IN 1978, THEN Taoiseach Jack Lynch received a complaint from a concerned citizen about an underwear advertisement which appeared in the RTÉ Guide.
The ad, pictured above, was for a new range of bras from Silhouette “designed to bring romance and adventure into your life”. It describes the bras as “soft, lacy and sensual”.
In a letter to Lynch, the person asked him to “do something about it”.
“Is it right to tolerate in out RTÉ Guide what really amounts to a plug for pornography?”
They said this kind of advertisement had the potential to “corrupt the very essence” of our heritage.
In that same year, Lynch passed on a suggestion made by a Canon in Tipperary to charge 100 VAT on ‘objectionable magazines’ imported to the State to Tánaiste and Minister for Finance George Colley. The Tánaiste replied that he had “carefully and sympathetically” considered Lynch’s representations but said “serious practical difficulties” would arise if the government tried to implement this.
This was not the only example of complaints about material considered inappropriate in Irish publications at the time.
In 1980, a complaint made by the organisation ‘Parent Concern’ about the periodical ‘New Man and Woman’, was upheld by the Censorship of Publications Board as it was found to be ‘indecent or obscene’.
A letter to then Taoiseach Charles Haughey from the group’s honorary secretary details examples of perceived inappropriate content like features on wife-swapping with pictures of groups of nude couples.
She also expressed concern about details of various family planning centres, saying “if these are an indication of goings-on during sessions then they are no more than prostitution centers (sic) for orgies, with of course the commercial advocacy of contraceptives and abortion”.
The board found that the sale and distribution of further issues of the publication in Ireland should be prohibited.
‘Sensuous and sexual gratification’
In 1983, the Deputy Chairman of The Society to Outlaw Pornography, Marjorie Elliot, wrote to Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald about an issue of ‘Executive World’, a men’s magazine.
(Image: Brand New Retro)
In her letter she pointed out that Fitzgerald’s political party had expressed a determination to upgrade the status of women in society.
“Yet magazines of this type present them as sex objects, things of sensuous and sexual gratification for men, and in debasing them deprive them of their dignity and their rights,” she said.
She also said these magazines play a major part in inciting crimes of rape and sexual assault – “leading inexorably sexual crimes against children”.
Fitzgerald’s office wrote to the Department of Justice to seek guidance on the issue and was advised that it was a matter for the Censorship of Publications Board.
In correspondence, they said the board may prohibit a publication over a number of issues including advocating the procurement of abortion, devoting a large proportion to crime and any publication seen to be frequently indecent or obscene.
The Taoiseach’s private secretary responded to Elliot to advise her to lodge her complaint with the board.
See National Archives, Reference number 2013/100/3 .