Ireland elections: Higgins returned, blasphemy repealed

Irish President Michael D. Higgins has been re-elected, and voters in the Republic also overturned the 1937 constitutional prohibition on blasphemy.


Higgins is the first incumbent in 50 years to face a challenge in his bid for a second seven-year term. He received nearly 56 percent of the vote in the field of six candidates. The last competitive race was in 1966, when Éamon de Valera narrowly won a second term at age 84.

“Clear choices are opening up as to what will be the character of our Irishness,” Higgins said in a victory speech. “Will it be a commitment to inclusion and a shared world or a retreat to the misery of an extreme individualism?”

In Ireland, the president is head of state without executive powers. The office holder has powers that make the position a guardian of the Constitution, not just a ceremonial head of state.

Higgins, 77, was born in Limerick city and raised in Clare. Read his official biography.

The non-controversial blasphemy repeal passed with nearly 65 percent support, winning in all 40 voting constituencies.  A lone constituency had bucked overwhelming decisions to allow same sex marriages and abortion in more highly-charged referendums in 2015 and earlier this year, respectively.

Blasphemy was defined as saying or publishing something “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion.” There have been no prosecutions for the offence in Ireland since 1855, in connection with an alleged case of Bible-burning, according to RTÉ.

Higgins, at his 75th birthday in 2016.

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