The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has obtained government approval to repeal the Censorship of Publications Acts. The decision follows a review undertaken in the Department to Justice on the continuing need to have censorship provisions for printed publications.
Under the proposals, books and periodicals banned by the Censorship Board, which was established in 1930, will be removed from the existing register of banned literature. During its lifetime the current Board has prohibited over 12,000 publications. The department said that, after the examination, the Censorship of Publications Board and the related Appeal Board would also be stood down.
There have been no members appointed to the board since the last terms of appointment lapsed in November 2021. The Appeal Board has been defuncted since 2012.
The Register currently contains nine books with the earliest dating back to 1942 and the most recent from 2016. There are currently 264 prohibited periodicals dating from the earliest in 1930 to the most recent in 2003.
The Censorship of Publications legislation was originally recommended by a body called “The Committee on Evil Literature”, which had been appointed in 1926. There have been changes over the years, which allow for the publication of information on contraception, abortion and divorce.
Minister McEntee said, “In the almost one hundred years of the censorship of publications legislation, there has been a dramatic shift in social policy and societal values in Ireland.
“The legislation to be repealed was published in 1928 and enacted in 1929. As it stands, the law allows for the censorship and prohibition of books, and of magazines, journals and newspapers that are considered indecent or obscene, or devote disproportionate space to crime.
“We have now come full circle and repeal of the Censorship legislation will reflect the reality that the Censorship Boards are of limited relevance in a modern society. Their mandate is largely unenforceable given the legislation’s dated principles and the focus on physical printed publications.”
With significant groundwork already done, work on the heads of the Bill will proceed with a view to bringing them to Government in 2024. The Department will ensure that specific plans are put in place to archive important records of national historical and cultural value and to carry out a Data Protection Impact Assessment on the storage of the records.
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