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‘Habitually, rankly immoral: State censorship in Ireland after 1930’ – a lecture by Dr. Aoife Bhreatnach

From 1930 to 2016, the Censorship of Publications Board in Ireland banned over 12,000 publications, from pulp fiction to celebrity memoirs. The scale and ambition of the Irish censorship regime is preserved in a blacklist of over 12,000 publications. From 1930 to 2016, the Censorship of Publications Board banned all manner of printed material. Sex education manuals, pulp fiction, 19th-century pornography and celebrity memoirs appear alongside literature from the greatest 20th-century writers. John McGahern, famously censored in 1965, called the system ‘cruel, inhuman and fascistic’. The origins of state censorship are found in the report of the Committee on Evil Literature (1926) whose moral attitudes permeated the first Censorship of Publications Act of 1929. Through case studies of banned publications, this lecture will explore how sexuality and reproduction terrified the Irish censors and will argue that censorship enshrined an ideology that was deeply suspicious of expressions of human complexity.