A Constitutional amendment seeking to remove the reference of blasphemy from the Constitution has passed all stages in the Seanad this evening.
The 37th Amendment of the Constitution Bill will now go to Áras an Uachtaráin to be signed by President Michael D Higgins allowing the Referendum Commission to begin its work.
The bill moved swiftly through the Houses of the Oireachtas this week, following its introduction by the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan in the Dáil on Tuesday night, where it passed without opposition.
Today in the Seanad, there was a more lengthy debate on the merits of removing the clause of blasphemy from the Constitution.
While the majority of Senators were in favour of the bill, Independent Senator Rónán Mullen expressed his opposition to a referendum.
He said "hypocrisy and tokenism" were typical of the Government and the political classes at the moment.
He suggested that the 2009 Defamation Act be amended to remove the offence of blasphemy from Irish law.
Senator Mullen pointed out that it would reduce the cost of another referendum on taxpayers.
But he predicted that his suggestion would not be taken on board because of the "vocal minority of commentators and politicians" mainly on the political left, who were "deeply offended by blasphemy" or any reference to religion in the constitution.
"The God question is the itch they can't help scratching", he said.
Senator Rónán Mullen is against holding a referendum on #blasphemy . He suggested bringing a bill to amend the '09 Defamation Act & remove the offence altogether which he says would be less costly #Seanad pic.twitter.com/upQeN5wrqd— Ailbhe Conneely (@AilbheConneely) September 20, 2018
Meanwhile, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik took an opposing view.
She said the presence of blasphemy was no longer tenable in a modern democratic State, nor had it any purpose in the constitution other than to send out an "unfortunate and outdated signal".
Senator Bacik said she listened "with some disbelief to the populist and strange position" taken by Senator Mullen, and said that as a criminal lawyer she did not think it appropriate having criminal offences in the Constitution.
She described the failure to remove the "publication or utterances of seditious or indecent matter" out of the Constitution along with blasphemy, as "a missed opportunity" by the Government.
Independent Senator Michael McDowell expressed concern over the removal of blasphemy from the constitution.
While he said he approached the matter from a liberal perspective, he urged people to look at the sentence carefully.
He said when blasphemy is taken out of the Constitution, the remaining article states "the utterance of sedition or indecency is an offence punishable by law and must be an offence punishable by law".
He described it as a "conundrum".