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A young girl in a bookshop Photo by: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Abortion, sex guides and pornography - what literature gets banned in modern Ireland

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A young girl in a bookshop Photo by: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Although Ireland has moved on in leaps and bounds from a time when the movie “Clockwork Orange” was banned, or even Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” the legacy of decades of censorship remains. It seems what still gets under Ireland’s censor’s collar is sex, crime and abortion.

Currently, there are 274 books and 266 magazines banned in Ireland and the reasons that books can be banned in modern Ireland are two-fold. Firstly, for being indecent or obscene and secondly, for “advocating the procurement of abortion or miscarriage, or the use of any method, treatment or appliance for the purpose of procuring an abortion”.

There are eight books on the no go list that provide information on how to procure abortion. These are “Abortion Internationally” (banned since 1983), “Abortion: Our Struggle for Control” (also banned in 1983) and “Abortion: Right or Wrong” (banned seventy years ago in 1942).

Some rather risqué titles also made it on the censor’s list. These sex guides include, “How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed’ (banned 1985), “The Complete Guide to Sex” (since 1990), “Make it Happy: What Sex is All About”, “The Book of Love”, and “The Love Diseases”.

Magazines make it on the naughty list for far more various reasons. In Ireland there are 266 magazines banned and these include hardcore pornography, old crime magazines, movie mags, and even health and personal efficiency magazines that somehow got banned along the way.

Some of the older bannings are strange, unexpected, and apparently unenforced. TheJournal.ie reports that until it was closed down by Rupert Murdoch last year, the News of the World was technically banned. Also, Ireland’s Daily Sport, Hustler magazine, and  Playgirl are on the banned list.

Many of the banned magazine are about crime and by more modern terms, seem quite quaint. These include Amazing Detective Cases, Detective Weekly, and Famous Crime Stories. They were banned due to “an unduly large proportion of space for the publication of matter related to crime.”

For more obvious reasons, Big Ones International, Man’s Conquest, Romp, and Scamp Magazine are also banned in Ireland.

However, more and more publications are finding ways to fight the rules and loopholes to have some version of their publication featured on Ireland’s shelves, regardless of the rules.

What certainly has changed is that the Irish people have become more tolerant, meaning the powers that be rarely get complaints about movies, books, or magazines these days.

A spokesperson for the Censorship of Publications Board told Journal.ie, “Morals have changed. What was considered obscene in the 1940s is very different to what is considered obscene today”.

The Censorship of Publications Board is made up of five people appointed by the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. They are in charge of deciding the fate of the book. However, for a publication to be in question there must first be complaints about said book or magazine.

Read the full list of publications still banned in Ireland

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