You may have thought Irish jokes had been consigned to the unpleasant past, writes Suzanne Harrington.
Did you hear the one about the Irishman (formally) complaining about the Englishman complaining about an imaginary being on national television?
You may have thought Irish jokes had been consigned to the unpleasant past, and yet here we are, our own legislation making us the butt of them.
When Nietzsche said that there was not enough love and goodness in the world to permit giving any of it away to imaginary beings, he might well have added a caveat about wasting police time investigating someone’s personal opinion about said being.
What a car crash. This is not, however, about the lone complainant who suggested to the Gardaí that the actor Stephen Fry may have blasphemed when he said on telly that he wasn’t overly impressed with what is known as God.
Lone complainants must remain forever free to complain about anything at all, no matter how daft, no matter how imaginary.
No, the joke is not the set up, but the response — an attempt to investigate and possibly prosecute an adult for having an opinion about a belief — because Ireland has a blasphemy law.
An actual blasphemy law. So instead of thanking the complainant before sending them smartly on their way, our law enforcement agents — paid for by actual Irish citizens — took the complaint seriously. Yes, they nodded.
Blasphemy, very possibly. Hang on there and we’ll do an investigation, and make sure it gets into all the UK newspapers so that we look even more ridiculous.
Where are we, the 14th century? Up a Taliban mountain?
Come on, Ireland. Having a blasphemy law is like having stocks and a whipping post in the village square. It’s like putting a religious order notorious for their abuse of mothers and babies in charge of a maternity hospital. Oh wait…
And yet repressive regimes like the one in Pakistan are quoting the Irish blasphemy law to justify religious persecution. In the wake of the Stephen Fry cock-up, New Zealand realised they still had such a law, and quickly got rid of it.
Blasphemy is for the insecure. It’s for people so worried about their belief system that they cannot bear to have it questioned, commented upon or insulted. Why? Is it because it might all blow away in a puff of smoke, fall down like a house of holy cards?
I would argue that blasphemy itself is actually blasphemous. People use words like the almighty and all powerful when describing what is called God.
But if such a being is so omniscient, so omnipotent, why would it need a bunch of crazed earthlings prosecuting and killing each other in its defence?
Isn’t this rather undermining the power of said being to do its own dirty work?
Perhaps the most sensible reaction to Ireland having such legislation in the 21st century comes from online Waterford Whisperer , whose headline ran, “‘Jesus F****ing Christ get rid of the blasphemy law,’ confirms nation.” Quite.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved