Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Incinerating Ireland's Censorship Board

Fintan O'Toole wrote about the continuing existence Ireland's censorship board here:
"So far this century seven books have been referred to the board by members of the public. Not a single book has been banned. In the same period 34 “periodical publications”, mostly magazines, have been referred to the board. Nine were banned, all in 2003. So for the past decade no publication has been prohibited."
He explained its cynical effect: "Yet it’s not quite true to say that the censorship process has no effect. It retains a vestigial power in one specific area: publications about abortion. The current register of banned publications contains no books prohibited on the old and notorious grounds that they are “in general tendency indecent or obscene”. But it does still contain books banned on the grounds that “they advocate the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or the use of any method, treatment or appliance for the purpose of such procurement."

Fintan O'Toole explained why the old infrastructure must be demolished and demolished loudly. He said:
"But it is worth making a fuss, because it provides the opportunity for an official apology for the way the State allowed a few busybody philistines to inflict their dirty-minded ignorance on many of our best artists. 
There was nothing funny or quaint about censorship. It was cruel and demeaning. Beginning with Liam O’Flaherty’s The House of Gold, in 1929, serious works of literature by Irish writers from Bernard Shaw to Kate O’Brien to John McGahern were systematically banned. The brunt of censorship was borne not by pornographers but by artists: one study found that 70 per cent of books banned for indecency or obscenity in the 1930s had been reviewed by the Times Literary Supplement. 
Irish writers were specifically targeted, so that none of them could make a living from the sale of their books in Ireland. As Frank O’Connor pointed out, the real aim of the censorship was to “destroy the character and prospects of Irish writers in their own country”. As for Irish readers, they were reduced, as Samuel Beckett – banned, of course – put it, to being fed, like Irish pigs, on the “sugarbeet pulp” of romances and cowboy novels. 
This cultural vandalism is still a stain on the State. The censorship board shouldn’t be allowed to expire with a whimper. It should be incinerated sacrificially, with an official apology for its miserable existence."
In full here.

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