‘An Easy Win By This Petty Referendum’


Colum Kenny

As we approach the blasphemy referendum people on the Yes side who know better continue to claim that the Convention on the Constitution recommended the removal of the provision, while they omit the three significant words “as it is” and ignore the fact that what the Convention actually recommended by 53 per cent to 38 per cent was its replacement with a new general provision on hate speech.

And that’s what a UN committee supported.

The distinction is that between the liberalism of the Enlightenment that understood the balance of rights and the libertarianism of Silicon Valley that resists regulation (of social media and capital for example).

Some Yes crusaders who think themselves progressive not long ago also wanted the legal protection for balance in broadcasting removed because it did not suit them.

Its removal in the US, following a campaign by the right, cheapened public discourse.

Why are Irish citizens who see themselves as liberals or radicals so willing to let the Government set an agenda and claim an easy win by this petty referendum while sidelining free speech issues such as the use of defamation law to inhibit journalism or the prohibitive cost of legal proceedings, and more important constitutional questions relating to the abuse of property rights and other matters?

Colum Kenny,
Emeritus Professor,
Dublin City University.


Blasphemy and the Constitution (Irish Times letters page)


9 thoughts on “‘An Easy Win By This Petty Referendum’

  1. john f

    I agree that this referendum it’s petty for additional reasons. Referenda are expensive business, that’s why having them on the same day as major votes makes sense.
    However we are limited by what on offer, the blasphemy laws in and of themselves and not a major problem. Why can we not have referenda on the question of the ownership of state water, other natural resources, neutrality et cetera?
    We are given this false illusion of choice by our elected officials. Rarely is anything of significance is ever left to public vote.
    There is a growing democratic deficit in society fuelled mostly by people’s apathy. People rightly cry about our 2 major parties FF & FG however they are tolerated because the far left alternative would be far far worse.
    Naughton. Project Eagle, Siteserv et cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera shows the extent to which corruption has been normalised and to a certain extent expected.
    At this point I am just venting, I guess I will stop now.

    1. phil

      Im kinda with you , or would have been in the past , but Im not so sure anymore, I dont think I was in the country when Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act 2004 was voted on , but if I did vote yes back then, its not the way I would vote on that today , I just don’t trust us anymore , we are all way too angry and polarized to think straight these days.
      I wondered if we could introduce some sort of exam for voters before they are allowed to vote on life changing referendums.

      Oh BTW when you say
      ‘People rightly cry about our 2 major parties FF & FG however they are tolerated because the far left alternative would be far far worse’ ,
      do you really believe that ? I know its something FF/FG/LAB want us to believe, but personally I don’t think the left would be much better or much worse …

      1. john f

        Groups like solidarity/Sinn Fein make good points on things like water charges or property tax et cetera but then they go full leave bat ****crazy with talk of a wealth tax, pandering to all sorts of identity politics et cetera. Example https://twitter.com/rtepolitics/status/1052275728644009984 they’re all about style over substance.
        They just cannot be trusted, rampant socialism has failed to every country it was tried. I am all for socialising things like health care but not everything.

      2. Andrew

        “I wondered if we could introduce some sort of exam for voters”

        Do you now? Or just an exam for those who don’t vote the way you wish?


  2. Truth in the News

    You ‘d wonder what did the Bon Secour’s hold sacred to God when they disposed of the
    dead children in Tuam::

  3. McVitty

    It’s the illusion of progress – strip out the blasphemy clause and give it a couple of years before the Human Rights & Equality Commission advance something specifically addressing “Islamophobia”. This is the world we live in and I do not see progress – priogress is advancing common rights, citizen rights.

    FF/FG/Labour and the Irish establishment love getting behind this type of thing, jumping on the bandwagon as part of some youth-engagement process (as advised) all the while common citizen rights get left behind. It costs them nothing and it’s a wonderful distraction. Wake up people.

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