Just when you had begun to believe Ireland was advancing firmly into the new century, along comes a story that rocks you back to the Victorian era – or perhaps the Stone Age.

British writer Stephen Fry is under investigation for blasphemy, a law brought in in 2010 by the Irish government. Fry was asked in a 2015 television program why he is a non-believer.

When asked by host Gay Byrne what he would say if confronted by God at the gates of heaven. Fry replied: "How dare you create a world in which there is such misery?"

Fry said he would ask God why he allows untold suffering in the world. He instanced childhood bone cancer. He might have also said the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Irish Famine. Where was God for all those horrific events?

It is an often discussed point, a position perfectly at one with an atheist philosophy that religion is bunkum.

When I think of blasphemy laws I think Saudi Arabia or Pakistan where any aspersion cast on the prophet can result in execution or jail.

But Ireland?

Yes. The offence of 'publication or utterance of blasphemous matter' was discussed in the Irish parliament and in 2010 a law was passed. There was not even a debate about it.

Read More: Stephen Fry under investigation by Irish police for allegedly blasphemous remarks

It was supposedly passed after comedian Tommy Tiernan had made fun of the gospels on late night TV. My goodness, they must have soft and tender sensibilities over there, the poor lambs.

Now blasphemy can be charged in Ireland if a person is "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion" where there is "outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.”

Let me assure you of one thing: there are lots of hyper-religious craw-thumping folks who will take great offense at any perceived slight on the existence of God. . Like some of their counterparts on the far left, insults are to be mined, not ignored.

Here is what Stephen Fry said also said on RTÉ’s television program 'The Meaning of Life.' Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”

He added that he would be better able to accept the more human-like gods of the ancient Greek pantheon because, “they didn’t present themselves as being all seeing, all wise, all beneficent.”

“Because the god who created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish,” he explained, adding “we have to spend our lives on our knees thanking him. What kind of god would do that?”

Do his words cause genuine offense to some? Of course, but has he committed a crime? Free speech is meant to make us uncomfortable.

The police inquiry is utter nonsense.

Read More: Stephen Fry tells Gay Byrne why he thinks God is monstrous (VIDEO)

The complaint was filed against Fry by a member of the public at the Ennis, County Clare police station two years ago, but the police reportedly didn’t act on it for 18 months. The plaintiff, who has asked not to be identified, then pursued the matter by writing to the head of the Irish police, Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, the Guardian reports.

Says the plaintiff: “I told the garda I wanted to report Fry for uttering blasphemy and RTÉ for publishing/broadcasting it and that I believed these were criminal offences under the Defamation Act 2009.”

The cops went along and Fry is now being investigated.

Have the police nothing better to do? Are the politicians proud of themselves? The Irish leaders rank right up there with Saudi Arabia when it comes to religious intolerance.

The only solution is yet another referendum ending blasphemy as a crime.

Ireland is truly the “Sow that eats its farrow” (young), as Joyce wrote. Ireland had a history of destroying its writers, admirable political figures, and indeed everything that should be saved and nurtured.

Count free speech among those casualties.

Stephen Fry and Gay Byrne. YouTube.