Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has said he would be willing to consider introducing measures aimed at curbing the accessibility of online pornography in Ireland.
The comments mark a change in attitude from last week when he said the Government would not compel internet service providers (ISPs) to block certain types of website.
The Government came under renewed pressure to introduce anti-pornography measures after British prime minister David Cameron announced plans to have explicit material blocked from every home in the UK unless the user seeks to receive it.
On Monday Mr Cameron said family-friendly filters would be applied automatically for new customers by the end of the year although they could choose to turn them off. Existing customers, meanwhile, will be contacted by their ISPs and asked to decide whether they want the filter.
Campaign groups had expressed concern that tablets and smartphones have given children greater access to the internet. Mr Cameron said the filters will apply to home and public wi-fi networks, “wherever children are likely to be present”. Mr Rabbitte said he “would be quite happy to [examine] whether the initiative announced by Mr Cameron has merit and can be made to work and whether the ISPs that are largely different here than they are in Britain would enter a similar protocol.”
Children’s organisations and individuals who have been calling on the Government to introduce measures to make it more difficult for children to access pornography were pleased with his comments.
However the Minister also said the European e-communications directive "makes it illegal for a member state to seek to compel ISPs to block material". He told RTÉ's Morning Ireland the British legislation is also designed to tackle certain types of "obnoxious material" which is illegal in Ireland.
Senator Mary Ann O’Brien, who earlier this week said online pornography was “poisoning children’s minds”, said it is “great to hear that [Mr Rabbitte] seems to be doing a turn about”.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said it was “very encouraging” that the Government seemed to be willing to look at measures that would block access to pornography, which it said had a damaging effect on children. “This is something that we feel the Irish Government should look at because it seems like a very effective way of safeguarding children online,” a spokeswoman said.