Ireland has had one of the strictest censorship regimes of the 20th century; banning many well known books in the past including East of Eden by John Steinbeck and The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene. However, this may all be about to change as it seems that Ireland’s main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, has tabled a bid to abolish the Irish Republic's Censorship of Publications Board.
This would be quite a change in Irish censorship regulation as this board has been in existence since 1929. The board was borne out of the Censorship of Publications Act and has been prolific in its approach! Thousands of authors have fallen foul of this board including, but not limited to, James Joyce, Brendan Behan, F Scott Fitzgerald, Edna O’ Brien and DH Lawrence.
The board is authorised to ban any works that it feels are obscene. Initially, a number of books relating to sex and marriage were banned and some works by the women’s rights campaigner, Marie Stopes. Any member of the public can refer to the board; however, it is felt that the board has outlived its function with no new members being appointed since 2011 and only eight books referred since 2008.
One of these books is the current justice minister (Fine Gael), Alan Shatter’s novel, Laura, which "contains steamy sex scenes and centres around the troubled private life of an Oireachtas member who is having an affair with his secretary". However, no decision can be made regarding this novel as the board currently does not have any members!
Currently, no books are banned in Ireland because of indecency, but eight books about abortion continue to be censored, testament to the fact that the board has always been known for its adherence to strict Roman Catholic values.
It will be interesting to see whether this board, described by Robert Graves as imposing “the fiercest literary censorship this side of the Iron Curtain” (www.irishindependent.ie 2013)continues to exist or shuffles off into the twilight - a nation awaits!
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