Catholic ‘ethos’ was about faith and practice - and land, property, control and power

NMH controversy is a legacy of the historic relationship between the Church and state

The Sisters of Charity were also major beneficiaries of the hospital sweepstakes funds in order to build their hospital on the Elm Park site while the Order insisted at the same time it was only accountable to itself.  Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

The Sisters of Charity were also major beneficiaries of the hospital sweepstakes funds in order to build their hospital on the Elm Park site while the Order insisted at the same time it was only accountable to itself. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

This summer 50 years ago it was becoming clear that demands for access to contraception could no longer be contained or suppressed. As a member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement on the Belfast-Dublin “Contraceptive Train” in May 1971, June Levine pleaded for decorum as her sister crusader Mary Kenny blew up condoms to balloon size and then collapsed with laughter “as she let go of the end and the thing went shooting round the carriage”. Amidst the novelty and humorous defiance there was a seriousness about the political pressure building because of the activism and the taoiseach Jack Lynch said in relation to legislative reform, “I would not like to leave contraception on the long finger too long”.

But that is what happened, and the legislative long finger was paralleled by unyielding comments from the Catholic hierarchy; legalising contraceptives, insisted Catholic Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, “would be an insult to our Faith and a curse upon our country”. In another statement, the Catholic Bishops expressed “confident hope” that legislators would honour “the important principle” that “the civil law on these matters should respect the wishes of the people who elected the legislators”.

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.