Causing outrage in Ireland now illegal; who’s first to be jailed?

A new law has been passed in Ireland.  It’s being called a blasphemy law, because this is a Catholic country and voters will suppose that it is intended to protect the Church.  But the real effect is to allow the establishment to silence any criticism of whichever powerful and noisy groups it pleases.  Who these groups are, who are to be above criticism, remains to be seen.

Atheist site Palibandaily has the legal text here:

36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.

(1) 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. [Amended to €25,000]

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter 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 (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.

37. Seizure of copies of blasphemous statements.

(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 36, the court may issue a warrant (a) authorising any member of the Garda Siochana to enter (if necessary by the use of reasonable force) at all reasonable times any premises (including a dwelling) at which he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that copies of the statement to which the offence related are to be found, and to search those premises and seize and remove all copies of the statement found therein, (b) directing the seizure and removal by any member of the Garda Siochana of all copies of the statement to which the offence related that are in the possession of any person, © specifying the manner in which copies so seized and removed shall be detained and stored by the Garda Siochana.

(2) A member of the Garda Siochana may (a) enter and search any premises, (b) seize, remove and detain any copy of a statement to which an offence under section 36 relates found therein or in the possession of any person, in accordance with a warrant under subsection (1).

(3) Upon final judgment being given in proceedings for an offence under section 36, anything seized and removed under subsection (2) shall be disposed of in accordance with such directions as the court may give upon an application by a member of the Garda Siochana in that behalf.  

I’ve marked a couple of key words in bold.  The law says that if a well-organised group get upset (and the poster intended them to get upset — but I imagine this caveat will have no meaning) that makes it blasphemous. 

Note also 36c; this means that members of the establishment will be excluded from this law, under the usual “it’s art, innit” pretext.

The atheists at Palibandaily say that they are worried.  This must be because they imagine themselves as the intended victims.  They could be, so broad is the scope — they’re right there — but it’s unlikely I think.  The establishment hardly ever worries about atheists.  Indeed in Britain it would be hard to find a figure more at the heart of the establishment than Richard Dawkins.  Indeed an atheist in Scotland is an avid campaigner for laws to ban “hate” — no different in principle or effect.

Likewise an article in the Guardian is here.  The anger in the comments will provoke a wry smile or two from Christians in the UK, about to be jailed if gay pressure groups want them to be.

No-one really knows who the intended victims are.  It is pleasing, in a way, to see these intolerant people now feeling threatened by the sort of laws for which they have so assiduously campaigned.  But it is a pleasure that passes, and I doubt these laws will.  It will only need a small change of political temperature for the same approach to be applied to others.

We live in a period when special interest groups get the government to pass laws allowing them to drag before courts anyone who expresses any objection to them, or their views.  This has happened in Canada, where Ezra Levant is leading the fightback, it is happening in Britain, it is happening here in Ireland.  When I was young, any very strong expression of opinion was likely to be greeted with “It’s a free country.”  No-one says that any more.

All these laws that criminalise opinion or speech or feelings, are evil.  They are always selective, always biased, always political.  To me, government is a utility; a way to get the roads built and the drains to work, and the police to restrain thugs, and the army to defend us from the likes of Kim Il Sung.  I do not want the powerful telling me what to think, what to say, what to write; I do not want them equipping my fellow citizen with the means to drag me into court, pretending “outrage.”

In days gone by, censorship was justified by protecting us from a torrent of filth.  Today we have the torrent of filth.  So… why do we have so much censorship?



5 thoughts on “Causing outrage in Ireland now illegal; who’s first to be jailed?

  1. I agree that goverment is a utility, set up the rules and make sure they are kept. However there is a strong community that wants the goverment to take care of all of our daily needs and determine how our everyday life will be. It might seem outlandish but there are many people out there who want a democratically controlled totalitarian state. Any attempt to regulate somethink is always seen by this kind of people as positive: They want a bigger state. But this kind of people are not those that are behind this law.

    Parliamentary democracy is an oxymoron: As Rousseau said opinion is either expressed or suppressed, never represented. Let us not forget that Aristotle said in aristocracy officials are elected by vote and in democracy by lot. Since elections take money, in the end those that give money are more important than the voters. Parliamentary republic has never been very good at representing the needs of the masses, now with the weakening of the state in favor of the private sector the ruling elite is even less controlled by the masses and more by their financiers. They in exchange wield the instruments of state in a way that will advance their interests: Censorship exists because the big interests want to suppress or marginalise dissident or embarassing voices. During the Cold War free speach was one of the strategic weapons of the West against the East, hence it was protected even when it was embarassing. Now, without the need to tempt the other side, why maintain it?

  2. Thanks for the note. I don’t want this to become a blog mainly about free speech, still less about politics. But surely all bloggers would like to stay out of jail? And what else are such laws, but a threat to everyone?

  3. It appears to me that Western Europe has been set up for a right-wing reaction by recent social liberalism and immigration policy. However, it is preventable.

    The response, I suggest, is this: to educate the Christian mainstream, giving them a deeper and fuller appreciation of what Christianity really means, so that they cannot be manipulated by fundamentalist demagogues.

    Your work scanning, editing, and posting/publishing patristic works and related literature is part of the solution.

  4. I think so too.

    Those in power have forgotten 1989, when the Soviet Union — apparently established beyond challenge forever — collapsed in a year, leaving nothing behind. Changes of power can happen very rapidly.

    Right-wing parties respect tradition and precedent. But what we’re seeing is the creation of a mechanism of persecution, and no doubt legal precedents too. So this will be no barrier to using the same tools ruthlessly to suppress the Left.

    No doubt Nick Griffin of the BNP is a gentle, kindly man, who, when he comes to power, will not bear any resentment of the sustained abuse, violence and harassment (including being dragged into court) to which he has been subjected. No doubt he is, in this, much the superior of those who hate him so much.

    If not, if he is even a shred as full of hate as his foes, then these people are giving him a free ticket to open concentration camps. And who can doubt that the Red Terror will be met with a White Terror?

    Even Hitler followed legal precedents, however distorted. But the New Nazis wouldn’t have to twist them.

    Whatever political views we hold, we need to resist the idea that people can be dragged into court by their enemies for words. It has only evil consequences.

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