State papers 1985: ICA tries to stop chain of sex shops

Conegate wanted to open branches in Republic, so ICA wrote to taoiseach

Dr Garret FitzGerald: in July 1985,  he received a letter written in French about “le film pornographic Hail Mary” was sent, from Knock, Co Mayo. His private secretary asked: “Should we reply in English, French or not at all?”  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Dr Garret FitzGerald: in July 1985, he received a letter written in French about “le film pornographic Hail Mary” was sent, from Knock, Co Mayo. His private secretary asked: “Should we reply in English, French or not at all?” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Concerns that a sex-shop chain would open branches in the Republic prompted strongly worded letters to Charlie Haughey and Garret FitzGerald from the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA), newly released State papers reveal.

The ICA’s then general secretary Joan Clooney wrote in November 1982 to Haughey, the then taoiseach, following a heated meeting of her organisation’s executive committee. “I have been instructed by the members to write to you registering their concern at the possibility of the sex-shop chain Conegate opening branches in the Republic,” she said.

“Our members are anxious that you would give a commitment to prevent Conegate or other such organisations opening sex-shops in this country.”

She advised Haughey that a similar letter had also been sent to FitzGerald, then leader of Fine Gael. Haughey’s private secretary replied to Clooney.

The exchanges are contained in a file on pornography [2015/88/626] released under the 30-year rule.

“The Taoiseach has noted your Committee’s strong views on this subject and he has asked me to assure you that he would be totally opposed to the opening of any such shops mentioned in your letter. He has brought your Association’s legitimate concern on this subject to the attention of the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and of the Revenue Commissioners for any action which may be necessary in the matter.”

Meanwhile, Clare County Council had written to Haughey in January 1981, to inform him of a recently adopted resolution: “That Clare County Council call on the Government to investigate public showings of blue films in licensed premises.” The members were assured their resolution had been passed to the minister for justice “for appropriate consideration”.

In July 1985, a letter written in French about “le film pornographic Hail Mary” was sent, from Knock, Co Mayo, to FitzGerald, who was the then taoiseach.

FitzGerald’s private secretary drafted an acknowledgment, adding this query to a colleague: “Should we reply in English, French or not at all?” The colleague responded that she thought an acknowledgment would be sufficient.