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In the 21 years since Playboy hit Irish shelves, the mag has featured Rosanna Davison and Danny Healy-Rae

Playboy magazine lost its founder this week with the death of Hugh Hefner.

Kim Kardashian is featured on the December 2007 cover of Playboy.
Kim Kardashian is featured on the December 2007 cover of Playboy.
Image: Stephen Wayda/Playboy/Press Association

PLAYBOY MAGAZINE LOST its founder this week with the death of Hugh Hefner.

Playboy, an institution like no other, has been around for over 64 years, and it’s still going.

For many, the magazine was a rite of passage, but it has only been on Irish shelves for the last 21 years, ever since a ban on its sale was lifted in 1995 (and it quickly became the highest-selling men’s title in the country).

Before that, it was banned by the Censorship of Publications Board through the Censorship of Publications Act which prohibited the sale and distribution of “unwholesome literature”. (Here’s a look at some vintage copies to show us what we were missing out on.)

However, prior to the mag legally going on sale, it’s understood the publication actually  was in circulation for a long time.

Banned

Perhaps an unlikely coupling, an article on the Playboy website states that the IRA may have helped smuggle in contraband, such as Playboy, into Ireland, by replacing the cover with more “innocuous periodicals”.

In fact, a couple of hundred books are still banned in Ireland, with a campaign only mounting in 2015 for the ban on Playboy’s sister publication, Playgirl, to be lifted.

The big day for Playboy came on 15 December 1995 when the magazine hit newsagents around the country for the first time since it began in 1959.

Hugh Hefner Death Hugh Hefner Source: Keystone Press Agency

“The decision by the Board to allow Irish citizens free access to Playboy magazine is both responsible on their part and welcome from ours,” said Robert O’Donnell, senior vice president of International Publishing, Playboy Enterprises at the time.

This ruling by the Appeals Board recognises that the world has indeed become a smaller place and that the citizens of Ireland should not be denied access to the number one general interest magazine for men. We are pleased that Playboy will once again be a part of the culture in a nation that has always nurtured and revered the arts.

How did it go down in Ireland? 

Despite sustained lobbying from some newsagents and retailers nationwide, sellers said there was not much fuss in the end, referring to it as being a “storm in a teacup”.

“There was a fair amount of advance publicity alright,” Vincent Jennings, chief executive with the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, told TheJournal.ie.

Jennings ran two separate newsagents in Limerick in 1995.

It went for about £4.90 I think, which was considerably more than it went for in the UK, but for a while the punters didn’t seem to mind.
We fought for it to be polybagged – you can imagine what would have happened if it had been open for perusal – but aside from that it came through with little or no objection.

File Photo Hugh Hefner, the silk pajamas-wearing founder of Playboy who helped steer nudity into the American mainstream, has died aged 91 Victoria Silvstedt, Playmate of the Month in December 1996 at a party in Dublin to celebrate the arrival of the magazine in Ireland. Source: RollingNews.ie

“It was overpriced for what it was to be honest,” he added.

He said some staff had moral objections to handling it, and some retailers refused point-blank to stock it. “But that was about as extreme as things got,” he said, adding:

It coming in was evidence of a changing Ireland more than anything. Censorship was starting to take a back seat really, and we were all a little more open-minded.
And like anything else there was a spurt of initial interest, say six months or so, and then it waned.

51iDNFMJmML._SX438_BO1,204,203,200_ Source: Playboy/Amazon

Ireland received the United States edition of Playboy, beginning with the January 1996 issue – which featured none other than actress Pamela Anderson who was at the height of her fame with Baywatch.

Of course, there was opposition at the time, and soon headlines such as, “Pornography goes on open display”, began to appear.

Newsagents at the time were concerned that with Playboy hitting the newsstands, it encouraged a number of competitors to begin “openly displaying pornographic magazines”.

One only has to look at the top shelf of a newsagents now to see that there concerns, whether they had a basis or not, were partially correct. Now, a wide range of publications are on offer to the consumer.

Fast forward to now, and the intervening years has seen the relationship between Ireland and Playboy continue.

An Irish woman Lorna Donohoe headed up its sales and PR for a number of years in LA and Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae and model Rosanna Davison have appeared in the magazine (Danny was interviewed for German Playboy, while Rosanna posed for a spread, just to be clear).

Our very own Taoiseach Leo Varadkar even referenced Playboy during an interview in 2012 when he was asked what he thought of Davison’s photoshoot.

“Well I wouldn’t, eh, I wouldn’t do it myself. No I haven’t been asked so…”

Read: Playboy founder Hugh Hefner dies aged 91>

Read: Playboy magazine – here’s what Ireland was really missing all those years>

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