Blasphemy law saved in Northern Ireland…

NEARLY no-one noticed, but an “arcane, archaic, unenforceable and outdated law” in Northern Ireland could have been heading down the path to abolition last Wednesday in the House of Lords. Instead, any change to the law on blasphemous libel here is starting out on a new route to Stormont, where it will end up in the hands of the first Minister for Policing and Justice. And so it came to pass that God ensured He retained certain laws to protect Himself from the dangerous heathens of Northern Ireland, but not in Great Britain.

While it makes little practical difference if this anachronistic law remains – the chances of it being used, let alone resulting in a successful prosecution are close to zero – it will, no doubt, be seen by some as a symbol that we live in a country molded by Christianity. The DUP’s Wallace Browne (aka Baron Browne of Belmont) told the Lords that “there are strong feelings in Northern Ireland, particularly about Amendment 75A, and it is only right and proper that the people of Northern Ireland should be given the right of consultation on the progress on that issue. They should be fully consulted, so I am reluctant to consider that amendment.”

Strong feelings? Really? I doubt many were aware of 75A, let alone a campaign to stop it.

When I said “nearly” no-one noticed, I was remembering the Christian Concern for our Nation group, who released the only statement I could find.

CCFON believes it would be unacceptable for the House of Lords to make a decision which would affect the religious culture of Northern Ireland without proper discussion and without involving Northern Ireland’s elected representatives.

How a law that has never even been used here and most people have never heard of would affect our “religious culture” is anyone’s guess. But amongst the unelected reps, support for repeal at Westminster has been forthcoming from Lord Eames, the former Archbishop of Armagh, and Lord Alderdice, son of a Presbyterian minister and former Alliance leader. Now it may be the current party leader that ends up laying the matter to rest in another place.

  • Only Asking.

    Aside from the law its self, what is your objection Gonzo? With devoloution comes local input, and a local say. Don’t see the problem here, all I see is the prejudice about the law its self, but democracy is democracy, and local people are entitled to a local say, no matter how old, or irrelevant someone thinks the particular law in question is.

  • How disappointing that it will be left to the ninnies at Stormont to decide this issue. Or more likely kick it into the very tall prairie grasses on the hill for the foreseeable future.

    How come parliament decided not to let us make our own mind up on civil partnerships but has decided to let make our own mind up on blasphemy laws?

  • Fabianus

    I’ve just been rereading Peter Ackroyd’s formidable The House of Doctor Dee. This law is perfectly in keeping with the time (Dee’s time not mine, i.e. the 16th century).

  • OC

    Too bad English Common Law doesn’t use the legal theory of desuetude.

  • Fabianus


    Why do you call desuetude a theory? Hasn’t it been tried and tested often enough to make it doctrinal?