16:04, May 09 119 0 theguardian.com

2017-05-09 16:04:03

 

Irish police halt prosecution of Stephen Fry for blasphemy

Irish police have halted a prosecution against Stephen Fry for blasphemy because the Garda Síochána could not find enough people to be outraged over the actor’s anti-God remarks on Irish TV.

Only one viewer made a formal complaint against Fry over comments he made on a programme with Irish broadcasting legend Gay Byrne back in 2015.

One individual complaint alone cannot result in a prosecution under the legislation.

Fry told Byrne he could never respect “a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world … full of injustice”.

The sole man who complained to the Garda under the terms of the 2009 blasphemy law previously told the Irish Independent: “I did my civic duty in reporting it. The guards did their duty in investigating it. I am satisfied with the result.”

Atheist Ireland, which campaigns to have the blasphemy law abolished, said a referendum was now needed to repeal the legislation.

The then Fianna Fáil-led government said it brought in an updated blasphemy law because Ireland’s 1937 constitution only protected the rights of Christians from offence and that the Republic was now a multifaith, polyethnic society.

But Mick Nugent, co-founder of Atheist Ireland, said the dropping of the case against Fry underlined how “dangerous and absurd” the country’s relatively new blasphemy law actually is.

Nugent pointed out that Islamic states such as Pakistan have used Ireland’s blasphemy legislation in arguments at the United Nations for a UN-backed motion denouncing what it says are blasphemous attacks on religious beliefs.

“We don’t know when the next investigation might happen, or what the outcome might be. But we know that it will have to involve a large number of people demonstrating outrage.

“We have already seen around the world what can happen when large numbers of people demonstrate outrage about cartoons that they consider blasphemous,” Nugent said.

Atheist Ireland had warned that a scenario like the attempted prosecution of Fry would come about as a result of the 2009 legislation, he said.

Nugent added: “Internationally, this investigation has emboldened Islamic states who argue that western countries are hypocritical in telling them to end their blasphemy laws, which impose the death penalty. And it has further embarrassed Ireland among modern democracies.”

On the RTÉ television show The Meaning Of Life, Fry was asked what he would say to God when he died and was met by the deity at the Gates of Heaven.

Fry 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.”

In solidarity with Fry in the attempt to have him prosecuted, Atheist Ireland then published 25 blasphemous statements on its website as well the actor’s own remarks to Byrne.

The campaign group has challenged both the authorities and religious believers to report Atheist Ireland to the Garda Síochána for breaching the country’s blasphemy laws. Atheist Ireland said it is prepared to be prosecuted and tried in court over the publication of the anti-religion statements.