Complaint against Shatter’s novel has to be dealt with before censorship board abolished

‘Amazing Detective Stories’ and ‘Daring Romances’ among 274 banned publications

The Censorship of Publications Board cannot be abolished until a complaint about Minister for Justice Alan Shatter's novel Laura is dealt with, the Dáil has heard. The book is the only publication to be referred to the board in the last five years and no publication has been banned since 2003.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins called for the abolition of the board and said it was an "outdated relic from a different era" while time and the internet had passed it by.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said however that while abolishing the board and the appeal board was a "sensible and overdue reform", a complaint had been made under existing legislation and it was only fair to give the complainant access to the board. Mr Shatter's book was claimed to be obscene and to advocate abortion.

Mr Collins introduced the Censorship of Publications Board Repeal Bill to abolish both the board and the Censorship Appeals Board. He said 274 books and magazines are currently banned in Ireland. They include Amazing Detective Stories and Daring Romances, deemed obscene in the 1950s. "They would not even merit a raised eyebrow on Fair City now," he added.

The term of office of the last board ended in 2011 and there have been no new appointees, which made it a “lonely figure” compared to all the other boards and quangos the Government had failed to abolish, despite pledges, he said.

He highlighted the cultural changes in Irish society with the evolution of technology, including e-books. "Even Fifty Shades of Grey sold almost 60,000 copies in two months after its release here," he said of the explicit novel.

Formally rejecting the Bill, Mr Rabbitte said: “Repealing part of the Acts while leaving the remainder in place should not be done without giving due consideration to the effects which this would have on the entire body of legislation.”

Mr Rabbitte, for Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan, said the censorship of publications in Ireland "has had a very sad and sorry history". Abolition of the boards "appears to be a sensible and overdue reform but achieving this objective is somewhat more complex than is envisaged in the Bill".

Independent TD Finian McGrath supported the Bill and said he was "delighted to see that romantic Ireland is not dead and gone in Fianna Fáil". Sinn Féin's Michael Colreavy described the censorship board as a "ghost board".

“It needs to go. We need to perform an exorcism.”

Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher said: "I make an urgent plea to ensure Laura is set free, like the Minister himself, and that it will be on the shelves forever and a day as a testament to his literary genius."

Later, in a debate on the Oireachtas committee report on the growth of social media and tackling cyberbullying, Mr Rabbitte announced the launch of a public consultation by the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group

He said the consultation would focus on key questions including bullying and harassment and access to age-inappropriate content online.

Chairman of the transport and communications committee John O’Mahony suggested the State consider legislation, creating a new offence of incitement to take their own life. “The offender can be jailed or fined whether or not suicide resulted or was attempted.”