Northern Ireland news

Adams wants referendum on blasphemy law

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has called for a referendum in Ireland on the blasphemy law
By Brian Hutton, Press Association

Gerry Adams has demanded a referendum in Ireland "to allow Stephen Fry or anyone else" to air their views on God without fear of criminal charges.

A complaint to police about the British comedian's remarks on Irish television that God was stupid, selfish and "quite clearly a maniac" sparked controversy about Irish blasphemy laws.

Under the Defamation Act, blasphemy is punishable by a fine of €25,000 (£21,000) in an offence rooted in the Irish constitution.

In Dail Eireann parliament, Sinn Féin leader Mr Adams said a single complaint had led to the "spectacle of Mr Fry being investigated by the gardai on a criminal charge of blasphemy".

"This story was widely reported in the international media with appropriate mocking commentary and some disbelief," he said.

"Blasphemy should have no place in the constitution."

Mr Adams urged Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny to arrange a referendum – which is needed to change the constitution – as soon as possible to remove the blasphemy clause.

Referencing a famous remark from the surreal Irish sitcom Father Ted, he asked: "Will you give citizens the opportunity to say clearly, 'down with that sort of thing', and allow Stephen Fry or anyone else to express an opinion without threat of criminal proceedings?"

Across the chamber, Mr Kenny said the last known prosecution for blasphemy in Ireland was thought to have been in 1855.

There have been no such prosecutions under the Defamation Act, introduced in 2009, he added.

Mr Kenny said it had already been agreed by government to hold a referendum on the issue, and it was simply a case of "finding an opportunity to deal with this".

Gardai reportedly dropped their investigation because there were no injured parties.

The row erupted after a member of the public contacted police about Mr Fry's interview on RTE's show The Meaning Of Life in February 2015.

The footage went viral after it was aired and has now been seen more than seven million times on YouTube.

Asked what he would say if he was confronted by God, Fry replied: "How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is 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?"

Questioned on how he would react if he was locked outside the pearly gates, he responded: "I would say, 'Bone cancer in children? What's that about?'

"Because the God who created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac, utter maniac.

"Totally selfish. We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of God would do that?"

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news