Tuesday 21 November 2017

'A wonderfully Irish solution' - Stephen Fry weighs in on blasphemy laws after finding himself at centre of garda investigation

Actor Stephen Fry arriving at a Service of Thanksgiving for Lord Snowdon at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey in central London.
Actor Stephen Fry arriving at a Service of Thanksgiving for Lord Snowdon at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey in central London.
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Comedian Stephen Fry has said he was "enchanted" by the furore that followed a complaint to gardaí that comments he made on RTE were contrary to Ireland's blasphemy laws.

"I did indeed, I was told about it. I was enchanted. It was extraordinary," he told RTE's Marian Finucane on her Saturday morning Radio One show.

Independent.ie first revealed that an investigation was sparked after a member of the public made a complaint to Ennis Garda station in Co Clare shortly after comments the actor made on an episode of Gay Byrne's 'The Meaning of Life', which was broadcast in February 2015.

During the show the comedian and writer was questioned about what he might say to God at the "pearly gates".

Mr Fry, an atheist, replied: "How dare you create a world in which there is such misery? It’s not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?"

He went on to say that if he was met by the Greek gods he would accept them quicker because, "they didn’t present themselves as being all seeing, all wise, all beneficent."

Actor Stephen Fry (Photo GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Actor Stephen Fry (Photo GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

He added: "Because the god who created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.

"We have to spend our lives on our knees thanking him. What kind of god would do that?"

Speaking today Mr Fry said he received correspondence from the public who hoped he would appear in court.

"I got wonderful letters from people who hoped I would appear in court because they wanted it to come to court. They thought it would just be the most wonderful, fantastic street drama in Dublin," he said.

Mr Fry also described the wording of our blasphemy legislation as a "wonderfully Irish solution".

Under the controversial legislation, introduced by then Justice Minister Dermot Ahern in 2009, it is illegal to publish or utter a matter that is "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".

"I discovered from the person who actually framed the blasphemy law that it was deliberately framed in order to be unworkable," Mr Fry said.

"That's a wonderfully Irish solution to the fact that there was a pre-existing blasphemy law and they thought that was absurd and it would have taken a referendum to get rid of it so they thought that the easiest thing was to just engineer it a little so that it became preposterous.

"So that's really what that was all about," he added.

The media personality also said he was "pleased" that gardaí could not find enough people to be outraged in order to pursue the complaint further.

At the time of the conclusion of the investigation a well-placed source said the complainant "was simply a witness and not an injured party. Gardaí were unable to find a substantial number of outraged people.

"For this reason the investigation has been concluded."

The man who made the complaint told gardaí he was happy that he had done his civic duty by reporting what he believed could be a crime under the current law.

He also confirmed to the detective that he was happy gardaí had investigated the matter in full.

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