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Censorship Board can’t be abolished until it deals with Alan Shatter’s ‘Laura’

And everyone struggled to keep a straight face in the Dáil this morning…

Pat Rabbitte looking mischievous in the Dáil this morning.
Pat Rabbitte looking mischievous in the Dáil this morning.
Image: Screengrab via Oireachtas TV

THE DÁIL HAS debated a bill to abolish the Censorship of Publications Board with TDs told this can’t be done until it has dealt with a complaint against a novel authored by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins said that the board is “a quango that has long since passed its sell by date” but speaking for the government Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said that it is “only fair” that a complaint against Shatter’s novel ‘Laura’ be dealt with.

Introducing the Censorship of Publications Board Repeal Bill, Collins said: “The majority of people had never heard of the board thought it was long since departed before Minister Shatter’s novel made the front pages. Now it’s time to ensure they never have to hear from it again.”

He made the point that sales of the controversial and explicit novel 50 Shades of Grey showed how attitudes in Irish society have moved on and also criticised the government’s “broken promise” to abolish quangos.

The board was originally established in 1929 to ban the sale or publication of controversial publications, but no book or magazine has been banned since 2003. The most recent board’s five year term of office expired in November 2011 with a new board yet to be appointed.

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan got approval last month to temporarily appoint five people to the board to deal with a complaint that Shatter’s novel is ‘obscene’ and advocates abortion.

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There were suppressions of smiles and laughter throughout this morning’s debate in the Dáil. Screengrab via Oireachtas TV.

‘Laura’ was recently republished after publicity about the complaint against it. The book – first published in 1990 – centres around the troubled private life of a pro-life politician who has an affair with his secretary and subsequently urges her to procure an abortion.

“Censorship of publications in Ireland has had a very sad and sorry history,” Rabbitte said saying that many successful books were banned. “There is no question of returning to that time.”

He said that abolishing the board was “a welcome and overdue reform” but that it is “only fair” that a complaint against ‘Laura’ is dealt with. He also cautioned against repealing part of the relevant Act “without giving due consideration” to its impact on the “entire body of legislation”.

Welcoming the bill, independent TD Finian McGrath said it was good to hear “romantic Ireland is not dead and gone in Fianna Fáil” and but expressed puzzlement at why sales of ‘Laura’ went up when news of the complaint emerged last year.

Sinn Féin TD Michael Colreavy said that censorship and specifically the Section 31 ban had forced his party’s members to have their voices dubbed during broadcast interviews.

“We need to perform an exorcism,” he said of the Censorship Board.

Fianna Fáil deputy Billy Kelleher described Alan Shatter as a “literary genius” and added: “I make an urgent plea that Laura be set free, like the Minister himself.”

Read: Here is the sex scene from Alan Shatter’s novel

Read: Alan Shatter: Minister for Sex >

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