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File photo of the Utopia adult shop on Capel Street in Dublin in 1998.
State Papers

'Sex aids' being imported to Ireland in 1992 had officials abuzz with questions

Revenue consulted the Department of Justice over a consignment of “articles” worth £2,000.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Justice sought the advice of the Attorney General’s Office in 1992 over the prospect of so-called “sex aids” being imported into Ireland, newly released records show. 

State Papers – official documents from Government departments and the President’s Office – are generally made available to the public 30 years after the fact.

One document released this month reveals the stir caused by the consignment, and whether or not it could be prevented from entering the country.

It began in August 1992, when Revenue Commissioners raided a sex shop in Bray, Co Wicklow.

A range of items were seized from the shop, including pornagraphic magazines, videos, and what were described as “articles (vibrators etc)”.

The commissioners confiscated the magazines and videos, which were illegal at the time under the Censorship of Publications Act 1929, which allows for the censorship and prohibition of books, magazines, journals and newspapers considered “indecent” or “obscene”.

However, since there was no law that prohibited the manufacture and marketing of the “sex articles”, they were returned to the owner.

In September 1992, the Revenue Commissioners discovered that the same company intended to import a consignment of “articles” worth £2,000.

Among the items included in the consignment were a dozen “Barbara Love Dolls”, two dozen “Sex Bikinis”, two dozen “Girl Joy Vibe Kits”, and a half dozen “Big Mr Kelly Dolls”.

Revenue sought advice from the Department of Justice on the matter. At that time, the Minister for Justice was Fianna Fáil’s Pádraig Flynn.

The Department of Justice subsequently referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General at the time was Harry Whelehan.

The Attorney General concluded that as there was no legislation that banned the manufacture and sale of “such goods”, any attempt to stop the importation of the “articles” would be illegal under European law.

Therefore, there was nothing that could be done to stop them from being imported. 

The reference number for these State Papers is 2023/5/258.

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