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Thread: 25 Years Ago- Dáil vote on Contraception

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    Default 25 Years Ago- Dáil vote on Contraception

    On Feb 21st 1985, the Dáil held a vote on whether contraceptives should be sold legally to adults. It's hard to believe that the sale of condoms was illegal until then, but nevertheless there had to be a vote and a surprisiong number of TD's who are still active in politics voted against the change.

    That's right, 25 years, people like Mary Harney and Brian Cowan believed that adults should not have legal access to condoms in this country.
    Here's the debate- Dil ireann - Volume 356 - 21 February, 1985 - Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill, 1985: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages.
    scroll down to see who voted in favour and who was opposed.

    Some other well known names who thought condoms should be illegal -

    Willie O'Dea

    Terry Leyden

    Charlie McCreevy

    Seamus Kirk

    Mary O'Rourke

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    Politics.ie Member Panopticon's Avatar
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    Somewhat misleading analysis. Condoms weren't illegal, the sale of condoms was restricted by prescription.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Panopticon View Post
    Somewhat misleading analysis. Condoms weren't illegal, the sale of condoms was restricted by prescription.

    That makes it worse

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    Politics.ie Member Panopticon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by turdsl View Post
    That makes it worse
    No it doesn't. At least people who needed them medically could get them - you're saying it would be better if they couldn't? There is a difference between "bad" and "worse".

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    Politics.ie Member Mitsui2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panopticon View Post
    No it doesn't. At least people who needed them medically could get them - you're saying it would be better if they couldn't? There is a difference between "bad" and "worse".
    Yes, they were available on prescription.... but that was a recent development. For most of the time since the 1920s they'd been illegal.

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    Politics.ie Member sondagefaux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panopticon View Post
    No it doesn't. At least people who needed them medically could get them - you're saying it would be better if they couldn't? There is a difference between "bad" and "worse".
    How about between laughable and ridiculous?

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    Politics.ie Member Libero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panopticon View Post
    Somewhat misleading analysis. Condoms weren't illegal, the sale of condoms was restricted by prescription.
    Somewhat misleading?

    By 1985, condoms were de facto available to most adults who wanted them. The law in force was generally not policed, meaning that the main barrier to purchasing condoms was the moral scruples of shopkeepers in small towns and villages. As Desmond O'Malley said in the same debate: What are the facts in relation to condoms, which are the type of contraceptive that seems to be most generally discussed in this debate? In the last four years 30 million of them were imported here and they are being used at the moment at the rate of nine million a year with no legal supervision whatever because the 1979 Act is not now being enforced. Not alone are they distributed, on the face of it, not in accordance with the present law, from family planning clinics, they are distributed from places that do not claim in any way to be family planning clinics. I instance the ordinary shops in UCD and TCD and probably UCC, UCG, Limerick and so on.

    Dil ireann - Volume 356 - 20 February, 1985 - Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill, 1985: Second Stage (Resumed).

    So in a way, those who voted against the Bill were guilty of something worse than illiberal and backward attitudes, using the power of the state to interfere with couples' private lives - they were engaging in total hypocrisy by voting for a legislative order that was not and could not be generally enforced.
    O'Malley again: That is the present situation. Is it opening the floodgates to try to regularise that? I do not think so, but a feature of our national hypocrisy is that if the law on the Statute Book says that things should be one way, it does not matter if things on the ground are different. As long as the law looks all right we cod ourselves into thinking that something that we do not approve of is not happening. Would it not be more sensible to be realistic and look at what is going on around us and realise that, no matter how strongly we might be opposed in principle or in conscience to contraceptives, we would be better to have a law that will be enforced rather than the present situation?

    Reading that again the day after the Frontline feature on headshops, the old codger from Limerick sounds as relevant as ever.

    One of the most distressing aspects of this debate, inside and outside the House, particularly outside, has been the lack of trust in young people. Young people can hardly be blamed if they look at this House and its Members with a certain cynicism, because they see here a certain hypocrisy. I have had plenty of experience of young people and plenty of experience of many Members of this House, and if I were to place my trust anywhere today, before God I would place it in the young people. I would not abuse them or defame them, by implication at least, in the way in which they have been defamed as people who are incapable of making any kind of sound judgment unless it is legislated for them. Even the exercise of their own private consciences must be something that must be legislated for. I have said before that I cannot accept that concept, though I have seen a reverend bishop saying that we can legislate for private morality. I beg to take issue with him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Panopticon View Post
    No it doesn't. At least people who needed them medically could get them - you're saying it would be better if they couldn't? There is a difference between "bad" and "worse".

    You are right, but it was a disgrace on the state

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    It's astounding the difference a couple of decades makes. I can remember a time when they were only available in chemist shops and when buying them was such an ordeal that grown men were too embarrassed. I also recall that women had to travel long distances to find a doctor who would prescribe the pill if she wasn't married and even that was easier to achieve than getting condoms prior to 1985.
    Conservatives seem to believe that the rich will work harder if we give them more, and the poor will work harder if we give them less. E.J. Dionne

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    Gimpanzee
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    I remember being in a club where the first johnny machine was installed and a German TV crew came to cover the event. This was in the 90's...

    Strangely enough my clever strategy of hanging around the machine in the hope of getting a ride proved as fruitless as my other discarded clever strategies.

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