Thursday 15 November 2018

‘I feel very proud to have had a small part to play’ - Stephen Fry responds to removal of Irish blasphemy law

  • Gardai launched a blasphemy probe last year after a TV viewer claimed comments made by Fry on an RTE show were blasphemous
  • Fry said he "didn't mean to upset or offend" at the time but feels "proud" to have sparked blasphemy conversation
Stephen Fry was the subject of the blasphemy allegation (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool /Getty Images)
Stephen Fry was the subject of the blasphemy allegation (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

Rachel Farrell

Comedian Stephen Fry has spoken for the first time since last week's vote on blasphemy, which saw an overwhelming majority vote to remove the current legislation.

Some 951,650 people voted 'yes' in the referendum that featured alongside the Presidential Election last week, which will see the crime of blasphemy removed from the constitution.

While no-one was ever prosecuted for blasphemy in Ireland, British actor and comedian Stephen Fry sparked a national conversation last year surrounding the topic.    

It emerged in 2017 that gardai had launched an investigation into comments made by Mr Fry on Irish television, after a TV viewer reported the comments as blasphemous.

Stephen Fry was investigated but not prosecuted by Irish police over his comments about God under Ireland’s anti-blasphemy law (Yui Mok/PA)
Stephen Fry was investigated but not prosecuted by Irish police over his comments about God under Ireland’s anti-blasphemy law (Yui Mok/PA)

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.

Speaking today about last week's referendum, Mr Fry said he felt "proud" to have sparked the widespread debate.

"It’s another plank in the new Ireland with abortion and same sex marriage," he told Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ Radio One.

"I feel very proud to have had a small part to play."

Mr Fry explained that he "didn't mean" to cause offence by his comments, in which he questioned how God could create a world "with such misery".

The actor, who was on air to discuss his new book, said that he didn't feel he could comment before the referendum as he is not Irish, but expressed his support silently.

Gay Byrne and Stephen Fry during their appearance on 'The Meaning of Life'
Gay Byrne and Stephen Fry during their appearance on 'The Meaning of Life'

"I hadn’t meant, of course, to offend or upset individual people of faith because faith is much stronger than anything I can say, but I think it’s an interesting one," he said.

"The romantic, vain side of me did imagine myself with my thumbs on my lapels, stopping forward in the court saying, ‘I am prepared to go to a prison somewhere in Ireland in order to stand up for my rights to speak to the creator in any way I wish’, but of course it never came.

"I was asked by a lot of people to give comments, I did do a tweet. I do feel, I'm not an Irish citizen and it’s not necessarily my business to tell Irish people how to vote, but I did tweet my support."

Describing the incident three years on, Mr Fry justified his remarks and explained how the situation arose in the first place.

"We chatted and then he just threw in this last question, about if you met God, what would you say to him. Without getting all sort of academic, it’s called the argument from evil and it’s very old, hundreds of years old way of addressing the issue of what’s known as Theodicy, the justification of the ways of God to man. 

"I sort of said I would be furious with God, what are you thinking about if you are the all-powerful God who created the world in which children get bone cancer.

"There’s no good that comes from such a thing. There's nothing but pain and suffering, it makes no sense, how dare you."

The results of the referendum were welcomed by Atheist Ireland last week, who led a campaign for the removal of the term.

"We will have removed a medieval crime, that was added to our constitution in 1937, and crowbarred into our statute books a decade ago," Michael Nugent, chairperson of Atheist Ireland said.

"Our laws will be able to protect people from harm, not protect ideas from criticism, and our media outlets will no longer have to self censor themselves."

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