- 15 Jun 18
Irish society has changed immeasurably over the past 40 years, with a more mature discussion around sex, bodily autonomy and rights for women and minorities. To celebrate the repealing of the 8th Amendment, we look at 10 moments that paved the way for this victory.
1980: Condoms For Sale
It may seem extraordinary that the absolute ban on the sale of condoms in Ireland only ended in 1980. The ban, of course, reflected the pervasive influence of the Catholic church and its repressive attitude to sex. The legislation to loosen the ban – giving effect to the decision in the McGee case – was fashioned by Charles Haughey, who grudgingly pushed through the Health (Family Planning) Bill (1978). There followed two years of wrangling over who would sell rubbers. Contraception was made available only for (ahem) “family planning or for adequate medical reasons” and could only be dispensed by a pharmacist. The Bill, to quote Haughey’s now famous line, was “an Irish solution to an Irish problem.”
Writing for Hot Press at the time, Bill Graham noted just how pathetic all of this was. In an article headlined ‘Condomnation Of The Act’, he called it “inadequate and slyly bureaucratic.” He also accused the Catholic Church of resorting to “manipulation” in order to maintain its iron grip on the Irish population. There were piecemeal amendments to the Bill throughout the ’80s, before a campaign run by the Virgin Megastore and supported by Hot Press finally resulted in condoms being available for sale in shops and bars all over Ireland.