Latest: Blasphemy investigation into Stephen Fry dropped, reports

Latest: Blasphemy investigation into Stephen Fry dropped, reports
Stephen Fry on 'The Meaning of Life'.

Update 8pm: There are reports that the gardaí investigation into comments made by Stephen Fry in 2015 has been dropped.

Gardaí launched a criminal investigation following a complaint by a member of the public about comments made Mr Fry on RTÉ’s 'The Meaning of Life’ in 2015.

But this evening reports that the case has been dropped, as the investigating gardaí were unable to find ‘a substantial number’ of people who were outraged by the remarks.

The 2009 legislation requires that comments about a religion must upset a “substantial number of adherents of that religion" in order to be considered blasphemous.

Update - 4.45pm: It has been confirmed that planning is underway for a referendum to remove the constitutional ban on blasphemy.

Earlier: A Cabinet Minister has said the law on blasphemy is "silly, embarrassing" and "needs to be changed".

Simon Harris was responding to confirmation that Gardaí have launched a criminal investigation into comments made by the broadcaster and author Stephen Fry.

It comes after the former Justice Minister who brought in Ireland's blasphemy law, Dermot Ahern, has spoken about why he did not put it to a referendum.

Mr Ahern was in office when the 2009 Defamation Act was completed.

This morning, the former Justice Minister said the law was deliberately designed to be nearly impossible to enforce.

Dermot Ahern.
Dermot Ahern.

He explained: "We made it obligatory on the prosecution to prove intent to hurt, to disabuse a religion - which is something very difficult to prove in a court of law.

"The way in which we drafted it was to allow maximum freedom of expression."

He told Pat Kenny on Newstalk that the Constitution requires the law be in place, but he framed his version in a way that would make it virtually impossible to take a prosecution.

He said: "It was carefully crafted in such a way that we would fulfill the constitutional requirement, but on the other hand to make the offence as narrow as impossible - in other words, to make it virtually impossible for a prosecution to be taken."

He added that he made a "judgement call" that a referendum, which could have scrapped the law, would not be a popular choice in the middle of the economic crash for two main reasons.

He outlined the reasons saying: "The expense that would incur having a referendum, probably about €2m, at a time when people were losing their wages, etc.

"And also it would bring out headbangers on both sides of the argument.

"So, in my view it was the last thing the Irish people would have wanted at that particular time."

Today Simon Harris said he would like to see a referendum on it being brought forward as soon as possible:

Mr Harris said: "I'd hope to see it (a referendum) sooner rather than later, this is a democracy, people have a right to express whatever view they do.

"Stephen Fry, regardless of your own views and your own religious views, clearly was making a number of points that he felt very strongly, in his usual witty way.

"I think we do need a referendum in that regard."

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