which has seen the number of homeless people in the country rise to almost 10,000. A coalition of civic organisations, including unions, community action groups and providers of services to homeless people, supported the demonstration.

Association

In October 2018, the Irish government opened a consultation on the Regulation of Online Political Advertising in Ireland. CIVICUS had previously reported the controversy which emerged in the midst of the referendum on abortion in Ireland, when groups supporting a "no" vote were accused of opaque funding received for online advertisements on social media. Civil society had called for a regulation on the transparency of this funding, especially for the practice known as "microtargeting". The Irish Council for Civil Liberties stressed the need for regulating “campaign spending rather than donations, and all campaigning directed at / received by people within the jurisdiction of Ireland”.

Also related to campaigning during elections, civil society continues to voice its concerns about provisions of the Electoral Act which hamper freedom of expression and association - something already extensively reported by the CIVICUS Monitor. A petition to reform the Electoral Act was launched by a coalition on NGOs and has so far collected over 1,200 signatures and the support of over 60 civil society organisations working on a wide range of policy issues.