Blasphemy legislation: Highlighting a bizarre statute

Irrespective of whether the complaint that writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry might have committed blasphemy during his 2015 appearance on the RTÉ show The Meaning of Life With Gay Byrne is contrived or not, it shows that the Defamation Act 2009 is ridiculous. 

If convicted, Mr Fry might be fined up to €25,000, though how that fine might be collected — Mr Fry is not an Irish citizen — is another matter.

That the legislation remains on the statute books in a country led by Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, a man who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other European leaders to champion free speech — and avail of a right-on photo opportunity — in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, just adds hypocrisy to deep farce.

Remember, this legislation supports a world view of absolutism and intolerance. 

It demands our justice system sanction and silence those who challenge the orthodoxy, the rationality of cherished beliefs. 

No matter how its advocates, and there are some, dress it up, this legislation reflects the worldview of those who think beheading is a valid response to opposition, that a caliphate is an achievable objective.

If this process is indeed underway — hopefully, it is not — Mr Fry may have to regard himself as a fugitive from justice, even if the offended legislation is as farcical as any of the many comedies he has made in his long and impressive stage and film career.

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