This is Banned Book week.  Ireland has had a heavy handed history of censorship.  The first book to be banned was Liam O’Flaherty’s ‘The House of Gold’ in 1929 for indecency and obscenity.  Others on the list include ‘Brave new world’ by Aldous Huxley, Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the rye and our own Edna O’Brien’s ‘The country girls. The pill, post and porn were some of the items that came under the censor's eye. 

Do you have any recollections of censorship in Ireland?

Did it bother you then?

Are any of Ireland’s censorship laws today archaic? 

Image By Stefan-Xp (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Amen to Fr.Sheehan's response which embraces my opinions fully, and expresses them with the insight of an Irish clergyman.

I can remember that back in the late 1970s many of my friends here in Britain would be asked by their cousins back in Ireland to bring them over supplies of condoms during their annual pilgrimage "Home" during the summer holidays.

My dad was convinced that many swear words were only invented during the last 40 years, or so, because he had never read them in a book, or heard them in a film, during his years growing up in Ireland. He never associated the absence of such swear words from books, newspapers, radio, films and everyday life in Ireland during the 1930s, 40s and 50s with State censorship but, instead, insisted that it was because the Irish were a better class of people and somehow above the use of four letter words.

During the Border Campaign of the mid-late 1950s, when my uncle was imprisoned in Limerick Prison, Mountjoy Prison and interned in the Curragh, any mail he received, or sent out, was censored by the authorities. On one occasion in 1953, it was he, himself, who had tried to act as a one man censor when he attempted to prevent the Royal British Legion from screening in Limerick a film recording of the coronation of the British Queen.

I have still never seen any corner shop, or newsagent shop, in Ireland displaying pornographic magazines on the "top shelf" the way that they do in Britain. Is that because they are still banned from selling such magazines, or is this self imposed? Either way, it is pleasant to enter such shops in Ireland with young children, or elderly female relatives, without worrying about their gaze, or mine, inadvertently straying onto such publications.

A couple of the movies that were banned.

Bananna Republic was written in response to the band being banned from performing in Ireland

Great insights Kieron. I remember my Mam reading her True Detective magazines that were supplied from England and even they were hidden from us.

I have one memory of censorship in Ireland. I was there in the late 80's and Thatcher had just ordered a ban on Gerry Adams voice over the BBC. Already, RTE could not broadcast the voices of any Irish Republican or Sinn Fein members, either over the radio or on TV. So one evening we were watching the news in my cousins house when a report about the North came on and a reporter asked Gerry Adams a question. The camera then cut to Gerry Adams whose lips started moving but no words came out like when a translator's voice is dubbed in over someone being interviewed. Sure enough an actor's voice came on speaking (in English) the same words that you could clearly read on Adams lips. At first we were in hysterics at the ridiculousness of it, but then realized really how sad it was that really, in Ireland and the UK at that time, there really was still no freedom of speech. I don't normally quote wikipedia but they do have a paragraph on the Gerry Adams voice ban:

"Adams's prominence as an Irish Republican leader was increased by the ban on the media broadcast of his voice (the ban actually covered eleven republican and loyalist organisations,[36] but in practice Adams was the only one prominent enough to appear regularly on TV). This ban was imposed by the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher on 19 October 1988, the reason given being to "starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend"[37] after the BBC interviewed Martin McGuinness and Adams had been the focus of a row over an edition of After Dark, an intended Channel 4 discussion programme which was never made.[38][39]
A similar ban, known as Section 31, had been law in the Republic of Ireland since the 1970s. However, media outlets soon found ways around the ban, initially by the use of subtitles, but later and more commonly by the use of an actor reading his words over the images of him speaking. One actor who voiced Adams was Paul Loughran.[40]
This ban was lampooned in cartoons and satirical TV shows, such as Spitting Image, and in The Day Today and was criticised by freedom of speech organisations and British media personalities, including BBC Director General John Birt and BBC foreign editor John Simpson. The ban was lifted by British Prime Minister John Major on 17 September 1994.[citation needed]"

It has been said that of all the actors who dubbed Gerry Adams, the one he preferred was Belfast man, Stephen Rea, who would go on to play leading roles in The Crying Game and Michael Collins.

One other story about censorship that given the recent controversy over Che Guevara you might find amusing...Mike Quill, the founder of the TWU in New York....after his death his wife Shirley went to Kerry in the process of writing his biography. She looked up John Joe Rice who was a prominent IRA officer back in the War of Independence and Civil War, was one of Quill's commanding officers and apparently knew him pretty well. When they sat down to chat in his living room she noticed a book lying flat on the table as if Rice had just been reading it, which he had. He noticed this and she says he picked it up to show her that it was a copy of Che Guevara's book on Guerrilla Warfare which, at the time she said, was banned from Ireland! Rice just looked at her with a smile and said "It seems some things are the same all over the world," or something like that. 

Gerry Adams on Margaret Thatcher Banning His Voice On Television

Wasn't James Joyce's ULYSSES banned in Ireland when first published?

      De Bard

Not Banned in Ireland, just not available.

One reason he left the country was the difficulty he had in getting a publisher.

And his book was rejected - but not banned - until the 1960s, principally because of its sexually explicit content, including an account of one of the principal characters masturbating.

"The book was seen as pornographic, not of worthy quality,"

Here's a bit from Wikipedia on it.

Obscenity allegations[edit]

Written over a seven-year period from 1914 to 1921, the novel was serialised in the American journal The Little Review from 1918 until 1920,[15] when the publication of the Nausicaä episode led to a prosecution for obscenity.[16] In 1919, sections of the novel also appeared in the London literary journal, The Egoist, but the novel itself was banned in the United Kingdom until the 1930s.[17] The novel was first published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach in February 1922, in Paris.[18]

The 1920 prosecution in the US was brought after The Little Review serialised a passage of the book dealing with the main character masturbating. Legal historian Edward de Grazia has argued that few readers would have been fully aware of the orgasmic experience in the text, given the metaphoric language.[19] Irene Gammel extends this argument to suggest that the obscenity allegations brought against The Little Review were influenced by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven's more explicit poetry, which had appeared alongside the serialization of Ulysses.[20] The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, which objected to the book's content, took action to attempt to keep the book out of the United States. At a trial in 1921 the magazine was declared obscene and, as a result, Ulysses was effectively banned in the United States. Throughout the 1920s, the United States Postal Service burned copies of the novel.[21]

In 1933, the publisher Random House and lawyer Morris Ernst arranged to import the French edition and have a copy seized by customs when the ship was unloaded, which it then contested. In United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, U.S. District Judge John M. Woolsey ruled on 6 December 1933 that the book was not pornographic and therefore could not be obscene,[22] a decision that was called "epoch-making" by Stuart Gilbert.[23] The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling in 1934.[24] The US therefore became the first English-speaking country where the book was freely available. Although Ulysses was never banned in Ireland, neither was it available there.[18][25]

I believe it was banned elsewhere, I heard Ulysses was not banned in Ireland as they could not find the 'offensive' passages.


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