Friday 19 October 2018

Stephen Fry 'enchanted' by the reaction to his blasphemy case

The comedian received 'wonderful' letters from people praying the case would go to court, writes Niamh Horan

ATHEIST: Stephen Fry’s impassioned television statement prompted claims he had committed blasphemy
ATHEIST: Stephen Fry’s impassioned television statement prompted claims he had committed blasphemy
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

'I was enchanted." That was the bemused response of world-renowned comedian and writer Stephen Fry when asked his reaction to the furore that followed a complaint to gardai that comments he made on RTE about the existence of God were contrary to Ireland's blasphemy laws.

In a wide-ranging interview with RTE's Marian Finucane on her Saturday morning show, he described the charges as "extraordinary".

The investigation was sparked after a member of the public made a complaint to Ennis Garda station in Co Clare shortly after an interview he gave to Gay Byrne for The Meaning of Life in February 2015.

During the show the comedian and writer was asked what he would say to God if he met him at the gates of heaven.

In an impassioned cri de coeur that made headlines around the world, Mr Fry, an avowed atheist, told Gay he would admonish God: "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".

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 yesterday, Mr Fry said he received "wonderful letters" from the public who hoped the case would go all the way.

"[They] 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" gardai could not find enough people to be outraged in order to pursue the complaint further.

The man who made the complaint told gardai he was happy 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 gardai had investigated the matter in full.

Sunday Independent

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