A TV viewer has issued a complaint alleging that an RTÉ comedy sketch which depicted God as a rapist is blasphemous under the laws in Northern Ireland.
he person this week made the complaint to Crimestoppers in the UK, asking for the matter to be referred to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to investigate as the programme aired in the North and was available to watch on the RTÉ Player there.
Blasphemy is no longer an offence in the Republic of Ireland, but it remains an offence under common law in Northern Ireland.
However, a PSNI source said they likely have no jurisdiction to investigate the matter.
The national broadcaster has received nearly 7,000 complaints to date about the sketch by satirical website Waterford Whispers in the New Year’s Eve Countdown Show on RTÉ One.
The show featured former RTÉ News anchor Aengus Mac Grianna – who later apologised – reading a satirical news bulletin about God being arrested for sexual harassment.
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, denounced the broadcast as “deeply offensive and blasphemous”.
Ireland voted to remove blasphemy from the Constitution in a 2018 referendum.
It followed calls to reform blasphemy laws after gardaí had to launch an investigation into English actor Stephen Fry in 2017 over comments he made on RTÉ show The Meaning of Life, hosted by the late Gay Byrne.
The Irish Independent revealed at the time how a member of the public reported the blasphemy allegation to Ennis garda station.
Previously, under the Defamation Act 2009, a person who published or uttered blasphemous material could have been liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000.
Gardaí decided not to proceed further with the investigation against Mr Fry after they failed to find a large group of people outraged by the comments he made on the RTÉ show.
He was asked what might he say to God at the pearly gates in the show.
Mr Fry replied, saying: “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. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”
The RTÉ Editorial Standards Board found the Waterford Whispers sketch which aired on New Year’s Eve breached both its own and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s standards.
It said a further review will be carried out into how the sketch made it to air and has since removed it from the RTÉ Player. An RTÉ spokesperson said yesterday it has received approximately 5,380 emails and 1,555 calls complaining about the sketch.
RTÉ did not wish to comment on the blasphemy complaint made to the PSNI.
— to www.independent.ie