Thursday 23 October 2014

FF seeks to scrap censorship board

Published 27/10/2013 | 01:55

OBSCENE: James Joyce and Brendan Behan were once banned
OBSCENE: James Joyce and Brendan Behan were once banned

FIANNA Fail is seeking for the censorship board to be scrapped.

The party's justice spokesperson, Niall Collins, has laid a bill before the Dail calling for the abolition of the Censorship of Publications Board.

The board, which was set up in 1929, became notorious across the world for the repressive nature of a regime which banned the work of thousands of authors such as James Joyce, Brendan Behan, John Steinbeck, Graham Greene and Scott Fitzgerald.

At its peak, the board was described by Robert Graves as imposing "the fiercest literary censorship this side of the Iron Curtain".

The board returned to public attention earlier this year when Justice Minister Alan Shatter's novel Laura was referred to it after a complaint by a member of the public that the novel's contents were "obscene and contravened laws on procurement of an abortion or miscarriage".

However, no decision on the salaciousness or otherwise of Mr Shatter's novel has been made, because the board currently does not have any members.

Mr Collins yesterday said he had tabled the motion "in order to put the board out of its misery".

"The Censorship of Publications Board is an archaic, redundant body which has not had any use from 2008," he told the Sunday Independent.

"The fact that no new board members have been appointed since 2011 is a testament to the fact that the board has outlived its use, as the internet completely by-passes it."

Since 2000, a total of eight books have been referred to the board, but none of these were prohibited. No books are currently banned in Ireland on the grounds of indecency, but eight books about abortion continue to be censored.

Intriguingly, these include sex guides such as How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed and The Complete Guide to Sex because they appear to contain information about the procurement of abortion.

Prior to Mr Shatter's travails with Laura, the most recent controversy involved the banning in 1999 of In Dublin magazine, on the grounds that its escort advertisements were "frequently indecent or obscene".

Mr Collins added: "Such a level of inactivity indicates the board is essentially defunct; it is as dead as the parrot in Monty Python."

The Fianna Fail frontbench spokesman also noted that his move might be seen as "a rare truce between the old civil war parties – Niall Collins wants to abolish the board that might ban Alan Shatter's book".

But he added: "The failure to cut this obsolete board is typical of Fine Gael's broken promises. In opposition they promised a quango cull where 145 State bodies would be abolished, but in Government they appear unable to even abolish a board that has no members."

Sunday Independent

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