Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has urged the public to vote for the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution, saying its inclusion damages our reputation internationally.

Mr Flanagan canvassed commuters this morning at Tara Street train station in Dublin on the referendum, which will take place on Friday week, 26 October, the same day as the Presidential Election.

He said the offence of blasphemy has very little relevance in recent times and said the last conviction was in 1855.

Mr Flanagan said the offence does not fit well in our modern constitutional requirement.

He also defended the level of Government involvement in the upcoming referendum, saying it was actively informing people of the question to be put to them.

He said that it was "ease of convenience" that three quarters of the leaflet he was handing out to the public was given over to promoting Michael D Higgins, with the remainder relating to the blasphemy referendum.

Asked about presidential candidate Peter Casey's remarks on Travellers, the minister said he fundamentally disagreed with them and said he was supporting Mr Higgins.

Meanwhile, Independent Senator Rónán Mullen, who is urging a No vote, described the Government's holding of a referendum as a vanity and nonsense project.

He said the vote was about removing one word from the Constitution, which has not caused anyone any problems.

Mr Mullen said the only reason the Government was holding the vote was to placate a minority who have some sort of "God itch".


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