One Good Reason to Vote “No” on the 26th

By Howard Crane

Published October 16, 2018

Filed under Ireland Politics Society & Culture

For the second time (and not the last) we’re being asked to amend our Constitution in a single year. Why vote “No”? Because a “Yes” is pointless.

In the English-speaking world we are all very familiar with the American Constitution granting its citizens the right to unrestricted free speech unless it involves a direct incitement to violence or other criminal behaviour – that doesn’t exist in Ireland or most other Constitutional Republics. We do, however, have that freedom in practice within very reasonable limits. For that, and another glaringly obvious reason, voting “Yes” this month will not guarantee that freedom any further.

Article 40.6.1 – Before Amendment

The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law

Article 40.6.1 – After Amendment

The publication or utterance of seditious or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law

What’s the difference? I would argue none as the article will still contain the highly-interpretive term “indecent matter”, which nobody could effectively argue in Court is NOT a synonym for “blasphemy.” Nobody can tell you what “indecent matter” means because it doesn’t mean anything – and a legal term which doesn’t mean anything can potentially mean ANYTHING the State, prosecutors, any other body can successfully argue it as – i.e. Blasphemy.

A successful “Yes” vote on the 26th of October will amount to nothing more than us amending our Constitution for a second time in one year – an extremely rapid pace of fundamental change usually only seen after an extremist political regime takes over a country. Meditate on that a while.

Have We Even Had a Conversation?

I’m asking you – have you had a conversation with somebody you don’t agree with on this matter? I know I haven’t. It feels like just yesterday we removed the recognition of the unborn’s right to life, and here we are on number 2 of 8, planned, radical referenda without us catching our breath or having experienced the outcome of the last decision. Objectively speaking, this is bonkers.

A Constitution is a vital thing. It’s supposed to be a reliable foundation which restricts legislators and Courts from abusing its citizens, not just another layer of legislation to be rejigged by each generation that comes along having never studied it or had their philosophical assumptions about it tested. So I ask my readers to please consider the following and pose this to your friends and family: what will 8 successive amendments do to your national attitude towards the very idea of a Constitution? Will this vital institution be seen as less meaningful and not worth defending?