- Sex & Drugs
- 08 Mar 16
Eighties Ireland: in a country where divorce was impossible, unmarried mothers were treated like pariahs, gay sex was illegal and condoms could only be bought on prescription, finding the joy in sex was not easy. But the excitement of it was no less real.
What springs to mind when you consider the 1980s? Perhaps it’s the films and TV shows — ET, Ghostbusters, MacGyver and who shot JR? Maybe it’s the music — Duran Duran, The Smiths, The Cure, early U2 and Madonna in her rosaries and rags phase, as well the chart domination of Stock, Aitken and Waterman.
Then there’s the fashion — big hair, shoulder pads, spandex and a whole decade of WFT. It is, of course, easy to laugh at the hair and clothes, or feel nostalgic for the decade that gave us The Empire Strikes Back and My Bloody Valentine – but what was it like growing up in the shadow of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in the autumn of 1979?
Unemployment and emigration were rife, and Irish social issues – including those pertaining to our sexuality – were largely framed by Catholic doctrine. Charles Haughey’s Family Planning Act came into force in November 1980. Famously described by Haughey as “an Irish solution to an Irish problem”, the act allowed Irish people to access contraception if they had a medical prescription. It wasn’t until 1985 that anyone over 18 could buy condoms without a doctor’s cert — but only if they could find someone willing to supply them.