They say removing the crime of blasphemy from Irish law would support freedom of expression

Human rights groups have warned that retaining the reference to ‘blasphemy’ in the constitution would send out a very negative message internationally.

Amnesty International and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties this morning issued a joint call for a ‘Yes’ vote in the blasphemy referendum on Friday.

The 1937 provision means that it is technically a criminal offence to publish or say anything blasphemous.

Liam Herrick, director of the ICCL, says Ireland should disassociate itself from countries that persecute those of religious minorities.

“If we vote to retain the concept of blasphemy and criminal prosecutions for blasphemy in our constitution we will be sending out a very negative message,” he said.

“There is a small number of countries in the world that prosecute people for what they believe in.

“They use those laws to persecute minorities including religious minorities and no-believers.”

“That is not something we do not want to associate ourselves with.”

The Blasphemy Referendum will be held along the Presidential Election on Friday.