Conflict of interest concern spurs Shatter in censor move

Obscenity complaint lodged recently over novel Minister first published in 1989

A novel written by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and published in 1989 deals with the private life of a fictional rural TD who tries to get his secretary, with whom he has an affair, to have an abortion. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

A novel written by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and published in 1989 deals with the private life of a fictional rural TD who tries to get his secretary, with whom he has an affair, to have an abortion. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 11:06

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said he transferred responsibility for book censorship from his department in order to avoid any possible perceived conflict of interest in light of a “steamy” book he published in 1989 being republished.

A recent complaint to the Censorship of Publications Board that his novel, Laura: A Story You Will Never Forget, was obscene and contravened laws on procurement of an abortion or miscarriage spurred Mr Shatter to shift the responsibility to Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan’s department.

The novel deals with the private life of a fictional rural TD who tries to get his secretary, with whom he has an affair, to have an abortion.

The book was coming out again 24 years later because there had been some “unexpected” publicity about it in recent weeks, the Minister told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, as a result of which “a lot of people had been seeking to purchase it”.

Publishers Poolbeg Press had sought permission to republish and he had given this, he said, adding “it will become available early next week”.

Explaining the shift in responsibility, Mr Shatter said: “I was concerned as Minister for Justice that no question mark of any description could hang over the appointments to be made to the Censorship of Publications Board - there’s new appointments to be made to that board. They may have to consider whether or not a book I wrote should or should not be banned.

“I thought it was appropriate that the statutory functions of appointing that board should be transferred to my colleague [Jimmy Deenihan’s] department.

‘Very outdated’

He said he thought it was “very outdated that it was an issue dealt with by the Department of Justice in the first place”.

As a matter of principle, he added, it was important for him that no suggesetion could arise “that I had some vested interest in who could be appointed” to the board.

“I thought it was correct that some other Minister should deal with the matter,” he said, adding his Cabinet colleagues had concurred with this proposal yesterday.

Mr Shatter said he had not inquired into the precise nature of the complaint raised. “I don’t believe it is appropriate as Minister that I interfere in any way with the Censorship of Publications Board.”

The only function a Minister would have would be to appoint members to the board, which his department had now relinquished.

He had as yet received no notification from the board on any complaint. “I don’t know the identity of the individual” involved, he added.

“On a personal level, I find it quite odd that a book that was published 24 years ago” and that was available in public libraries should be complained of to the censorship board, he said.

“I presume that in so far as the matter is before the board, it will be for the board to deal with appropriately.”

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