Control of Importation, Sale and Manufacture of Contraceptives Bill, 1974: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Last Thursday, when the debate adjourned, I was dealing specifically with our objections to this Bill and I was stressing the inadequacies of the Bill. When introducing the Bill the Minister for Justice instanced the basic reason for its introduction and he went on to draw attention to the fact that the Supreme Court had found section 17 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935, unconstitutional. The Minister said that the court had not specifically ruled on the legality, or otherwise, of the existing legislation banning the sale of contraceptives and he gave it as his considered opinion that, if the court were to be asked to rule on that, he anticipated that they would rule that the prevention of the sale of contraceptives would be unconstitutional. This was part and parcel of the justification for the introduction of this measure. I have heard some of the backbenchers commenting on this and on Thursday last Deputy Coogan reminded the House that, as he saw it, this Bill was a restrictive Bill rather than a permissive Bill. The main burden of the contributions, with one notable exception, was that the Bill was too restrictive in its content and was not sufficiently permissive. That was the major criticism on the Government benches.

It is that particular aspect which makes me very dubious about the Bill, because a number of contributions from the Government side have spelled out quite clearly that they do not feel the Bill can be operated. As has been said in this debate on more than one occasion, the conservative element in this House would like to see legislation introduced which would be as close as possible to the legislation which was declared by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional. It has been admitted by Ministers that, while this Bill is attempting to amend the present situation, in their view it will be very difficult to operate.

In his speech at column 286 of the Official Report the Minister said:

I considered that this anomalous position had to be rectified because an anomaly itself is unsatisfactory but, in addition, I have had clear evidence that as a result of it a black market exists and is growing in the illegal sale of contraceptives in his country.

I assume when the Minister says in his statement that he has "clear evidence", he means that this is evidence which could be presented in court to procure a conviction——

I am assuming on the basis that——

Do not assume.

There are a number of assumptions in this Bill. I spoke last Thursday at reasonably short notice.

That does not need to be spelled out for us.

I am glad to see Deputy Harte is here to help me again today. He said I did not need to spell that out because it was quite obvious last Thursday night.

A Government notice was issued on the 13th February last indicating that it had been decided to introduce this Bill. The Minister had almost five months, from 13th February to 4th July, to prepare the Second Reading speech with the co-operation of his civil servants. In that speech, into which quite a lot of thought and preparation went, he categorically said he had clear evidence that as a result of this anomaly "a black market exists and is growing in the illegal sale of contraceptives in this country".

Under the 1937 Act it is illegal to sell or advertise contraceptives here. Now we are discussing a Bill to enable the licensed importation and selling of contraceptives. We are told that the situation at the present time is very bad because there is no control over the sale and importation of contraceptives. This is so, arising from the Supreme Court decision; but there should be control over the importation, sale and advertising of contraceptives. Government Deputies and Ministers admit that this is a Bill which will be very difficult to operate. They want to pass the Second Stage and, with the assistance of the Opposition, amend it on Committee Stage. We have legislation which makes it illegal to sell or advertise contraceptives. Yet the Minister for Justice admits there is illegal trade in contraceptives at black market prices. I assume there are two offences involved here. The Minister for Industry and Commerce said that he wished to flood the country with contraceptives. As he has no intention of controlling the prices, it would be very difficult to sell them at black market prices.

Big deal.

It may be a big deal but I am quoting——

That is a humble remark for a former Minister to make.

It is a remark made by a former Minister who was criticised for not being able to control prices by the man who succeeded him. He has made no efforts——

Big deal.

Fair enough. As the Deputy is aware I rise to interruptions. I am most anxious to make a serious contribution to this debate. I am sure Deputy Harte has no intention of helping me to do this.

I tried, but the Deputy would not let me.

Please, Deputy Harte.

The Minister went on to say at the same column:

Orders for contraceptives are being solicited by mail order firms from outside the State and these orders are being solicited indiscriminately. The firms concerned apparently are using street or telephone directories. It has been rather irately brought to my notice that one firm is enclosing a sample of its wares with the order form.

He said this was brought to his notice. Maybe some irate constituent or Irish resident rang up to complain. The Minister does not say that the irate constituent sent in the copy of the letter and the contraceptive which came by way of enclosure. The Minister made the statement that he has clear evidence that contraceptives are being sold on the black market. He also spoke about the advertising of contraceptives and said that orders are being solicited indiscriminately by mail order firms from outside the State. The Minister has used those examples as part of the justification for the Bill.

Of course, I said that.

His attitude is: "Pass this Bill and I will be able to deal with this sort of thing". At present the Minister has legislation to deal with such abuse and he does not need further powers in this Bill. However, this is part and parcel of the way the Minister and those in his party who are backing the Bill are endeavouring to get this legislation through.

Section 8 deals with control of advertising of contraceptives. The control of advertising in this instance is mainly to prevent chemists from putting up neon lights that contraceptives are available in their premises even though there is provision that a notice can be displayed in the shops that they are available. The section is for the purpose of preventing the seeking of orders for contraceptives. I take it that the section will deal with mail orders? I am not an expert in legal matters and I should like the Minister in his reply to indicate whether section 8 will enable him to take action against mail order firms that are still canvassing business and forwarding contraceptives directly to individuals. I know that if the individual concerned has not a licence for importation he will be committing an offence but will the advertising agent be in conflict with the law? Will it be possible to get at these people in order that they might be prosecuted for the offence?

It was wrong of the Minister to use the examples he quoted as part of the justification for introducing this legislation because he has the power already. If he has clear evidence that contraceptives are being sold, either on the black market or otherwise, he has the power to deal with the matter. He should hand over such evidence to the Attorney General in order that appropriate action may be taken. The same applies in relation to the mail order firms soliciting orders.

In his speech the Minister said that this Bill will regulate the availability of contraceptives. One can appreciate the fact that it is an effort at regulating but even those on the Government side who support the Bill admit that it will not do this. The Minister stated that he accepted the fact that it will be extremely difficult to implement the Bill. But nonetheless there was no reason, according to him, why it should not be put on the Statute Book. At column 288 of the Official Report dated the 4th July, 1974, the Minister stated:

Enforcement of any law can be a problem and there are other areas, notably in the intoxicating liquor code and the road traffic code, where we have this problem and one would hardly argue that because there are breaches in these two areas there is, therefore, a justification for relaxing or abolishing the prohibition on under-age drinking or dangerous driving. It is the aim of any criminal law to prohibit undesired conduct and that law is not futile even if it does no more than mark society's values in a particular area.

In its own way, I think that extract from the Minister's speech sums up this Contraceptives Bill which the Government have introduced in order to give the impression that, having licensed the importation of contraceptives, we are going to control their use.

It is rather remarkable that the Minister should have used the Intoxicating Liquor Act as a comparison and should have conceded that boys and girls under 18 years of age, under that Act, are not to be served with intoxicating liquor on licensed premises. He was admitting, and I do not blame him for admitting the fact, that it is built into the Statute Book to mark society's values in a particular area. I suppose it would be wrong to say it is legislation noted more in the breach than in the observance. But here we have—accepting the Minister's own words—a comparable piece of legislation, introduced with all seriousness, which endeavours, as he says, to control the use of contraceptives and the sale of contraceptives to married people.

Not the use, the availability.

Yes, to limit the availability of contraceptives to married people. We have legislation which limits the availability of intoxicating liquor in a public house to people over 18 years of age. In his introductory remarks the Minister drew comparisons between both pieces of legislation. I would draw attention to the fact that there is a pronounced difference, even if we are just introducing this legislation to mark society's values. We have the extraordinary situation that under the Intoxicating Liquor Act it is illegal for the publican to sell drink to a boy or girl under 18 years. We all know how well that regulation is adhered to but nevertheless it exists. That is a law laid down by this House spelling out that the publican commits an offence if he sells intoxicating liquor to a boy or girl under 18 years of age. I do not know whether the boy or girl commits an offence by going into a licensed premises and asking for a drink. I do not think so, I think it is the publican who commits the offence by selling it.

In the Bill before us, the situation has somersaulted completely in relation to the creation of the offence. Here we have a situation in which it is not illegal for the chemist or the licensed trader to sell contraceptives to an unmarried person but it is illegal for the unmarried person to buy them. Under section 5 it is an offence for any person who is unmarried, or who is not the holder of a licence granted under section 2, to purchase contraceptives. Therefore, while the Minister was comparing this legislation with the intoxicating liquor code and with the road traffic code, there was this major difference in marking society's values. I am not criticising the Minister for not having built in another section making it doubly illegal, illegal to buy and illegal to sell. Peculiarly enough, if it was a preventative Bill—which Deputy Coogan claimed it was in justification of his conscience's line on it—if it was looked upon as a restrictive Bill, a section aimed at making it illegal to sell in addition to making it illegal to buy would be very much in keeping.

We had the Minister as well anticipating a certain amount of criticism; anticipating something that has been said in a number of quarters in the House, outside it and in the Seanad and here I am quoting from column 289 of the Official Report of Thursday, 4th July, 1974:

The rights of an individual citizen in this country are given to him by the Constitution and guaranteed to him under it and our Supreme Court has the duty under that Constitution of defining what those rights may be from time to time. In this case the Supreme Court has found that a married person has a right to have reasonable access to contraceptives and those who call for a referendum, in effect, want to take that right away from the individual.

The Minister said that those who call for a referendum, in effect, want to take that right away from that individual. He went on to say:

I cannot accept that this is a valid point of view and is, indeed, a dangerous doctrine. There will be no referendum on this issue.

In relation to the people who make the claim that there should be a referendum—and I am not making that claim at this stage—I do not think it was quite proper of the Minister to say that, in effect, they were trying to take away the right of the married person to have reasonable access to contraceptives. The people supporting the view that there should be a referendum on this issue, basically, are those who are questioning the gallup polls; questioning the authority upon which the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs claimed that 51 per cent of the potentially child-bearing married women under 44 years of age want it.

In his opening remarks my colleague, Deputy O'Malley, dealt as objectively as one possibly could with that specific gallup poll. I always find, listening to academics anywhere——

Surely the Deputy is not claiming that Deputy O'Malley is an academic?

I am sure if I had taken time over the weekend and gone through the distribution of census and various statistics I would have been able to build up a case to shatter, or certainly to counteract, the statistical justification which the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs produced in this House last week to prove that the pressures were on and that the Government were acceding to the overall demand of the people to have free access to contraceptives. With the Minister for Industry and Comemrce he was making the case for free access by everybody to contraceptives.

I believe the only way we can get a real reflection of public opinion would be by referendum. I fully accept in that case people under 18 years of age have no right to vote. On the study which would be done of the outcome of the referendum we would have all the experts, many of whom adorn the daily Press, the radio and the television screen. I go so far as to say "all" because it appears that if you are not an ultra-liberal it is almost impossible to hold a job in any of those media; you must be sold to change and permissiveness. For the past two Thursdays I sat through quite an amount of the debates and if I were not present I could listen to the speeches on the monitoring system and many who contributed spoke of the build-up over the past ten years of national demand for freedom to obtain and use contraceptives. It was remarkable that those who most subscribed to that view were Deputies like Deputy Thornley, Deputy Keating, the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, all Deputies who were elected because they sold themselves on television.

Would the Deputy quote what each of them said?

I do not have the actual quotation from the speech of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs but I should be able to give the Deputy the benefit of all this in my considered contribution. I can quote from the Minister for Industry and Commerce because we have the Official Report for Thursday, 4th July. I checked with the Editor of Debates and we will not have the report for last Thursday's debate until tomorrow. I might be able to take up the matter then——

Surely we will not have to listen to the Deputy until then?

That is an option the Deputy has. If I want to speak I must remain in the House until I finish but the Deputy has my permission to leave at any stage.

The Minister, in his opening remarks, positively said there would be no referendum on this issue but on the other hand the Minister for Foreign Affairs said he was satisfied that if given the opportunity the people would be very much in favour of this change.

What is the Deputy quoting from?

I am trying to work around to quoting.

It is the Deputy who must make up his mind, not the people.

He has been speaking for one-and-a-quarter hours now and he has yet to make up his mind as to what side he is on.

There is no question about that: I am in opposition to the Bill.

Is the Deputy in opposition to the principle?

I have not said that; I must make my contribution in my own way and provided I speak on the Bill I presume I have permission to do so. Last Thursday night, as I saw it, the Minister had his opportunity except that a number of Deputies on his side of the House wanted to explain their attitude and the Minister indicated he would not prevent these backbenchers from doing so. I presume the Minister feels I should have the same freedom as his own backbenchers to say what I think and why. He and some of his colleagues were concerned about human and individual rights; I am sure the place to uphold them particularly is in this House. The Minister for Justice said that the people calling for a referendum in effect wanted to take away rights from the individual. Basically this is the wrong assumption. If the Minister had the same confidence in the belief that the Government were adopting the views of the people, views that the people wanted them to adopt, he would not have any qualms about going to the people in this connection. I know that licence to sell contraceptives freely was not one of the 14 Coalition points put to the people in the last general election. There is therefore, an element of doubt—of which we have frequently been reminded—as to whether those elected have this mandate. We have a situation in which the Minister for Justice assumed that if this question went to the people the people would be against it and therefore there will be no referendum: the Government will make up their minds that this is the right thing for the people.

That is not exactly what the Government have done because they are operating this free vote. If I wanted positive confirmation of the fact that the Minister for Justice, speaking on behalf of the Government, believes that this legislation, on which the Government are operating a free vote and which we are opposing, is not in keeping with the will of the people, there is no better proof than that contained in the final sentence used by the Minister in introducing the Bill when he said at column 292, Volume 274 of the Official Report for Thursday, July 4th, 1974:

All I ask is that Deputies approach it from this point of view——

that is, objectively

——and not motivated by political expediency, looking over their shoulders wondering what the constituency will think.

Very often there is reference in the Press to the question of whether public representatives are in touch with the grassroots or whether they have lost contact with the grassroots, but here we have an instance of the Minister for Justice, in an effort to have a Bill accepted in this House, setting out the reasons for the various sections of the Bill but finishing his address to Parliament by telling us to forget what our constituents want.

What is the Deputy's suggestion?

I represent my constituents here but I accept fully that very often legislation which we must support here can be very unpopular from the point of view of our constituents. For example, any Finance Bill which proposes to increase taxation or which does not propose to make available benefits that some people require, will be unpopular and if a Deputy were to ask for a constituent's views in such circumstances, it is obvious that he would be told to vote against any such Bill. What we are dealing with here is a matter of fundamental importance. For the benefit of those who have written to me, I can say that I am not being influenced by those who wrote to me informing me that I had no mandate in this matter but that I am influenced by my discussions with the people whom I meet regularly in all parts of my constituency. During the past few months we have had ample opportunity of chatting with our constituents.

The Deputy will get the number two's while Deputy Flanagan will get the number one's.

Acting Chairman

Will Deputy Harte please cease interrupting?

That is not an interruption: it is a statement.

I am here for the purpose of dealing as objectively as possible with this legislation and I object to Deputy Harte's endeavouring to put a political twist on what I am saying. Might I say that Deputy Harte is capable, without being prompted by Deputy McDonald, of making incisive interruptions? There is no case to be made for attempting to paint me as black or as white as Deputy Flanagan.

The Deputy is waffling on because he is short of anything else to say.

Is Deputy Lalor for or against the Bill?

I have yet to make my observations on the contributions to this debate of, among others, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. There is no waffling involved.

The Deputy must have studied quite a bit at the week-end.

Acting Chairman

Would Deputies on my left please cease interrupting?

The Deputy is making a rather poor contribution.

Acting Chairman

If the Deputies on my left do not wish to listen to the debate they have an alternative.

I am sorry if my contribution is not on a plain high enough to appeal to Deputy Collins. I accept that.

It is difficult to accept it.

It is, especially as I am not the only one not to think as highly of Deputy Collins as he thinks of himself.

Acting Chairman

Would the Deputy please get back to the Bill?

It is significant that, on recommending this Bill to the House, the Minister should have asked Deputies not to look over their shoulders, not to think of what their constituents might want. Subsequently we had brilliant contributions from various Deputies who spoke of the negation of democracy. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, having explained to us that so far as he was concerned the Bill was not in any way going far enough, told us that he would like to see contraceptives available widely in this country, that the practice of contraception was a positive good, that it was a false belief that the use of contraceptives posed a threat to the fabric of society—family life— and he went on to criticise this party for not having tackled the problem when we were in Government.

Acting Chairman

Would the Deputy please give the sources of his quotation?

I am quoting across the board from the speech of the Minister for Industry and Commerce but if the Chair wishes me to give references, I am quoting from column 359 of the Official Report for Thursday, 4th July, 1974, where the Minister for Industry and Commerce is reported as saying that:

The practice of contraception... is a positive good.

Further down in the same column the Minister said:

I want to see contraceptives and contraceptive knowledge widely available in this country.

Of course that is Labour Party policy.

As reported at column 364 of the same volume, the Minister for Industry and Commerce said, in relation to the restriction of the availability of contraceptives to married people:

I think that is a restriction which in certain instances is a denial of civil rights to people who are not married, who have a stable relationship; and who want contraceptives.

Stable in this case is s-t-a-b-l-e. It might be necessary to spell that out clearly lest anybody might think that he was advocating single people getting together and having a s-t-a-b...

There is not much point in closing the stable door——

This is the first prurient contribution we have had.

I am wrong. It is s-t-a-b-l-e. I was prompted to take that extract from the contribution of the Minister for Industry and Commerce because of the contradiction in his final sentence of what he claimed to be aiming at. However, he fell in line with the contribution of the Minister for Justice. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, at column 365, Volume 274 of the Official Report of 4th July, 1974, said:

The thwarting of that is the thwarting of democracy. It is the making of party issues more important than fundamental democratic issues, and it is on the way to a denial of democracy, and is anti-democratic.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce in atacking the collective opposition in relation to this legislation says we are being anti-democratic whereas the Minister for Justice, in his final sentence, asked the Opposition to be anti-democratic, not to look over their shoulders wondering what the constituency would think. He asked us to renege on what we were sent here to do, to act in the best interests of the people. In my view it is necessary to spell this out.

The Deputy is misquoting the Minister.

That is a serious interjection. I am not misquoting the Minister and I have given the reference. I am quoting the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

I understood the Deputy was quoting the Minister for Justice who is the person concerned with this legislation. I apologise.

I accept the Deputy's apology but I would recommend to him to be a little more careful about his interruptions.

When a Deputy refers to the Minister in relation to this Bill it is the Minister for Justice who is being referred to. When Deputy Lalor merely mentioned "the Minister" I understood him to be referring to the Minister concerned with this Bill, the Minister for Justice.

In my view one of the weaknesses in this Bill is contained in section 2. That section provides penalties for breaches and the withdrawing of the licence. Subsection (1) of section 2 states:

A person shall not import, sell, offer for sale or invite offers to purchase contraceptives unless he is the holder of a licence to import granted under this section, and shall import, sell, offer for sale or invite offers to purchase only such contraceptives (or such class or classes of contraceptives) as he is permitted to import by such licence.

Subsection (2) tells us:

The Minister may grant to an authorised person a licence, subject to such conditions as he specifies in the licence, to import contraceptives of such class or classes as may be specified in the licence.

Subsection (7) states:

A person who contravenes subsection (1) or subsection (4) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £100 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both such fine and such imprisonment, or

(b) on conviction on indictment, at the discretion of the court, to any or all of the following, namely, a fine not exceeding £500, a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year, or, if he is the holder of a licence under this section, the forfeiture by the court of the licence.

Of course, I will be told that it is on sections like this that the Government would be grateful for assistance from the Opposition. I will be told that the Opposition should submit drafting amendments to improve sections like section 2. It is remarkable that subsection (7) states that persons who contravene subsection (1) or subsection (4) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine and/or imprisonment but there is no reference to the people referred to in subsections (2) and (3), people to whom the Minister may grant a licence to import contraceptives. What would be the position if the holder of a licence misconducts himself in any way? The only thing in this Bill concerning that person is that the Minister will withdraw his licence but there is no reference to such a person being subject to a prosecution, fine or imprisonment, as is the position in relation to the chemist.

Subsection (3) of section 2 states:

Where he is satisfied that contraceptives are not reasonably available to married persons because of the distance from their place of residence to the nearest place where an authorised person holding a licence under this section carries on business, the Minister may grant a licence under this section, for such period as may be specified in the licence, to a person carrying on business in or near the place of residence who is not an authorised person.

If the person covered there misuses the licence granted by the Minister can he be fined or imprisoned? I do not know who the Minister has in mind in that subsection; he possibly means some of the peace commissioners he has recently appointed. I do not see why these people should be excluded from the penalty clause. The penalty clause should cover all people referred to in the Bill.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce told us that he wanted to see contraceptives and contraceptives knowledge widely available in this country. That statement brings me to section 11 which deals with review by the Censorship Board. That section refers to the lists of books, periodicals and papers which we used describe as pornographic. That section being banned because they advocated the unnatural prevention of conception or abortion. In view of the fact that we propose to permit the sale of contraceptives by licence, seems to state that it is a natural follow-on or improper that we should discourage the sale of books or periodicals dealing with or encouraging contraception.

Ministers and Deputies on the Government side who support this Bill are anxious to convey that this is not going to be the thin end of the wedge and that we will not have follow-on legislation advocating abortion and divorce. These are the sort of follow-on matters demanded by a more liberal society than we are at present. Section 11 is what could loosely be described as a routine follow-on. The Minister for Industry and Commerce not alone wants to see contraceptives being made available but he wants a knowledge of contraceptives to be widely available. Fair enough. I suppose if we are to have contraceptives we should have a knowledge of how to use them. However, what we are talking about here is the freedom to advocate the use, to encourage the use of contraceptives. We have legislation here which is supposed to be restrictive. It is to enable married couples to have access to contraceptives. However, there is also a section in the Bill which can reasonably be described as saying: "Now that we have them, we have the job of getting them widely used." There is no doubt that there are certain Members, probably the majority of the Members on the Government side, who are satisfied that this is "a so far and no further" piece of legislation. Nevertheless there are many on that side of the House who are positively determined to use this as the thin end of the wedge. This has been spelled out quite clearly by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, by Deputy Thornley and by Deputy O'Connell, all of whom said they were not satisfied that the Bill was liberal enough. I believe there are people on the other side of the House who have had conscience problems. A number of them have been pretty well got over.

I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach has come into the House because I want to quote from a speech he made in relation to this Bill. First, I shall quote from a Government Information Services Publication of 13th February which said:

The Government have decided consequent on the recent Supreme Court decision in relation to the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935, to introduce a Bill to provide for the necessary change in legislation arising out of that decision. It is the Government's intention to provide for a free vote in relation to the passage of the Bill.

I have gathered, over the last few days, that this vote is not as free as the impression conveyed by the Government Information Services. I am indebted to the Press for a certain amount of information. Over a period a picture was created of six, seven, eight, nine, perhaps ten Government Deputies—I will not say all backbenchers—who were not in favour of the Bill and who were likely to vote against it. It transpired after a long haul on Thursday last that most of them had now got around to toeing the line with the exception of Deputy Oliver Flanagan. There are a number of other Members of the Government side who have not openly committed themselves yet. It appears to me, and I think it is obvious even to the Press, that there has been a certain amount of arm-twisting. I know we have Deputy Flanagan's word that he was not subjected to any arm-twisting. I wish to refer to an extract from a speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach and the Government Chief Whip at a Fine Gael meeting in the Central Hotel, Navan, on Thursday, 28th March, last.

Your think-tank seems to have been working overtime.

No, it is the Government's think-tank. I almost said stinktank.

Those fellows are earning the public money that is being paid to them. There is no doubt about that.

There is a fair share of public money being poured into the Government Information Services. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary should encourage too much talk about that.

You are the most highly-paid Opposition in the history of this country.

And worth every penny of it.

Deputy Lalor, without interruption.

There is a positive restriction on the amount allocated to the Leader of the Opposition. There is no restriction on the amount used by the Government Information Services and that will be shown up. It comes ill from the Parliamentary Secretary to talk about the amount of money our think-tank is using.

As an active politician I can say that I have never relied on the Government Information Services to do my work for me and never will.

We must rely on the Government Information Services to supply us with extracts from speeches because, as far as I know, the various Government Departments use the Government Information Services to disseminate the particular speeches they want to get across to the Press and others. The Government Information Services are giving good value for whatever money they are getting.

If that is so, it is a humble enough function.

As far as I can see, it is government by the Government Information Services.

That joke is a bit old and it did not travel too well when it was first made.

Acting Chairman

I must ask the Parliamentary Secretary not to interrupt please, and I would ask the speaker to keep to the Bill.

Can I not comment on statements made about it?

This is the man who was anxious for a quick "kill" last Thursday night. Now he is stone-walling until several Fianna Fáil Deputies can find time to get to the House.

I was handed a note three-quarters of an hour ago by my Assistant Whip. At 4.40 I was handed a note by my Assistant Whip to say that all our Deputies are here. I have a contribution to make on this Bill and I am making it.

Would you start it?

Acting Chairman

I must ask Deputy Harte not to interrupt.

I apologise to you but I listened to Deputy Lalor on Thursday night and again today. He keeps telling us he is going to deal with the Bill but I am still waiting for him to start.

Acting Chairman

If Deputy Harte does not want to listen to a contribution he has an alternative.

I am quoting from the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary at a Fine Gael meeting in the Central Hotel, Navan, on Thursday, 28th March. I quote:

Finally, we are being asked why, if the Government think the Bill necessary, the two Government parties should have chosen to allow a free vote. There is no contradiction here. Both parties accept that the Government has a right—so far as the McGee case is relevant—a duty to sponsor this legislation; and as Government Whip I intend to make sure that the maximum possible number of Government deputies vote for it.

This is the free vote we heard about.

But equally, both parties recognise that there are some deputies who with absolutely evident conscientious conviction, cannot bring themselves to support any relaxation whatever in the old law. I disagree with these Deputies but I think that in a matter so notoriously delicate it would be entirely wrong to try to bully them. Indeed, it would be a ludicrous contradiction if, in proposing a Bill which tends to greater respect for liberty of individual conscience we were in the inner party discipline to do violence to the individual dissenting conscience of a small minority of Deputies.

I am sorry the Government Whip does not have more respect for the words which issue from his mouth.

Another big deal.

For fear that any impression might be given that I was endeavouring to filibuster on this Bill I will not delay the House much longer.

The Deputy has done two hours up to now, counting last Thursday. No Fianna Fáil speaker spoke longer than the Deputy. He has the record.

I am not endeavouring to create any record. I would be finished far sooner were it not for the numerous interruptions. I fully respect that every Deputy who has spoken already sincerely believes what he said. I was present during the contribution made by Deputy Paddy Belton last Thursday. Some of his comments were quoted in the paper the following day. References were made to the honest statements he made. I fully accept that the Deputy's contribution was an honest one and that he said what he really believes. Part of it was referred to on the front page of The Irish Times the following day. He spoke about contraceptives.

The Deputy will be in very deep water now.

I fully accept he made a genuine statement. I have to paraphrase him as I only have the extract in the paper to refer to. We have not yet got the Dáil Official Report for that day. I do not feel I am doing him any injustice when I quote him as saying: "What parent would not rather see his child with a contraceptive than have his child come in pregnant or be the author of a girl's misfortune." I have no doubt that the Deputy was genuinely expressing what could be a widely held view. We have Deputies who believe we are not responsible for the moral conduct of our people. I could not support legislation which legalises a situation whereby it is permissible, in order to save family embarrassment for boys and girls, to have access to contraceptives.

The Bill does not do that. It stops short of that.

It legally stops short of that.

The Deputy is picking up a sentence of Deputy Belton's and using it as an argument against a Bill which provides no basis for it.

I am trying to be as objective as I can on this. Probably the most solemn and sincere statement made last Thursday was that contribution of Deputy Paddy Belton. When we get to the stage where the physical consequences are to be the determination of our social behaviour we are getting into very serious difficulties. I feel this Bill lends itself to that sort of situation and that is why I am opposing it.

Will the Deputy tell us if the suggestion made by his party's spokesman would have invited his support? Would he have supported a Bill drafted by Deputy O'Malley along the lines which he suggested? The Deputy owes it to the House to give us a reply to that question, having held us up for two hours.

I had a serious contribution to make and I am being told I have delayed the House.

I am waiting to hear in what respect everything the Deputy has told the House would not have been said if the Bill was promoted by Deputy O'Malley? There is not a word that the Deputy uttered that would not have been equally applicable to whatever Deputy O'Malley said.

We are not bringing in the Bill.

The Deputy cares for nothing except to be seen to beat the Government in the Lobby if he can.

There is no political advantage in that.

The Deputy is absolutely right.

Acting Chairman

I must ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he will allow the business of the Dáil to continue in order.

It is not my intention to talk at any great length on this Bill but, before dealing with the points I intend to make, I should like to reflect on the contribution made by the Chief Whip of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Former Minister for Industry and Commerce and for Posts and Telegraphs and a prominent speaker of the Fianna Fáil Party. I believe his contribution was simply diabolical. From the time he got to his feet at 9.50 p.m. last Thursday until he finished just now he had me guessing whether he supported contraception or whether he supported the political manoeuvring which is taking place in the Fianna Fáil Party.

In my view there has been far too much talk about this subject. This Bill should have been introduced by the Government, been agreed to by the Opposition, and passed into law. There are far more serious matters which this House could be dealing with than this issue. It is regrettable that Deputies elected to represent the people of their constituencies should not act in a more mature manner. I regret that Deputy Lalor was not more responsible in his attitude to this Bill.

He talked about a referendum. Was he advocating that we should have a referendum on a new Constitution? My experience in another capacity in this House is that his party do not support the idea of a new Constitution. If we now find ourselves in a dilemma as a result of the McGee case, this is as a result of the Constitution which the Fianna Fáil Party have always regarded as their Ten Commandments for the Irish people. If there is a weakness in the criminal law it is as a result of the Constitution——

The weakness is in Fine Gael.

——which Fianna Fáil believe to be the only answer if we are to create this super mythological Irishman whom even Deputy Gibbons described at one stage as being a super-Republican.

Deputy Gibbons is now no more a super-Republican than his former colleague the former Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Deputy Blaney.

I wish the Deputy would tell me what he is talking about since he is taking my name in vain.

Deputy Gibbons is now a super-conservative and the Fianna Fáil Party have abandoned their "Republican Party"——

That is what the Deputy would like to think.

Acting Chairman

Order.

They can now proudly boast that they can call themselves the Irish conservative party.

Acting Chairman

I would ask Deputy Gibbons not to interrupt Deputy Harte.

He was taking my name in vain.

Acting Chairman

The Chair will look after the Deputy's interests. Deputy Harte without interruption.

I was tempted to get into this type of debate because of the diabolical contribution made by Deputy Lalor. He did not talk in favour or against contraception or the Bill. I come from a Border area. When I was a young boy my parish priest lived on the Northern side of the Border. There was one law in half of the parish and another law in the other half. The Fianna Fáil Party are now telling us that the people who live on the Donegal side of the Border cannot be trusted with the laws which control the Strabane and County Tyrone side of the Border. If they are not telling us that, they are telling us that the Catholics living in Northern Ireland are to be condemned and that the Catholic society of the South must be protected. It is one thing or the other.

As a boy who grew up in a Border area, I know that Catholics were not interested in contraceptives. Anyone who disputes that can look at the census of population figures and see that Catholic families in Northern Ireland are equally as large as they are in the South. Personally speaking, I have no interest whatsoever in contraceptives. I want to ask Members of the Fianna Fáil Party who pontificate on the theology of Catholic teaching——

The theologian is on that side.

I include the Deputy Deputy Gibbons is referring to. What right have we as ordinary laymen to adjudicate on an issue on which Catholic theologians disagree? What right have I to tell a married man of another religion what his morals should be when he believes he is living just as good a Christian life according to the teachings of his own Church as I am as a Catholic? What right have the Fianna Fáil Party to come to a unanimous decision that they would put a three-line whip on their Members to oppose this legislation?

It was not unanimous.

I do not know whether it was unanimous or by a majority decision. They argue that they must uphold the standard of Irish morals which they talk about in the South and that we must protect our young boys and girls against the permissive society which they threaten will come about if this Bill is enacted. If they argue against contraceptives on that issue do they not see that this will lead to anarchy? Deputy Mrs. Desmond put on record last week the fact that one of her constituents allowed a 12-year old child to write to one of these addresses in Great Britain and back, by return of post, came contraceptives. That is legal at present because of the McGee case.

I put it to the House that any person who votes against this type of legislation is voting for anarchy and tolerating a situation which is uncontrollable, and they should have second thoughts about it. I do not believe there is any other society in the world—if there is, it is and ultra-conservative Catholic society—which has the sheltered conditions which the southern Irish society has. Far too much emphasis is placed on the fact that the 1935 criminal law making it illegal to import, sell or be in possession of contraceptives, protected the Southern Irish against terrible evils, as Deputies who are opposing this legislation would make us believe and as holier than thou people write to us and tell us we have no mandate would make us believe.

I have no evidence—and I do not think there is any evidence to suggest it—that there were queues outside chemists' shops or that there was an overindulgence in contraceptives before the 1935 criminal law was introduced. Since then the only people who were brought before the courts were those with warped minds who went North of the Border or over to Britain and illegally imported these things and who sold them to teenagers in dance halls or in public houses. The 1935 criminal law made it possible for these warped people to make massive profits at the expense of innocent boys and girls in Ireland. Across the Border in our own island Catholic boys and girls were not interested. This mythological super-republican state at which the Fianna Fáil Party have always aimed has not been so great, when we stop and examine the facts.

I do not know of any serious abuses in relation to the importation of contraceptives from Northern Ireland. I remember being in conversation—I had the pleasure of meeting the same person last night at a function here in the city—with a very prominent politician from the North, who was one of the leaders of the civil rights movement two or three years ago, about this subject. I said: "I live a mile from Strabane where these things are sold openly in chemists' shops and during my lifetime I have seen only two of them." He said to me: "I grew up in the city of Derry and I have yet to see one of them." In spite of the experience of people living along the Border, and in spite of the experience of Catholics who have gone North of the Border, people from the Opposition benches, trying to make a political issue of this, pontificate about the rights and wrongs of contraceptives as if they were speaking from Rome. Personally I am not interested, but I have no right whatever nor have I the training or the knowledge to adjudicate as to whether it is right or wrong for other people to believe they have the right to this service.

It has been said here by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs that if this Bill is rejected it will have an adverse effect on public opinion North of the Border. I want to put on record that I agree completely with that statement. There are politicians North of the Border who will grasp any straw to generate fear in the minds of decent, honest-to-goodness Protestant people in the North that this is a confessional State, that we are controlled, dictated to and ruled by the Catholic Hierarchy. On that topic I wish also to put on record that, as a person who was searching for answers on this question, I have spoken to quite a number of Catholic priests whom I respect. I have got advice that the present Bill is not as liberal as it should be.

What am I to do? I am supporting this Bill because I believe that, irrespective of whatever we do, society in Ireland is changing and changing for the better, I hope. It is changing because the world is changing. Those who suggest that the permissive society about which we hear so much only happened last week should stop kidding themselves. There has been permissiveness for generations, the standards we know are different from the standards of the new generation coming up. They will have different standards to guide their society.

That is great nonsense the Deputy is talking.

If I give the name of the person who put the following point to me it might embarrass the Deputy.

If the Deputy thinks the Irish are going to abandon their old traditions, he is as wrong as can be.

Acting Chairman

Deputy Harte without interruption.

It is not for the want of a reply that I refrain from replying to Deputy Gibbons. Last week while the debate was going on a senior Deputy belonging to the Fianna Fáil Party mentioned to me with the utmost sincerity that he believed that the older age group in this House should not participate in the vote. He went on to say that he had teenage grandchildren and that they looked at life in a different way from that in which he looked at it, and the values he held in life were different from those his grandchildren held. Deputy Gibbons might ask me for this Deputy's name, and I shall give it to him afterwards in confidence. Here was a man in the Fianna Fáil Party who was looking on the realistic side of life. Deputy Gibbons knows that the values which his father held and which his grandfather held are different from the values he holds.

Nonsense. That is the rock Fine Gael will perish on. Now we know where the Opposition is.

Can Deputy Gibbons tell me with authority what values his grandfather and his great-grandfather held?

Yes, I could make a fair stab at it, and I hold the same myself.

I said "with authority".

Acting Chairman

If there is a question to be asked, the Deputy will speak when he is making his contribution but not by way of question and answer here.

I wonder could Deputy Gibbons, any more than myself, guess what way the new generation look on life and what values they have. I have certain values and to the best of my ability live as a Christian should live.

Are these Christian standards changing?

No, but there are more people in this world than Christians. If I could just take Deputy Gibbons up on this point——

Acting Chairman

I would ask the Deputy not to take Deputy Gibbons up. Would he please confine his remarks to what is in the Bill and not invite interruptions by questioning Deputies?

I am not inviting interruptions. It is not an overplayed exercise on my part to invite interruptions. Last week I was watching television and BBC2 were doing a story about two states in India where there was an epidemic of smallpox. These Moslem people believed that if they went to a holy well and bathed in it they would cure themselves of smallpox. In fact, this holy well was contaminated and was spreading smallpox. In spite of all this, the Moslems believed that if they died or if they caught smallpox as a result of this, this was the punishment which the God or the Goddess of smallpox was dishing out. These were the values of the Moslem people.

What has this to do with the Bill?

Would Deputy Gibbons hold his tongue?

The Deputy is inviting interruptions.

As Deputy Lalor told me, the Deputy has an alternative. I must stay here until I conclude my contribution; so must the Chair. If the Deputy is not happy with it, the restaurant is open. The point I am making is that in this world different traditions, different Christian beliefs have certain values. I have certain values, and the Christian who does not share the same religious convictions as I have has certain values. The values which I have and which are in conflict with the values he has give me no right as a legislator in this House to make it illegal for him to practise his religion in the manner in which he wants to practise it. I would ask the Fianna Fáil Party, before it is too late, to re-examine the position. I am convinced that the only reason the Fianna Fáil Party are opposing this Bill is to gain a very short-lived victory, if they win, which I doubt at the moment. If they do win, and if we are to take seriously the statements from the speakers who represent the party and who were speaking for the party when they were in Government, I am left to conclude that the Fianna Fáil Party will be bringing in a Private Members' Bill or supporting another Bill on this issue because the law, as it stands at the moment, is inadequate. That is something that must be attended to and, whether the present Bill is liberal enough or whether it might be declared unconstitutional at a later date, we are desperately in need of new legislation to deal with this issue.

It is less than responsible on the part of the Fianna Fáil Party not to recognise that situation and to allow either a free vote on this Bill or withdraw their opposition to it until the Committee Stage. There is no reason why it should be defeated at this stage. If there are Members on the Fine Gael benches—I do not doubt but that there are—who have crises of conscience or deep convictions about particular aspects of this Bill, if they withdraw their opposition now that will give them an equal opportunity of putting forward reasoned amendments so that, when the Bill is passed, we will have legislation based on consensus opinion in this Parliament and agreement on the Bill throughout the Twenty-six Counties. I do not think this is an unfair request.

People are looking at us from the Northern state wondering what type of animal the Southern Irishman is. We are continually telling them that we want them to change. Here we have a minute change on the part of this Legislature. If we introduce laws allowing a reasonable availability of contraceptives that does not necessarily mean that every person in the Twenty-six Counties is getting an order to use contraceptives. The choice is free and only those who want to use them will avail of them. Only those who believe they have a right to them will use them. Any Catholic who has a crisis of conscience as to whether their use is right or wrong will have to make up his mind whether he wants to be a good Catholic or a less than good Catholic. The non-Catholic population of the Twenty-six Counties are told by their religious leaders and by their theologians that it is in keeping with their religious beliefs to have family planning by artificial methods and that they are living good Christian lives. Any Catholic who wishes to avail of this freedom will have to ask himself does he want to live a good Catholic life or a less than good Catholic life. That is the nub of the issue.

It is wrong for the Fianna Fáil Party to put down a three-line whip. We know there are Members of the Fianna Fáil Party who are not in full support of the decision to put down a three-line whip. We, in the Fine Gael Party—I take it this is also true of the Labour Party, but I speak with authority about the Fine Gael Party— are leaving it to our Members to decide one way or the other and, if Deputy Andrews nods his head——

This is the greatest farce of a free vote of all time.

It is people like Deputy Andrews who are making Members of the Fine Gael Party more determined to vote because it is common knowledge in Leinster House that Deputy Andrews, the main spokesman on Justice, refused to speak, though he has very deep convictions about this particular subject and he would vote with the Government if there was a free vote. It is because Deputy Andrews and others in the Fianna Fáil Party have been suppressed that we, on this side of the House, are now more determined than ever to support the Government.

I know Deputy J. Gibbons, whatever other people may think, is a fair-minded man. I believe that when he comes to judge something he knows right from wrong. Deputy Gibbons knows that the appeal I am now making to him and to his party to withdraw their opposition to the Bill at this stage is a legitimate appeal. If they want good legislation they can put down good reasoned amendments on the Committee Stage. There should be freedom of choice for all Members on both sides of the House. If that is allowed then Fianna Fáil will be behaving responsibly and the Government will recognise improvements suggested by way of amendment by the Opposition and we will have a Bill in keeping with the needs of our society.

Over the last couple of days the meaning of this Bill seems to have got lost. With references to tradition and values and speakers pontificating about the quality of life, the issue has become clouded. Because of the Supreme Court ruling contraceptives and abortificients can be freely imported and distributed and used in whatever manner people please. They may not be sold. It is to curtail distribution that this Bill has been introduced. It may not be a perfect Bill. There have been criticisms and the time to make changes in answer to those criticisms is on the Committee Stage. The Opposition speakers are hopping from one foot to another. At one moment they say something is necessary and the next moment they say they do not know what is necessary. They are being grossly dishonest. They were elected to legislate just as we were elected to legislate. We are not asking for favours. The Opposition have an obligation and they were put here to fulfil that obligation. They are shirking their obligation. They are playing the cheapest kind of politics and I believe the people will in time call them to account for this because their dishonesty is quite patent.

If this Bill is defeated and someone takes a test case to the Supreme Court on the issue of the sale of contraceptives, the Supreme Court will have to decide that preventing the sale of contraceptives is unconstitutional. What will happen then? Every huckster shop in the country will sell contraceptives and the responsibility for that will rest on the shoulders of those Opposition Deputies who may vote against this Bill. No doubt good sense will prevail. We have all had approaches from constituents. There have been those who have said to us that we have no mandate for this, that or the other. Apparently these people were not aware, or did not want to be aware, of the necessity for this Bill. This is a tidying-up measure. There are people who have grave fears and doubts about the moral implications of this legislation. If this Government did not bring in a Bill of this sort, they would be failing in their responsibilities to the people.

People talk about how this will affect those living in Northern Ireland. This is nonsense. We are legislating for this part of the country on the basis of freedom, and not because it might please others. It is necessary that this legislation goes through. If the Bill is defeated what will happen? Will the Opposition bring in a mumbo-jumbo Private Bill? Or will we bring in another Bill at another time? The Opposition have admitted that this Bill is necessary but they have not the courage to pass the Second Stage. They could say: "We dislike a lot of what is in the Bill but we will amend it on the Committee Stage." I have no doubt if they had had reasonable amendments they would have got support. They are not interested in reasonable or any other amendments, or indeed in any form of legislation whatsoever. They appear to feel that if they can defeat the Government on this they will be one up. If that is what they think they are very much mistaken, because the people of Ireland did not elect them to play that type of politics.

We talk about the effects of this legislation on our society, the quality of life. To a lot of people the quality of life means bad housing. To the aged and widows it means isolation. Indeed, their quality of life is in question. When we look at the North of Ireland situation and see the degradation which is going on there, we ask ourselves if this is the quality of life we want. It is certainly not the quality of life I am in favour of or want. I think it is just humbug to talk of the quality of life in this context.

It has been said that certain chemist shops will not stock contraceptives because it would be against their principles to do so. I have no doubt that chemists will not stock them simply because there will not be any demand. Some speakers gave the impression that as soon as the Bill is passed people would but vast quantities of contraceptives. That is nonsense. We must be adult about this subject and treat it in an adult way. We talk about our young people and the temptations which can effect their moral fibre. If we treat our young people in such an isolated fashion we will be repudiated for it. I have confidence in our young people. They know right from wrong. They can make balanced judgements. If they want to use these they will use them whether we legislate one way or the other.

We talk about public opinion. With the exception of a few letters there is very little public opinion. People have sense and realise that this change is necessary because of the Supreme Court judgement. Their attitude is "We elected you to make this change, get on with it. Stop the nonsense which has been going on for some days past". The Redemptorists and others will never be dead while some speakers in this House are alive. Opposition speakers spoke about traditions and values. Some of their traditions are provisional traditions and we all know what the Provisional IRA stand for. They and their values are tacitly supported by Members on the Fianna Fáil Benches. They are not traditions we would welcome.

That is not relevant to this Bill.

The question of traditions was raised by Opposition speakers. In my view, their traditions are not Christian. For that reason this Bill should go through and also because a Supreme Court decision made it necessary. Most of the Opposition speakers agree that a change is necessary but they have not the courage of their convictions. They are looking over their shoulders wondering what will happen if they vote in favour of the Bill. When politicians play this kind of game it is easy to understand why people distrust them. They are elected to bring in and pass legislation. If they consider that the legislation is bad they should stand up and say so. They have not been saying that about this Bill. They have not condemned it out of hand. If they gave good and valid reasons for rejecting the Bill, I would respect them. They have not done that. They have made it a purely political game in the hope of embarrassing the Government.

We go to the electors every few years. They vote on our performance. The performance of Fianna Fáil on this Bill has been pathetic. Again I ask them to reconsider, give us the Second Stage and put down reasoned amendments. The Minister will give sympathetic consideration to any reasoned amendments and, I have no doubt, allow them if they did not radically interfere with the Bill, which is open to change. In some ways this Bill is emotionally charged. Some people are concerned about the morals of the young people and the effect of this Bill on them. That is understandable. It is up to us to allay those fears by showing that we are legislating for the overall good. That is what this Bill is all about: the overall good.

At present all sorts of devices can be freely imported. When this legislation is passed, this will be stopped because there will be control. People might ask "How can you know if a person is married?" This is one of the problems. How does a publican know if a person asking for alcohol is under age? This is the same type of situation. One can only legislate up to a certain point.

The impression one gets is that all of us were lusting for sex, that we were waiting for this opportunity to buy contraceptives. This is utter nonsense. All we are doing is making contraceptives available to married people and it should have been done before this. The 1935 Criminal law is unconstitutional and it is necessary that this change take place. However, it should not be done in an emotionally charged atmosphere, in trying to cloud the facts, or in trying to imply that when this measure is passed we will have a decadent and immoral society. Of course this will not happen. Contraceptives are available in parts of this country but their availability has not affected the size of family or the way of life of those who profess the Catholic faith and who do not advocate the use of contraceptives. We talk as though people have no minds of their own, that they are irresponsible and have not a sense of values. Our people have a deep sense of values. They are not waiting for us to pass legislation so that they will become a decadent society. They will be true to their sense of values and what we do in the House will not affect them.

That is the reason I was surprised at much of the hysteria in this House in the past few months with regard to this matter. We have had a rather unbalanced debate and this is regrettable. I had hoped that the Opposition would respond to our attitude towards an open, free vote. There are people who consider this Bill objectionable but I do not agree with them having regard to the decision of the Supreme Court. If it were a fact that we were considering a new situation, that this legislation would allow contraceptives into this country for the first time, then I would go along with their sense of conscience. However, as the situation exists, I am at a loss to understand why people feel so strongly about the Bill. In fact, if there was a ruling from the Supreme Court allowing the free sale of contraceptives, we would have the Opposition and many others looking for legislation. I hope this does not happen, that we will have an orderly situation, that this legislation goes through to protect the moral values of our society.

If this Bill is not passed and if a free sale situation develops, then we will be able to talk about immorality and a lowering of standards. The Bill is necessary because of the Supreme Court decision. We must allow married people reasonable access to contraceptives and this will be done in a responsible way through retail chemists shops. Why all the hysteria, the concern about the morality of our society? This is a politically dishonest attitude by a number of politicians and is to be regretted.

I would ask Fianna Fáil to reconsider this matter, to allow the Bill through the Second Stage. They can be severe on Committee Stage and they can put down amendment which they consider necessary. The Bill should have obtained the support of both sides of the House; it need not have been contentious and, as a result, people would have been aware of what was involved.

The subject we are debating is one that many Deputies would prefer not to debate or to consider. If I did not take part in the debate, people might misconstrue my silence in view of the fact that I am a lawyer and that the presentation of this Bill to the House has arisen as a result of the decision of the Supreme Court in the McGee case. How many Deputies have read the judgement in that case, how many members of the public are aware of the actual effect of the McGee case and how many people know anything of the reasons upon which the judgment in that case was based?

My experience of talking to people outside this House, in my constituency and elsewhere, and in talking to Deputies, is that it is only a minority of the Deputies who will walk into the division lobbies who have actually read and studied both the judgment and the Bill. My experience has been that there is a considerable amount of ignorance with regard to what is at issue in the Bill and in the debate.

All of us know that a measure called the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935, was introduced in this House for discussion in 1934 but few of us realise that when that Bill came into the House there was little or no debate. From the records I have examined, it appears only two people took part in that debate. One was the then Attorney General and the other was a Deputy who was a medical practitioner. There was literally no debate on the matter we are now debating. It might come as somewhat of a surprise to some people to know that the reason for this Bill cannot really be stated to be the McGee case. Having said that, I must explain. Prior to the enactment of the 1935 Criminal Law Amendment Act—which contains section 17 (3), which has given rise to this debate and Bill—there was a Select Committee which reported. As I understand it, that committee recommended that the sale of contraceptives should be controlled by similar conditions to those which controlled the sale of dangerous drugs. The committee did not recommend that the sale of contraceptives should be prohibited entirely or rendered a grave offence but, in actual fact, the 1935 Act did that. It appears that, when this House had the 1935 Bill before it, the Members rather hid their heads in the sand and did not really discuss the Bill at all because that Bill was thought and accepted by the public as being one which dealt with brothels, criminal sexual offences and attacks on young women. What people do not realise is that Article 50 of the Constitution, in effect, stated that only those laws that were not inconsistent with the Constitution could be regarded as lawful laws of the land and could be accepted as the laws of the land. I think it was Mr. de Valera's Government that brought in the 1935 Act. It was also Mr. de Valera's Government that brought in the Constitution of 1937 which was adopted eventually and became our Constitution. What the public do not realise is that it was not the McGee case that did away with the section in the 1935 Act which prohibited the importation of contraceptives. It was the Constitution of 1937 that, in effect, repealed the 1935 Act section and all that the McGee case did was to state that that was the effect of the 1937 Constitution.

I am sorry that I had to point this out, but I am forced, as a lawyer, to point it out in view of certain sentences spoken by Deputy Kitt in this House. I am sorry that perhaps I have shattered some of his illusions or impressions of what was the law prior to the McGee case. In other words, what I am saying is that the Constitution brought in by Mr. de Valera in 1937 repealed the 1935 Act protective section that, up to then, precluded the importation of contraceptives and that the McGee case did not, in effect, repeal the Act. It had been done already by the Constitution.

Was it lawful then to import them before the McGee case?

It would have been because anybody could have challenged——

But it had to be challenged.

Yes, that is the way things work but the actual Constitution——

No, it has not.

Has the Deputy read the judgment?

Yes I have. It is not the way other laws work.

Well, that is the effect of the judgment because it is declaratory of what the Constitution means. The Constitution is dated 1937.

Well, then, is this legislation necessary at all?

It is, because we were all living in cloud-cuckoo land on the assumption that the section in the 1935 Act was still good, valid law when in fact it was not. The Constitution had done away with the section.

Unknown to itself.

Perhaps, but a lot of us lawyers felt that for a long time. I myself, being a person ruthlessly objecting to contraception, cannot abide it. That is my personal view. A few others of us kept our mouths shut and we did not talk about this publicly when there was a debate on before; we rather hoped that the storm would pass but it did not. These are the facts.

I should like to refer to the opening remarks of Deputy Colley, speaking, I think, as the second speaker for the Opposition, he said that there is widespread misapprehension as to what is the present position in law. He went on to say, that the Minister correctly spelled out what is the present position. That is one lawyer speaking in this House. I have no reason to disagree with Deputy Colley's judgment on the Minister's opening statement when introducing this Bill. Deputy Colley went on and said:

... I accept that some form of legislation in this area is necessary ...

I can say from discussions I have had with some of my friends in the Opposition benches that they are of the same opinion, but whilst they may take somewhat the same views as do I, they are not being allowed to vote according to what they think. Spokesmen for the Opposition say that it is necessary that something be done. They think that somehow they can absolve their political consciences and their positions as public representatives by saying that and then going into the lobby to vote against this Bill. Nearly everybody who has spoken in this House has done so under the assumption that this Bill is going to be defeated. Be that as it may. The fact is that the present legal position is that contraceptives can be imported freely and distributed freely for use by anyone. There are absolutely no restrictions in that field. It is interesting to note that that means that the importation and distribution of contraceptives is not limited either to the age of the person who wants to import them or use them or to whether the person is married or unmarried. It is interesting too that there is now a realisation that there is no prohibition whatever in the laws of our land against the manufacture of contraceptives.

Prior to this Bill there has been no distinction made between contraceptives and abortifacients. For the first time an effort has been made to make a distinction between the two and definitions are contained in the Bill. Most of us are aware that there is no proper policing of the pill which is now prescribed and which, it appears from remarks in this House, Press articles and conversations one hears, is freely prescribed and that many of these pills are in reality, I fear, abortifacients and because of this they are regarded in general terms as being contraceptives. That is why I want to underline the fact that in this Bill for the first time an effort is being made to make a clear distinction between a contraceptive and an abortifacient. Certain people have suggested that it would be difficult to say which is which, but what people do not realise is that in this Bill there is provision for the setting up of a committee to advise the Minister on that. We have no law at present to provide for that. This is the first time it has been introduced in legislation.

I have referred to the fact that to date we also have no legislation which prohibits the manufacture of contraceptives. How complacent can Deputies feel if steps are not taken to control and—hopefully—prohibit the circulation of abortifacient material? If one engaged in histrionic oratory one might describe this Bill as an antiabortion Bill. It certainly contains provisions to try to preclude abortion methods now available and might also have the good effect of preventing the prescribing of certain types of pills that are known to have abortifacient action. It is also known that there are certain clinics in operation in this country under the guise of being advice centres but which in reality are just purveyors of materials to prevent pregnancy. There is no supervision, no method whereby these so-called clinics can at present be controlled; but this Bill gives the Minister power to exercise control in that area.

In view of what has been said by Deputies some legislation of this kind is overdue. What Deputies and the public must realise is that we have a problem and it is no use abstaining or voting against the Bill in the hope that the problem will go away and that, as some party, politically-orientated people would like to see, we will use this political stick to beat the Government. Those who think that way must have a very easy or doubtful conscience. If I may use an analogy to warn such Deputies I would say: many a man has taken up a stick to use for one purpose or another and has found afterwards a festering sore on his hand as a result of a chip from the stick getting into the palm of his hand. I am just waiting for the scandal that will arise the first time somebody dies in this country as a result of abortifacient material being used. I shall be very quickly in this House, if I am a Member, to point out to Deputies who vote against this Bill that their conscience must carry that load, that it is no use saying that is no function of ours to be arbiters of the moral law. We have a duty to guard the common good.

While we may say that people have moral values and must make their own moral decisions, if there are obnoxious substances and materials coming into the country freely—as they are at present—over which the Government have no control, it is time steps were taken to do something about it. Deputy Colley agrees with me that this must be done. I think Deputy O'Kennedy said the same thing and Deputy Brugha also.

I was not in the House and am therefore subject to correction, but I think Deputy Brugha and Deputy Andrews said they felt the Bill might be declared unconstitutional. It would require a person with a very restricted and particular kind of mentality to bring this Bill as now drafted before the courts for the purpose of declaring it unconstitutional. I believe, and it is the opinion of some Fianna Fáil Deputies who feel as I do, that if this Bill does not go through the next measure that will come up for consideration by this House or by the Seanad will be a far more liberal Bill and that there will be far less restrictive and controlling provisions in it than are contained in the present Bill. For my part I would not like to see that happen because I am opposed completely to the use of contraceptives. However I know that compelling arguments have been used in this House and in the daily Press on the need for the making available of contraceptives. We are practically an all-male chamber and we must admit that we men are sometimes more than a little unfair to our womenfolk. The question might be asked by someone who makes his argument in a rhetorical way: "Why should any husband be his wife's executioner?" I know there are Members of this House, married men, who have been informed by their doctors that, medical knowledge being such, their wives would not be likely to survive further pregnancies. That is an argument that is difficult to refute in cases where the partners are unable to abstain from sexual relations. It is not enough to say that the Billings method or some other method can be availed of in order to avoid pregnancies because there are many people who for physiological reasons cannot avail of such methods. Likewise, as was the situation in the McGee case, there are many for whom the "pill" is not suitable. When one takes account of these problems one realises that it is not the function of a Deputy to lay down what is the moral law. However we are not being asked to do that in this case because it is crystal clear from the Supreme Court decision that contraceptive devices must be made available to married couples. Therefore we, as Deputies, have taken out of our hands the power to enact laws contrary to that decision.

Perhaps I might refer at this point to a matter which was mentioned here by Deputy Lalor when he said that certain types of letters had been written to Deputies and Senators concerning the Contraception Bill—I wish to underline the words "the contraception Bill"—in which we were informed that we had no mandate to vote for the contraception Bill. Those of us on this side of the House who support the present Bill are not voting for a contraceptive Bill. What we are trying to do is to vote for the Control of Importation, Sale and Manufacture of Contraceptives Bill. This will be the first effort made in this Parliament since the enactment of the 1937 Constitution to control the use of contraceptives.

As I pointed out earlier, we are going further than that. We are now alerted to the fact that abortion material is being used under the guise of being contraceptive in effect. It surprises me that in those circumstances Fianna Fáil are prepared to accept a Whip knowing that they are voting to avoid legislation that will control and virtually prohibit the use of abortion material. I know that there are many Deputies across the House who are very concerned about the way they are voting. Their feet go one way while their heads and their hearts go another way; but the way in which their feet go will be the way in which they will vote.

As I said earlier, I would be one of the first people into this House when the first case of abortion breaks as a result of the use of so-called contraceptive devices giving rise to a death or a scandal in this country. That is the powder keg on which every Fianna Fáil Deputy will be sitting if this Bill is defeated.

What I have to say will be very brief, and I hope, to the point. Indeed I would not have intervened in this debate were it not for the fact that on Thursday last Deputy Lalor suggested that the Government Deputies refrain from entering the debate so as to permit the Minister to conclude. As one who, at a Labour Party meeting, requested that all our Deputies who desired to speak on this Bill should be permitted to do so, I am glad to be able to say that any Deputy of this party who wished to contribute was allowed to do so without curtailment of time.

My views on this subject were known long before this Bill was introduced. However since we, as Members of this House, have received letters telling us that we have no mandate to vote for this Bill and that should we do so, we would be acting contrary to the wishes of our constituents, I considered it reasonable that Deputies should avail of the opportunity of this debate to explain to their constituents their reasons for voting for the Bill.

This country is 95 per cent Catholic and it is only natural, in view of the background of Catholic teaching over hundreds of years that there should be reservations in the minds of certain Deputies. It is only natural that some of them would feel they were acting contrary to the wishes of their constituents, but because they felt they should act according to their conscience they would support the Bill.

It was only right that they were afforded the opportunity of explaining that to their constituents. On last Thursday Fianna Fáil had free rein to give all the reasons why they were voting against the Bill and they endeavoured to attribute to this Government the suggestion that the Members of the Government parties were doing something contrary to faith and morals if they supported the Bill. For those reasons I felt it was right that we should put our views in connection with this Bill on the record of this House.

The right of parents to decide how many children they bring into the world is well accepted by normal thinking people. It is the business of parents, and their business alone, to decide on the size of their family. The Catholic Church recognises this right. That Church not only recognises that right but has suggested several different ways by which that wish can be achieved. It is not necessary for me to point out the two different methods which the Catholic Church have put forward.

I suggest that Catholics in the Republic have the same moral rights as Catholics in Northern Ireland or Great Britain. If Catholics feel strongly on religious grounds there is nothing in this Bill to compel them to avail of contraceptives. If people wish to plan the size of their families they will be able to avail of contraceptives when this Bill passes.

The reasons for this Bill are obvious. It arises out of the decision of the Supreme Court in the McGee case and anyone reading the evidence in that case must have been struck by the need in that case for some method of control of pregnancy. I suggest that the judges of the Supreme Court did not deal on the merits of the case alone but rather on the Constitution of the country. It was the opinion of those judges that an Act which made it a criminal offence to import contraceptives was a breach of our Constitution. Once that decision was given free importation of contraceptives is permitted here. The Government, in their wisdom, felt there was a need to regulate not only the importation but the sale and distribution of contraceptives.

While I am very liberal in my views I feel there is a certain need to restrict in some manner, the sale of contraceptives so that teenagers will not have easy access to them. I am aware that this Bill may not achieve this and that, like other Bills, it has loopholes. It has been suggested that married people can avail of the provisions of this Bill to obtain contraceptives from a chemist and that there is no law which compels either them or the chemist to produce proof of the fact that they are married. That is true and it seems to me a ridiculous thing if the Minister for Justice had to incorporate a provision in the Bill whereby a marriage certificate should be produced.

I suggest to the Fianna Fáil Party that if they are keen to see this Bill so amended they should permit it to go to the Committee Stage and then give us the benefit of their advice. I do not think Fianna Fáil are interested in that. In my view they are seeking a political advantage. They have pointed out that if certain Deputies vote for this Bill they will be held up as having views contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. I have fears on behalf of certain Deputies, fears that if they vote in a certain way it may recoil on them at the next election. I believe a number of Deputies have such fears and I can well understand them.

I am happy to vote in favour of this Bill and I would have done so without speaking on it in this House. But in view of the fact that suggestions were made by Fianna Fáil Members that those of us who vote for this Bill would be doing something contrary to faith and morals I felt it was time that we had a look at their side. I suggest that any Fianna Fáil Deputy who votes against this Bill knows in his heart that his vote is to allow, and to continue, to allow, the floodgates of importation of contraceptives into this country, until such time as some Government bring in a regulating Bill.

I am prepared to vote for the Bill because I honestly feel that in doing so, I am being loyal to the Government. As a Deputy of the Labour Party, I believe this is something I owe to the Government, even though there is freedom of choice. I do this also because I believe in what is being done. I believe that if I abstained from voting I would be party to the permitting of unlimited importation of contraceptives and I believe there is a need for regulation. I, therefore, propose to vote in favour of the Bill.

I support the Bill. I am completely happy that the Bill in its present form is a sound Bill which has quite properly emanated as a result of the Supreme Court ruling on the McGee case. The Supreme Court ruling was incomplete. The Minister for Justice in his opening speech referred to this. The Supreme Court judgment did not resolve the position concerning the sale of contraceptives nor did it comment upon the position of single persons in relation to contraceptive devices. The Minister took the right lines in respect of both those points. I believe that if the question of the sale of contraceptives had been put to the Supreme Court for a ruling it would have been a natural corollary that contraceptives should be available on sale as well as being reasonably available to married couples.

The question of the single person's rights have also been commented on by the Minister. He said at column 290 of the Official Report of 4th July, 1974, referring to those who oppose the Bill:

... also argue however, that there is a right, natural right in favour of single people to have access to contraceptives. I do not accept that there is any such right because that implies a right to fornicate and in my opinion there is no such natural right. I am well satisfied that the principle of restricting contraceptives to married persons is the proper one.

I think the Minister's comments are quite correct and sound and I should like to place on record that I would oppose any move to allow contraceptives to be freely available to single people. I do not think it would be morally right, I do not think it would be right in the broader Christian sense. It certainly would not be in keeping with the traditions not only of the Catholic Church but also the traditions which have prevailed in other Christian Churches.

I believe the Minister has approached the whole subject quite correctly. This Bill can certainly be described as a regulatory Bill in so far as it puts the whole question of the manufacture and availability of contraceptives under the Minister's control and it is basically control by a system of licensing. The system is quite straightforward. The dispensing of contraceptives is by licence. Recognised people—chemists—will control the dispensing of contraceptives. I agree that there should not be a requirement to display a marriage licence every time one wishes to buy contraceptives. I believe the Minister's approach is quite correct. He has not required the marriage licence to be produced. The spirit of the law is just as important a deterrent as a system of fines or a system which requires a lot of overseeing by the Garda. It would be obnoxious to require marriage licences to be produced. The law is there not to be avoided or flaunted or got around but to be observed and obeyed. It is the spirit of the law that is important. The most effective law is one which people want to observe rather than one which people will look for ways to get around.

It has been said that the Government are introducing this Bill to pacify people in the North of Ireland. I would completely reject that approach. I think it matters not one iota in relation to the reunification of Ireland whether or not this Bill is passed. I think it will make a small impression if it is passed. If it is not passed I think it will make a larger impression, in so far that those in the North who want to will throw at us that we are a Rome-ruled country and that we are reactionary in thought. I do not think that in the context of Northern Ireland this Bill is very important.

The question of abortifacients has also been dealt with in the Bill, and quite correctly. I am against abortion. Abortion is anathema to the people of Ireland and I would certainly vote against any law that would allow abortifacients to be used. The Minister has, in section 7, provided for a committee to advise the Minister on what is or is not an abortifacient. I would not condone abortifacients or any type of structure which would allow abortion in my country. The Opposition would like to make little of this. I think their approach is quite invalid.

I would like to deal with the Bill in general at this stage. We can deal with it in detail on Committee Stage if the House allows it to go to that Stage. On the principle of parliamentary democracy the House should permit the Bill to go to Committee Stage for debate in detail. The whole question of availability of contraceptives, as I have already said, has been decided on by the Supreme Court. It has done so in line with the Constitution. I want to quote Article 41.1.1º which states:

The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.

That is a very wise pronouncement of the Constitution and one with which I fully agree. It sets the family up as a natural unit in our society.

The father and mother of a family are, to my mind, the guides of the destiny of the family. I feel they have fundamental rights in relation to the size and the timing of their families. It is interesting to note that Article 40 of the Constitution comes under the general heading of Fundamental Rights and that Article has the additional heading of Personal Rights. I feel the husband and wife have a superior right in this matter and I do not think that we in Parliament should, as we have been doing since 1937, be dictating to fathers and mothers in relation to their families. This is not our duty. It is acceptable in democratic countries that there is such a thing as fundamental freedoms and personal human rights. I sincerely believe we should not interfere with these rights, as we have been doing since 1937. It is interesting to note that the Constitution, under which the matter has been dealt with, was written by Eamon de Valera. Would he not be pleased to know that his Constitution allowed contraceptives? I wonder if it is in keeping with his thinking?

I believe in fundamental human rights being respected by Parliament. We have not respected up to this fundamental human rights in a number of areas. The Supreme Court has now ruled in relation to the Constitution of 1937. We are now rectifying our statutory position. This leads me to a criticism of the Fianna Fáil Party. The Government parties decided there should be a free vote because they feel this is a matter of personal conscience and is one on which Members, not only on the Government side, should make up their minds. As a member of the Council of Europe, where fundamental rights are respected more than in Ireland, I take exception to the attitude taken by Fianna Fáil on this Bill. I would like to quote what Deputy Colley said in Vol. 274, column 350, of the Official Report for 4th July, 1974, when he spoke on this Bill. He stated:

We think this legislation is unworkable, illogical and in some areas potentially dangerous. We think that an alternative approach which would be far more satisfactory is available to the Government. We do not believe and we do not accept that we, on this side of the House, have any obligation whatever to discharge the Government's duty and we do not intend to do that.

The Supreme Court decision put an obligation on all of us in Parliament to rectify the situation which the court found wanting.

Most members of the Opposition party who spoke have accepted there is a priority need for a rectifying Bill to take into account the decision of the Supreme Court. They have agreed that such a Bill as this is necessary but they have stuck their heads in the mud and refused to approach this Bill as proper democratic parliamentarians should. I accept that members of the Fianna Fáil Party are entitled to criticise the Bill. They are entitled to criticise it severely if they wish and can justify themselves. I would like to refer briefly to two suggestions made by the opening speaker for Fianna Fáil, Deputy O'Malley, when he suggested there might be gombeen men licensed to dispense contraceptives or that the whole matter should be handed over to the health boards to manage. He also said there might be private importation on a large scale in order to bind the House to the wishes of the Supreme Court.

That type of attitude is disgusting and is not worthy of a spokesman of the Fianna Fáil Party who should have been able to put up a far more beneficial and constructive suggestion than that a Minister for Justice, no matter from what party, would licence gombeen men down the country to sell contraceptives. What right would any person in any health board have to decide whether family A and family B have or have not the right to contraceptives? What kind of a system do Fianna Fáil expect would arise if all families who wanted contraceptives wrote to the Minister? We would want the Civil Service staff raised by 50 per cent to cope with this ludicrous suggestion by the Fianna Fáil spokesman on this Bill.

I suggest that Deputy Colley is wrong when he says they do not believe and they do not accept that they on the Opposition side of the House have any obligation whatever to discharge the Government's duty and that they do not intend to do that. I accept it is not an Opposition function to discharge the duty of a Government but it is the function of the Opposition as parliamentarians to be a constructive Opposition and to play their part in the processing of legislation which comes before the House. It is very much their duty to come to terms with the Supreme Court decision.

This leads me to the conclusion that the Fianna Fáil Party met and said: "Yes, we know amending legislation is necessary and yet it appears the Government parties have decided not to put on the Whip because they feel there are personal conscience problems involved. Right, we will do our business. We will defeat the Government in the House". That ended their approach to the Bill. Their attitude is to defeat the Government in the House. If such a defeat comes about and if such a victory comes about tonight for the Fianna Fáil Party will it be a proud victory for them or will it be a Pyrrhic victory for them?

My feed-back from discussing it with ordinary people I met in the streets in my own constituency is that the attitude being taken by the Fianna Fáil Party on this matter is not going down well at all. They are being seen to neglect their duty as a constructive Opposition. They are frightened to face the fact of a Supreme Court decision and they are prepared to allow the floodgates to be opened to contraceptive devices coming in to letterboxes throughout the country.

This will be the effect of defeating this Bill. This will be Fianna Fáil's Pyrrhic victory. This will be the glorious defeat of the Government. The Fianna Fáil Party will have permitted a flood of contraceptives to be available to all and sundry in our country irrespective of age, marital status or whatever. That will be the victory. If the Bill is defeated, I hope Fianna Fáil will be able to explain their position to the people.

There is need for the regulation of this problem. There may even be valid criticisms of the Bill. Possibly there are minor rather than major defects in the Bill, but the seriousness of the nature of the subject under discussion to my way of thinking obliges the Opposition party to put down proper amendments which they feel are necessary to rectify the position. It has been made quite clear that the Government side would consider in depth any amendments put down.

This question is of far more social significance than political significance. The Opposition party are making a grave mistake in not fulfilling their obligations, not as being the Opposition but as being part of the parliamentary process when legislation is required to correct problems which arise in our society. I disagree with those who reject the decision of the Supreme Court and say they will vote down any attempt to rectify the situation, as Fianna Fáil have done.

We have a serious social problem. As the Minister pointed out, there is a black market in contraceptives. There is a serious prospect of this black market intensifying if this Bill, or if a Bill, is not soon enacted. In that sense I feel disappointed at the attitude of Fianna Fáil. We have made it quite clear that this is not the type of legislation on which we will go to the country. This is social legislation of vital interest not in a party sense but in an all-party sense. People are not expecting party political affiliations to show themselves.

I am sorry if I have emphasised the position of the Opposition party but I feel they are wrong and that they are making a mistake. There is still time for saner minds to overcome the party's obsessiveness with opposition. I firmly believe that this is the wrong type of opposition for our Parliament and the people will not look on it with favour.

I do not wish to go into the Bill in detail. I will have a few points to make on Committee Stage. The Bill deals with what to me is a very important matter, a fundamental human right, and it does so in a traditionally Christian way. I support the Bill.

I will be brief. I feel it is my duty to put my views on this Bill on the record of the House. The Bill is before the House because of a Supreme Court decision on an interpretation of the Constitution. I am not well up in legal affairs and I must accept the ruling of the Supreme Court.

I should like to preface my remarks by saying that I came into this House on Thursday last and I waited for an opportunity to speak on the Bill. I was amazed when the Fianna Fáil Chief Whip, Deputy Lalor, made the accusation that, although there was to be a free vote within this party, things had changed. I want to put it on record tonight that the Whip was not put on me and I was not told by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach what way I should vote or what I should do. I want to make that quite clear and I want to accuse the Chief Whip of the Fianna Fáil Party of trying to mislead the country about the members of the National Coalition Parties. I say in all honesty that I was never approached or told what way I was to vote on this Bill.

I am very sorry that a matter of such importance should be made a political football in this House. On Thursday night last I was disgusted because of the fact that, while Deputy Lalor was speaking, there was laughter even from the Public Gallery. I am not laying the blame at anybody's door. I know there were interruptions. I took no part in them. This matter is too important for anyone on either side of the House to try to be amusing or to cause laughter in the Public Gallery.

It may be unusual for a Deputy sitting on the Government side of the House to ask questions of the Minister who introduced the Bill, but there are a few points I would like cleared up by the Minister. I have the utmost confidence in and the greatest respect for the Minister for Justice. He has probably one of the hottest seats in the Cabinet. I want to put it on the record of this House and perhaps to say to the people of the country and quite definitely to the people of my constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny that personally I believe contraception in any shape or form is wrong and also unlawful. However, the ruling of the Supreme Court makes it legal, as indicated in the Minister's speech, to import contraceptives, although they may not be offered for sale. As I say, I am not well up in law; I am purely a rural Deputy, but anybody in this House would be living in a fool's paradise were he to believe that even prior to the ruling of the Supreme Court contraceptives were not being brought into this country. This Bill introduced by the Minister is headed:

"The Control of Importation, Sale and Manufacture of Contraceptives Bill, 1974". I want to underline the word "control". According to the Supreme Court ruling there is no law against the importation of these devices but merely against offering them for sale.

It is up to the Opposition whether they put the Whips on. I believe they have done so. I have cleared up the point as far as this side of the House is concerned. There are no Whips on here, and I stand over that statement.

The Deputy knows why.

I know there are no Whips on. Deputy Gibbons was not here when I referred to the speech made here last Thursday night by Deputy Lalor who implied, as I was sitting here waiting to speak, that there was a change in policy on this side of the House. He did not actually say the Whips were on, but he implied that there was something happening and that we were told what way to vote. If Deputy Gibbons wants to read the record next week of my opening remarks he will see I said quite clearly that I was never approached by our Chief Whip, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, or, I will go so far now as to say, even by the Minister for Justice, to tell me what way to vote when the division comes. When the division is called, I shall walk into whichever lobby I feel is the right one to walk into. However, I give one guarantee to the House: I shall not abstain from voting.

I am particularly worried that this matter should have been made a political football. It is too serious to be debated or to be decided on by any political party in this House. I hope the Minister will be able to give me a guideline as to what his views are on certain questions I have to pose. Under the Bill the sale of contraceptives will be handled by chemists. I am a little worried about this. These contraceptives will be available to married couples only. What is to stop a married man or woman going to a chemist and purchasing contraceptives? Having purchased them, what is to stop that person, if he or she is unscrupulous enough, passing on these goods, free or for money, to some youngster or some unmarried person? There may be a flaw in the Bill as it stands.

If the Bill is passed, what guarantee have we that those anxious to purchase contraceptives will go to their normal supplier of pharmaceutical products? Human nature being what it is—this was mentioned to me by a chemist some months before the Bill was even published—it is more than likely that such a person will go to a chemist he or she does not normally patronise, a chemist who does not know the man or the woman purchasing the contraceptives. The chemist will thereby be put in a very awkward position.

Section 9 (1) provides:

A person shall not manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, advertise or invite offers to purchase an abortifacient.

So far as I can see there is no control here at present. Perhaps the Minister would clear up the point. Abortifacients cause abortions. To me, that is murder. Contraceptives prevent life. Abortifacients are something else. I want the Minister to clear this up when he is replying: am I right in thinking abortifacients are banned completely under this Bill?

We have all heard of householders who have had the experience of having order forms and, in some cases, samples put into their letterboxes. That has happened in housing estates in Dublin. Whether it has happened elsewhere I do not know. Will this Bill prohibit people, whoever they may be, from putting these order forms and samples into people's letterboxes? I want that cleared up before the division tonight.

There will be a free vote as far as our party is concerned. I am entitled to an answer to the questions I have asked before I make up my mind. This may be the eleventh hour. Before I walk into the Division Lobby I want to be perfectly clear what it is I am voting for or against. It is our duty to legislate. We have a responsibility.

There are various Churches in this country. Some may have different laws. I am not questioning the laws of any Church. Members of this House know that I am a Roman Catholic. I have no axe to grind with any member of any Church. Because of the ruling of the Supreme Court we must now do something about this position. I am sure the Minister for Justice would not have introduced this Bill if that ruling had not been taken. We all have our own consciences. I do not profess to be a saint. Before I make my final decision as to which way I will vote I will have to decide which is the lesser of the two evils.

As I said, we are legislators. It is not our duty to make decisions on the dictates of anybody else's conscience. It is up to every Member of this House to make up his own mind. I can say without fear of contradiction that there was no Whip put on the Members of this party as to how they would vote. Before I make my final decision I want the Minister to answer my questions. I hold him in the highest esteem. He is a most conscientious gentleman with a job to do.

When this vote is challenged, if it is challenged, every Member should walk up the steps and vote according to what he thinks is right. He should vote as an individual and not under the lash of a party Whip. There is no Whip on this party. When the bell rings for that decision and my questions have been answered, I will decide then what I shall do.

Cavan): The object of this Bill is to control the importation, sale and manufacture of contraceptives. I propose to support it and I should like to explain why.

I repeat that the object of the Bill is to amend the law in regard to the importation, sale and manufacture of contraceptives. Before we can make up our minds as to whether the law needs to be amended we must ask ourselves what is the law at the present time. As I understand the law on the subject at the moment, there is no control on the manufacture of contraceptives here. There never was. They may be freely manufactured and exported or distributed within the country. There is no control on the importation of contraceptives of any description. They may be imported freely through the post, or brought by an individual across the Border, by air or by sea. There is no restriction on the distribution of contraceptives within the country. That is the law of the land.

It is the law of the land not as a result of any ordinary Act passed by the Oireachtas, but as laid down in the Constitution which was enacted by the people in 1937. We hear people saying: "This is the law following the decision of the Supreme Court in the McGee case". That is not quite correct. The law as outlined by me has been the law since the people enacted the Constitution of 1937. The law was erroneously interpreted by the courts until the Supreme Court gave an authentic and final interpretation in the McGee case last year.

Therefore, it behoves this House to implement the law and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935, if it thinks it should be amended. I do not think there is any disagreement between Members on this side of the House and the Opposition on deciding what is the law. We agree that the law is just as I have stated. I believe it is undesirable that contraceptives should be freely availale to all citizens, married or single, teenagers or older people.

Within the last year there was the example of two teenage girls who procured contraceptives through the post from a source in this country. They simply answered an advertisement and got contraceptives through the post. The girls were under 15 years of age in each case. A prosecution was brought in a district court but it failed. I do not think it is desirable that contraceptives should be available in this way, that they should be available to anyone who wants to import them, irrespective of marital status or age.

I think Fianna Fáil agree that it is not desirable that contraceptives should be available in the way I have stated. Deputies O'Malley, O'Kennedy, Colley, Ruairí Brugha and others have accepted the principle of the Bill; they agree that the law is as I have stated it to be and that it needs amendment. Yet I gather they are not prepared to support the Government in their efforts to amend the law.

In saying they would vote against this Bill, the Fianna Fáil speakers gave as their reason that they could produce a better Bill. I am bound to say there is a very familiar ring about that line of argument. To my knowledge, on two previous occasions Fianna Fáil voted down a Bill to amend the law with regard to contraception on that very same argument.

Some time ago a Bill was introduced in the Seanad by Senator Robinson and others. It remained on the Order Paper for quite a while but when it was reached the then Leader of the Seanad, Senator Ó Maoláin, said that the Fianna Fáil Party, then the Government Party, were opposing it but that they would introduce their own Bill to amend the law which they accepted needed amendment. Within the last few years a Private Members' Bill was introduced in this House by Deputies of the Labour Party to amend the law but Fianna Fáil, still the Government party, voted it down on the grounds that they had a Bill that would solve the problem, that they would introduce it and put it on the Statute Book.

While they were in Government on two occasions they voted against any amendment of the law on the grounds that they would remedy the matter themselves and now, in Opposition, they propose to vote against this Bill which the Government have brought in in pursuance of their duty to amend the law with regard to contraception. For the third time, Fianna Fáil are saying they cannot accept the Bill, that they have a better Bill they will introduce themselves.

It is time Fianna Fáil told us what are their proposals with regard to this matter. They had every opportunity of amending the law when in Government even though they have complained we delayed six months in introducing the Bill following the decision in the McGee case. As the Opposition party, they could have brought in a Private Members' Bill and put it before the House but they did not do this. The Opposition are playing politics with this delicate subject, they are using this House to play politics with a matter that should be a question of conscience and above politics.

It has been said by some members of the Opposition and one Member on this side of the House that if this Bill is enacted in some way it will coerce people into leading immoral lives. This Bill is more a restrictive Bill than a permissive one. It sets out to restrict the importation and availability of contraceptives. It lays down that they can be imported only by responsible, professional traders, chemists, or in an exceptional case by other people who obtain a licence where a chemist's shop is not in the area or is not prepared to sell contraceptives.

That is an improvement on the wholesale importation of contraceptives without restriction. The Bill also states that they will be available only to married people. Admittedly it may be difficult to enforce this provision, but surely in writing this into the Bill the House is setting a guideline, is stating its thinking on the subject, is saying to the citizens of the State that Parliament believes that contraceptives should be purchased only by married people. That is an improvement on having them available to all and sundry, as is the case at the moment.

There is nothing in the Bill or in the attitude of the Government that promotes or encourages the sale or the use of contraceptives. It is doing exactly the contrary. At the moment there is a free-for-all. As the Minister for Justice said when introducing the Bill, an increasing blackmarket is developing. I do not think it takes any great imagination to convince anyone that the blackmarketing about which the Minister spoke is here and will develop. This Bill will prevent that. This Bill will make it illegal for people to import contraceptives unless through chemists' shops.

There is another matter with which I should like to deal in this Bill. From all sides of the House it has been said that the use of contraceptives is a matter of conscience for the people concerned. I agree with that but I do not think it is a matter for me to tell my neighbour how he should act in conscience on this topic. There are churches in this country whose teaching does not outlaw or forbid the use of contraceptives and I will not put it any stronger than that; there are several churches in this country whose teaching does not forbid the use of contraceptives. It is a fact that quite a number of citizens of this country are members of those churches whose teaching does not forbid the use of contraceptives. I think it would be a denial of the rights of the members of those churches whose consciences and the teaching of whose churches does not forbid them to use contraceptives to deny them reasonable access to them. That is what this Bill proposes.

Therefore, in a nutshell, I can explain my attitude to this Bill by saying that the law as it stands at the moment in regard to the importation and distribution of contraceptives is unsatisfactory and has been unsatisfactory since the enactment by the people of the Constitution in 1937. In my opinion that law needs to be changed following the breakdown of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1935 in the light of the decision in the McGee case. I believe that this Bill is an honest effort by the Government to improve the law, to control the importation, distribution and manufacture of contraceptives and is an honest effort by the Government to make these devices reasonably available to people declared to be entitled to them by the Supreme Court decision in the McGee case and, more important, it makes these devices available to people whose conscience and religion does not forbid their use. That is this Bill in a nutshell.

I ask the Opposition: is there anything unreasonable in our proposals? I do not believe that we had a Second Reading speech from one Opposition Deputy on this Bill. I suggest that any person who reads speech after speech made by Opposition Deputies on this Bill will be forced to describe each and every one of them as Committee Stage speeches because each Deputy—with the exception, I think, of Deputy Michael Kitt and probably Deputy Lalor this afternoon—said the law was unsatisfactory. Some of them even congratulated the Government on tackling an amendment of the law but then went on to say that the machinery provided in the Bill was far from perfect and that they could amend it. Surely that is a Committee Stage approach to the Bill; it is an acceptance of the Bill in principle with an undertaking to amend it in Committee.

Certain front bench Members of the Opposition put forward some alternative methods of distributing contraceptives. One alternative which appeared to find most favour with Fianna Fáil was the use of health boards as a method of distribution. I agree that that is a point of view. Some people might think it would be better to distribute contraceptives to married people through health boards. Other people might think that those who wanted to avail of these devices might not like to have to go to health boards and make their business known to a number of people in them. We say that the more reasonable way of doing it is through the chemist, a professional man, who is a respected trader in this country. But there are two points of view.

I should like to ask Fianna Fáil, if the Government were to provide that these devices could be obtained through the health boards, would that satisfy them. I think the only other alternative put forward by the Opposition was that they should be imported through the post. I do not think they gave much thought to that because, in my opinion, that means wholesale, unfettered and indiscriminate importation of these devices. That is what we disagree with; that is what this Bill sets out to prevent. I honestly believe that the Deputies who oppose this Bill in toto, who spoke honestly and very definitely against it, do not understand the law as it exists, because if they did they would not have spoken as they have done and vote as they propose to do—if they realised that at present anybody can write to Northern Ireland and get all the contraceptives they want, or go to Northern Ireland and bring them in by the gross or get them from across the water by the gross. That is the position at the moment.

I am convinced that Deputy O.J. Flanagan and Deputy Michael Kitt do not appreciate that that is the law, because if they did I think they would be the very first to want to stop it at all costs. I believe that if Deputy O.J. Flanagan and Deputy Michael Kitt appreciated the position as it exists today we would have had both of them joining hands across this House bringing in a Private Members' Bill six months ago to stop what we are now proposing to stop. I believe neither of them would tolerate a situation in which teenage boys and girls can write to addresses outside the country and import contraceptives. I am therefore coerced into believing that they do not fully appreciate the law. I believe they would have gone to the length of accusing the Government of being guilty of dereliction of duty for the past six months and in sheer desperation would have introduced a Private Members' Bill to do what we are doing. They probably would have gone further and prohibited altogether the importation of contraceptives. The only drawback regarding that proposal is that it would be unconstitutional and it would not stand up to the test in any court at present.

Therefore, I repeat that I am supporting the Bill because I believe that instead of opening the floodgates for importation of contraceptives it will control their importation and allow them to be imported in a reasonable way as required by law. At the same time it will respect the rights and the conscience of members of religions who feel they are entitled to use, or are not prohibited from using, contraceptives. On those grounds I propose to support the Bill.

I intend to be brief as this Bill has been discussed at great length. I cannot but say that I think the Opposition are opposing the Bill just for the sake of opposing it. That is not good enough in a serious matter like this. I was a member of the Seanad when Senator Mrs. Robinson first put her Bill on the Order Paper. It was killed on a number of occasions by the then Government. Ultimately, it came to light with the change of Government. Perhaps there were some things in the Bill with which we did not all agree. I would certainly find it hard to support the Bill but we must pay her the compliment that she brought to the surface something that had been underneath the surface for many years and at least she gave people time to think and examine their consciences and see what was best to do about this matter which is a serious problem.

She was told on three different occasions by the previous Government that they had a Bill almost ready which they would introduce and it would be the beginning and end of the whole problem. I am sure when the Minister for Justice is replying to the debate he will tell us if he has found any Bill in the Department and what was in it because, not only have Fianna Fáil failed to tell us in the Seanad but also in this House. If they are serious about it, now is the time to disclose what was in the Bill.

The McGee case arose and after the Supreme Court decision the Government discovered that they had no control over contraceptives and naturally felt something should be done about it. The Minister for Justice, in his wisdom, introduced the present Bill. Without such a Bill contraceptives can be legally imported; perhaps they cannot be offered for sale but, as has been said many times in this debate, they are being sold and perhaps at black market prices. As time goes on, if the law is not changed the black market will become more extensive. The Minister for Lands quoted a case where two girls of 15 were found with contraceptives in their possession. Perhaps there are girls and boys of 12 or 13 in the same position. We are obliged to protect these young people. I think this Bill is a step in that direction.

One often wonders if contraceptives are available to the rich and not to the poor. Living in my part of the country one can see that it is very easy to import contraceptives. They are often sent from England or Northern Ireland with the newspapers folded over them and delivered to various houses. That is a general practice and there is no point in anybody saying that contraceptives are not available to some sections of the people. Even if the Government succeed in getting this Bill through tonight, as I believe and hope they will, it is not enough: something will have to be done about the illegal importation of contraceptives in periodicals and newspapers and so on. Precautions will have to be taken to stop this practice because there is no point in discussing this Bill, knowing the weakness of it and hiding it from ourselves. That would not be fair either to ourselves or to those who sent us here.

It will be rather difficult to control contraceptives even with the Bill. There is the question of married people and young, single people. The Minister in introducing the Bill pointed out that many other laws are broken such as the licensing law— perhaps we have all drunk intoxicating liquor in publichouses after hours; perhaps some of us were in a position to sell it. We knew we were breaking the law. Perhaps some of us drove our cars through built-up areas at speeds above the lawful limit, at 50 miles per hour and perhaps at 70 or 80 miles per hour on the main thoroughfare when it should have been at 60. This is a much more serious matter and the Minister will have to have a better answer for the House than that. He will certainly have to consider on the next Stage what can be embodied in the Bill to protect the younger people and ensure that contraceptives will not be available to them.

In fairness to the Fianna Fáil Party about seven of their speakers made the point that contraceptives should be distributed through health boards, Deputy Hugh Gibbons, included. I know the Minister for Justice is a reasonable man and I have no doubt but that he will accept this worthwhile recommendation. While casting no reflection on chemists it is my opinion that, while contraceptives should be made available for married couples through chemists shops, they should be distributed also through the health boards. Therefore I ask the Minister to accept that recommendation. If he does so I would imagine that the seven or eight speakers who said that they would be prepared to accept the Bill if they were given this guarantee would have difficulty in voting against the Bill. If that is the situation I must be correct in asserting that Fianna Fáil are opposing this Bill merely for the sake of opposing it, but that is not a good enough reason for their opposition.

It has been a long wait to reply to this debate but the wait has been worthwhile. I find myself in the odd position of replying mostly to arguments from my own side of the House. That is not to say that I do not value or appreciate the contributions that came from the Opposition benches during the debate. I certainly appreciate them but I shall have to reply to those Deputies in a somewhat different vein from the reply that would be required to some of the arguments made on this side of the House.

It is good that this debate has taken place. In some ways it is an historic debate, although it might be slightly out of date since it was a debate that possibly should have taken place a decade ago, or certainly half a decade ago, because most of the debate has been as if the Supreme Court decision had not been given. It has centred around the question of the morality of contraception by artificial means and of how far the State is entitled to intervene in preventing the availability of contraceptives.

The debate is historic in the sense that it is clear from all the speeches, except for those of two Deputies, that Members of this House believe that the State is not entitled, in the field of artificial contraception, to interfere with private conscience. This is the first time that this consensus has appeared and this is an important result from this debate. It is quite an historic result when one considers the emotion that this subject has generated in debates in various forms in the media during the past number of years.

It is clear now that the consensus opinion in this House is that the use of artificial contraceptives by married couples is a matter for private conscience and that this House agrees with the Supreme Court decision that the matter is not one of public morals and is not something that will endanger the morality of the State. If the debate has done nothing else but to isolate and show this point of view in a clear light, it has been well worthwhile.

I recall only two points of view to the contrary. These were expressed by Deputy Oliver Flanagan and Deputy Michael Kitt. There were some other Deputies who were equivocal on this question, notably Deputy Lalor. A debate on contraception per se and the morality of it is now irrelevant, having regard to the findings in the McGee case and to the opinions expressed here during this debate; but, since the opposing point of view was put forward during the debate, I am constrained to deal with some of the arguments. These arguments are, essentially, that to permit contraceptives to be available, albeit in a restricted way as proposed by the Bill, would damage what is referred to as the quality of life in this country. The two proponents of this point of view made this argument very strongly and they relied to a considerable extent on the views of the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They were entitled to put forward the views of that Hierarchy because they speak on behalf of the religion of 95 per cent of the people of this country. Without that point of view the debate would have been defective and lopsided. It was a point of view that was put forward very forcibly during the course of the debate and was supported by assertions that the availability of contraceptives would lead to an increase in the illegitimacy rate, to increased abortions, to divorce and to the spread of venereal diseases. These are common arguments made by the people who oppose the idea of artificial contraception. They are arguments that have been put to each one of us who has been the recipient of correspondence on this subject from people in the anti-lobby.

It is right that in this debate those arguments should be refuted. They have not been refuted up to now. Perhaps it would be more proper to refer to them as statements of opinion rather than arguments in the sense of their being conclusions drawn from valid premises. However, before dealing with the statements of opinion, I should like to draw the attention of the House to what I see as being the real fallacy behind them.

These arguments are put forward on the grounds that the availability of contraceptives would diminish or detract from the quality of life of our people but those who argue in that way seem to forget that 95 per cent of our population subscribe to the Roman Catholic Church. Consequently, as the teachings of that Church oppose the practice of artificial contraception by its members, it would seem logical to me that before the quality of life in this country could be affected adversely, 95 per cent of the people would have to fly in the face of the teaching of their Church. Assuming that the availability of contraceptives brings with it this adverse effect—and I do not believe it does—it seems somewhat ironic and it is the underlying assumption behind this argument that-so many adherents to the Roman Catholic faith would so disregard the teaching of their own Church as to adversely affect that quality of life in this country. I do not think that is a good assumption and I have more faith in the conscientious beliefs of the Catholics of this country in this area. I have confidence that they will maintain their conscientious beliefs and that the practice of artificial contraception or the widespread use of contraceptives will not ensue consequent on this Bill. If that does not happen then the quality of Irish life is safe, if indeed it was ever in danger from this practice.

I should now like to deal with the question of illegitimacy and the suggestion that there is a connection between the availability of contraceptives and the illegitimacy rate in a country. I am indebted to Dr. Nowlan, the Medical Correspondent of The Irish Times who researched the United Nations Demographic year books and who has produced in concise form, graphs which show the illegitimacy rates of a number of European countries. Non-European countries were in a tabular statement and were not produced in the graphs. It is quite clear from these graphs that there is no relationship between the illegitimacy rate in a country and the availability of contraceptives in that country. For example, the illegitimacy rate in Holland, where contraceptives have been freely available for many years, is well below the illegitimacy rate of this country where contraceptives have been totally prohibited up to now.

The argument that the availability of contraceptives leads to the breakdown of marriages with an increase in the divorce rate is not an argument; it is an assertion. This too is unsupported by the facts. There is no clear relationship between the availability of contraceptives and the divorce rates in European countries. Likewise, it cannot be proved that the spread of venereal disease is caused by the availability or non-availability of contraceptives. There are no statistics to show any correlation between the availability of contraceptives and instances of abortion in a particular country.

Therefore in regard to the argument which says that the making available of contraceptives in the restrictive way that this Bill provides will in some way take from the quality of Irish life, I have no doubt that that is an unfounded argument and has no basis in fact.

The quality of Irish life, as Deputy O'Brien pertinently pointed out, will be determined by the standard of living we can provide for our people, by their housing and the assistance we give to the weaker sections of our community. That is what is going to affect the quality of Irish life and not whether contraceptives are to be available for married couples for use in the privacy of their own marriages.

Those who are worried about this Bill for the adverse moral effects it will have on the Irish nation have no need to worry at all. I have confidence in the steadfastness of the vast majority of the Irish people to uphold the religious teaching of their Church. There are many adherents to that Church who are in doubt about how far conscientious objections can allow them to disregard the teaching of their Church. That is a matter for their private conscience. It would be wrong for this House, or this State, to interfere in that private conscientious debate.

If I, or any other person, have a particular view on the teaching of my Church my personal view—and many Deputies have declared their personal views in this debate—is that I adhere to the teaching of my Church. I would add quickly that I would not dream of imposing my personal view on a fellow-citizen of any religion. I would not dream of imposing my personal view on his conscience or interfering with his decision whether or not in the course of his maried life he wishes to use contraceptives.

These considerations are, to some extent, passe because the Supreme Court has taken the initiative from the Legislature. It was a pity that it had to come in this way but that is how it happened and we now have to consider the legal position consequent on the McGee decision. It is in that light that I should now like to refer to the debate and, in particular, to the attitude of the Opposition.

It is a pity that the initiative had to come from the Supreme Court because there were opportunities in the past for legislative initiative on the part of the Government of the day in this field, but none of these opportunities was taken. The opportunities were provided by way of Private Members' Bills. So far as I can recall there were two in the Seanad and one in this House but they all got, to use a colloquialism, a short knock. I recall that when the Private Members' Bill in this House was being debated the Minister who spoke for the Government at the time stated that the subject was a very difficult one and required a lot of thought and care. He said that the Private Members' Bill as proposed was not satisfactory. I should like to quote from column 1446 of the Official Report of 9th February, 1972, when the Minister stated:

We are, therefore, at present considering ways and means of surmounting the difficulties that I have mentioned and which are not solved by a too simplistic approach in dealing with this problem.

The difficulties and problems involved are being fully explored at present.

That was in February, 1972.

There was an unwillingness on the part of the Opposition when in Government to grasp this nettle, to deal with this problem, and it dragged on and on. No legislative proposals ever reached the floor of this House from our predecessors. I do not know why they were so unwilling to deal with this particular problem but unwilling they have been and unwilling they still remain. Even as late as their own Ard Fheis, which was held earlier this year and was held after the Supreme Court had given their decision in the McGee case, a censorship was imposed by the platform on the constituency members of the largest party in the country from debating this very serious and important issue. That was a travesty of democracy.

It would if it were true.

I should like to quote from The Irish Times of the 18th February, 1974, in which a report was given on this particular point. That report stated:

No vote was taken following the urgings of the party's spokesman on health, Mr. Desmond O'Malley, TD, to wait until the Bill which the Government had promised was published.

Delegates, he said, might well take the view that the hand of the Parliamentary Party should not be tied in advance on this matter.

Those who demanded a vote were ignored by the Chairman, Mr. Sylvester Barrett, who asked for, and got, the Ard Fheis's sanction to postpone a decision.

Is that evidence? If it is, it is pretty weak.

There was clear censorship at that Ard-Fheis because the spokesman did not want his hand tied before the Government Bill became law. Was he afraid?

At least six delegates spoke on the motion in question.

Why did you not let them go to a decision?

They choose not to decide, by democratic vote.

(Interruptions.)

Was the Deputy afraid that his fellow party members would give him instructions that might tie his political hand subsequently in dealing with the Government Bill? I think he must have been because at that same Ard-Fheis the Leader of the party admitted that the Bill was necessary. If that party who were taking stock of their position, were recharging their batteries, were coming in here to assist the business of this Parliament as a constructive Opposition they should have been keen to have a full debate on the floor of their own Ard-Fheis and let their own party members give their views on how they would like to see this problem tackled.

The fact that we in Fine Gael and our friends in the Labour Party both at our annual conferences debated this issue and got a mandate from our respective constituency parties has been an encouragement and is something that the Opposition could have done with at their Ard-Fheis earlier this year. I think the reason was that the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party had no idea whatever on how to approach this issue. I think this is the real reason why that debate was stifled. They did not know in what way to handle that debate. They had no ideas to put to the floor and the barrenness of their minds would have been painfully exposed before their own delegates. I think I am right in saying that because the barrenness of their minds has been painfully exposed in this debate in this House.

We were told before the debate began that the Opposition were going to oppose the Government Bill on the ground that they had substantial and far-reaching proposals of their own to put forward in the course of the debate which would solve this problem legislatively once and for all. Again I was hopeful that this might have been so, particularly as I recall the words of the Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House when he spoke on the debate on the Private Members' Bill there some months ago. He stated that when the Government would come to introduce their own measure it would be assured of a constructive and generous welcome from Fianna Fáil. We see that welcome here today and we will have to judge whether it is constructive or generous or neither. There has been a barrenness in the approach of the Opposition to the solution of this problem and it has been reflected in the lack of constructive ideas put forward. I do not think it is from any lack of cerebral ability among the members of the Opposition because there are men of ability there who are well able to tease out and analyse the problem and devise heads of Statutes to deal with it. I think this barrenness has been the result of the failure, for whatever motive, possibly political cowardice on the part of the Opposition, to come to grips with this problem, to consider it seriously.

Speaker after speaker contributing to this debate from the other benches—with the exception of Deputy Kitt, and Deputy Lalor who was equivocal, and with the exception of Deputy Andrews but in a different way—Deputies O'Malley, Colley, O'Kennedy, Brugha and Hugh Gibbons all advocated the solution of this problem by using the health boards as the appropriate vehicle for making contraceptives available. Deputy O'Kennedy went so far as to say, and in this I think he was supported impliedly by some of his colleagues, that he favoured family planning clinics where contraceptives and advice on family planning presumably would be available. This was a brave statement.

Behind all these statements advocating the use of health boards there was an acceptance of the present legal position consequent on the McGee case but, at the same time, there was a criticism of the Government's proposals to meet the legal requirements of the present situation via limited importation under licence and retail sales through chemists and other retailers. There was a criticism of that as being ineffective, impractical, bad law, for various reasons, some of them substantial reasons, because, as I admitted in my opening speech, the measure is essentially a compromise measure to meet the Constitutional requirements as found by the Supreme Court. Even with those criticisms there was an acceptance that a Bill was necessary and that the principle of the Bill in seeking to honour the McGee case was a good principle.

So, we found ourselves differing on a matter of detail on the implementation of that principle. I proposed that principle be implemented by limited licensed importation and limited sale. The Opposition proposed that principle be met by allowing limited importation not by commercial retailers but by health boards. That is the difference between the two sides at the moment. I have no objection whatever to including health boards among the agencies licensed to import contraceptives and indeed I think Deputy O'Kennedy's view that health boards should be encouraged to provide family planning advice is a good one. It is something which is outside the scope of this Bill but because it is a good one and because I think health boards could, in many cases, be a suitable vehicle through which to import, to make available, contraceptives I would be quite prepared to include health boards in the Bill as a suitable agency for importing contraceptives whether for distribution or, if the health boards are so disposed, for subsequent sale in cases where there would be no medical indication.

Criticism was made too in the course of the debate of the dangers of allowing retailers other than pharmaceutical chemists to handle these goods. I do not accept that this criticism had much validity to it. My main concern is to see that contraceptives would be reasonably available to married people in accordance with the natural right which they always had but which has now been declared by the Supreme Court. If this reasonable availability can be assured via pharmaceutical chemists and our health boards then I would be quite prepared to delete the reference to other commercial outlets. These are differences of degree which normally are settled on Committee Stage.

Again, I think the Opposition hurriedly decided that "we have to get an answer, we have to get our response to this Bill" and they gave no great thought to what their response would be. They hurriedly threw out this idea of the health boards and it spread like wildfire through the Opposition benches. At the same time it cannot be put forward seriously or the Opposition would indicate their acceptance of the principle on condition that this response of theirs, the health boards, would be acceptable to the Government at a later stage.

At this stage I might perhaps clarify a reference I made earlier to Deputy Andrews. I said that the speakers who were in favour of implementing the McGee principle gave it as their opinion that this should be done through the health boards. Deputy Andrews was an exception to this. He felt that the scheme proposed by Senator Robinson in her Private Bill was the best means. Deputy O'Malley, who was the spokesman on this occasion on this subject, spoke of using health boards but he also put forward another approach, one which he suggested would keep close to the ruling of the Supreme Court. I quote from him at column 315 of the Official Report for 4th July, 1974, when he said:

Allow importation by individuals for their private use, preferably married individuals if that is possible to enforce, with the proviso that they must be in reasonable quantities so that clearly they would not be for sale or distribution. That is a feasible alternative but apparently the Government disregarded it completely.

He said:

Allow importation by individuals for their private use...with the proviso that they must be in reasonable quantities so that clearly they would not be for sale or distribution.

This was not a new idea of Deputy O'Malley's or a new idea presumably of the Fianna Fáil front bench. This adds force to why I think there was a hurried response to the demands of this Bill. This hurried response comes in this inconsistent and untidy opposition.

When Deputy O'Malley held my office he had occasion to consider how the problem which this Bill proposed to meet should be met. He proposed it in the way in which he offered here in his speech on the Second Reading, "allow importation by individuals for their private use ... with the proviso that they must be in reasonable quantities...." It went so far that the heads of a Bill were prepared on foot of a view propounded by him, and apparently accepted by his then colleagues, that the possibilities of dealing with this problem, which had been explored, resolved themselves into two alternatives, (a) a provision that a customs officer would have no duty to seize contraceptives if he was of opinion that they were for personal use and not for resale and that no offence against the Customs Acts was being committed; and, (b) an exemption from the existing law for the supply and sale against prescription of any contraceptive substances, the retail sale of which is by law permissible only on prescription. Those views were translated into the heads of a Bill which made the unfortunate customs officer the person to decide whether the contraceptives being imported were of a quantity that he might reasonably expect to be adequate for the personal use of the importer.

This is a measure of the serious thought which the Opposition gave to this Bill. I can go further, because one would have thought the ridiculousness of that proposition would have been so apparent that it would have been dropped. However, it was canvassed seriously among our predecessors. If the electorate, in their wisdom had not changed the Government we might now be debating such a Bill but some of the fallacies — particularly the underlying fallacy — in it were apparent to one of Deputy O'Malley's colleagues because he had occasion to write a letter. I will quote from his letter but I will not give his name.

First of all, I have no objection to this letter being read but I want to make this point in relation to it. Are we to take it that in future members of a Government are not free to communicate with one another in the public interest about matters of public importance without having their private, personal correspondence between one another brought out here in the House afterwards?

That is a matter for the Minister, not for the Chair.

I do not know what letter the Minister proposes to quote. I have no objection to his quoting the letter of any colleague of mine on this particular topic but I take the gravest exception, in the interest of democracy and the workings of the whole structure of Government here, to the hawking around of letters from one Minister to another by members of the succeeding Government.

The Deputy has made his point.

If this is to happen in future members in any particular Government will simply have to ensure that all their communications with other Ministers——

I thought the Deputy was raising a point of order. In fact he has made a speech.

The correspondence in question is official correspondence — it is not a personal private letter—relating to the proposals which the Deputy was then canvassing among his colleagues to deal with this problem. I do not intend to give the name of the writer of the letter. I merely intend to give a short extract from it to lend substance to the argument I have been making that this matter never got serious consideration from the Opposition and still is not getting serious consideration from them. The extract reads as follows:

If, therefore, it is decided that the use of condoms cannot be proscribed there seems to be no alternative to allowing importation in limited quantities for personal use either in personal luggage or through the post. This raises a question of what is a limited quantity. Twenty at any one time might be a reasonable compromise.

That is the measure of the consideration which was being given to solving this serious problem, which has exercised this country for so long, has been so divisive, so emotional and so important nationally. That is the standard at which it was being approached.

The Minister does less than justice to himself. He has made his point but I think he has done a disservice to himself.

We come now to the Opposition approach to this Bill. This subject, as is well known, has given rise to grave issues of conscience for many people. It was decided that because of these grave issues of personal conscience — and we heard them explained here from both sides of the House and from both sides of the conscience divide — there should be a free vote on this issue. This decision has been much criticised by the Opposition. It has been described as a "funk" vote. It has been said that we were running away from the issue. I deny this because the issue is there fair and square in the House. It is not a criticism I would accept from a party who have run scared from this issue for many years now and, I would submit, are still running scared from it.

I have no doubt that the imposition of the Whip by Fianna Fáil on their Members in this matter has been a calculated political decision to endeavour to embarrass the Government in the hope that the Bill will be defeated on Second Stage. What other considerations could have applied? Those Members who have spoken have said that they are in favour of the principle which the Bill seeks to implement. They have indicated how they think the Bill should be implemented. Yet they will now vote down the Bill and the only reason I can possibly think of is that they want to embarrass the Government and, out of this emotive conscientious issue which has bedevilled Irish politics for a generation, they now propose to try to make political capital.

That, I think, is a serious error on their part. It is a harmful decision but they have made the decision and that is the end of it until the vote is taken. The decision taken on this side to have a free vote was the proper decision.

For necessary legislation?

I know there are many Deputies on the far side who would like to have a free vote on this issue so that the conscientious position which they have expressed here in this debate in favour of the principle of the Bill could be expressed by them in their votes. For what I think are small reasons of party political advantage the decision on the far side has been to oppose the Bill. It is inconsistent with the speeches which have been made and I have no doubt at all that it is inconsistent with the personal thinking of the majority on the far side.

This myth of the impregnable monolith has to be preserved so that the grass roots of the party can be reassured that Fianna Fáil are in good heart and that the machine is as disciplined as ever. I can see no other reason for it. Possibly those who spoke were a minority within the party. There was not a large number of speakers offering in this historic debate and possibly those who spoke were, as I say, in a minority, and the majority of Fianna Fáil are still running scared in front of this issue——

Streaking.

——afraid to face up to a public statement of their collective party position on whether or not contraceptives should be available as a natural right for married couples, running scared and finding themselves possibly taking refuge in the consciences of some Members on this side. That is a deplorable state of affairs and a reprehensible state of affairs, but that is how it is.

Is the legislation necessary?

The legislation is necessary.

If it is, have the Government not got an obligation?

The legislation is necessary but if it is not passed the right as found by the Supreme Court in the case of Mrs. McGee against the Attorney General is not interfered with and the natural right as found by the Supreme Court of married couples to have reasonable access to contraceptives is not impugned, is not diminished, and is still available. In that sense the legislation is not necessary.

I thought the Minister would eventually get around to saying that.

The legislation would be desirable and is necessary to tidy up the position consequent on that decision. Deputy Colley and the other Deputies on his side who have spoken agree with me on that.

I am satisfied that the proposed Bill is a good Bill in the context of the problem which it seeks to solve. Play has been made with the question of the enforceability of the prohibition of sales to unmarried persons. I dealt with that when I opened the debate and quite frankly recognised that this is a problem. There is value in this House marking in the Bill what I think is a majority feeling in the country that the natural right extends only to married couples. This was clearly shown in an opinion poll quoted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. There has been no finding by the Supreme Court nor any indication of what way the court's mind is working with regard to the rights or non-rights of unmarried persons to have contraceptives made available to them.

As I said when I opened the debate, I do not personally think there is such a natural right but the debate on this may have to wait on another day. The Bill seeks only to implement the natural right declared by the Supreme Court, and that is the narrow one in favour of married couples. It may be said that as a matter of expediency contraceptives should be made available to unmarried persons. Indeed there are many people who would accept that in itself as a valid argument for introducing it and as an argument which must carry a lot of weight. I do not think it is a valid argument. The only valid argument in this field would be an argument which found and which could show that there was a natural right in favour of single persons. I do not consider that there is any such natural right.

Consequently the Bill contains a prohibition on sales to unmarried persons and one must hope that this prohibition will be observed. If not observed or blatantly breached, there are sanctions that will be attached to any persons found in breach of it. In this it is no different from any other punitive section in a statute. Some Deputies were worried about what would be the position of a married person who might purchase contraceptives and sell them to an unmarried person. That, of course, would be illegal and is prohibited in the Bill.

Some Deputies welcomed the Bill because of the provisions it contains in relation to the prohibition of abortifacients. These provisions gained a general welcome and of themselves they are sufficient to justify the Bill. There is a general feeling that abortifacients should not be permitted and the Bill seeks to exclude them totally even when they are presented under the guise of being contraceptives. Likewise the Bill should see the end of the mail order business because it will no longer be legal to import except under licence. That is another abuse that would be ended by the Bill.

Taking the scene as a whole, we are presented with the position, following the McGee case, of the declaring of this natural right on the part of married couples to have contraceptives made available to them. The ban on importation fell consequent on that decision, and we then had the position of unlimited and unrestricted importation by anyone of any type of device. The Bill seeks to regulate and control the availability and supply of contraceptives so as to honour the McGee case — it does not purport to go further — and at the same time prevent or at least prohibit the abuses which could come from the unrestricted availability of contraceptives of all types available to all ages, to persons of every status.

This is what the Bill seeks to do. The way in which it chooses to do it is to license importers, who must also be the retailers, and, in certain cases, license individuals. The Opposition feel that instead of these licensees, the licensee should be the health boards. I do not think the health boards could be substituted for the licensees prescribed in the Bill. They might have a role in addition to the licensees proposed in the Bill but not in exclusion of or in total substitution for them. There would be many difficulties facing the health boards in the practicalities of making contraceptives available so as to comply with legal conditions. I think it would be impractical to have health boards as the sole licensees but, as I say, there is room for that in addition to the licensees proposed in the Bill.

I want to thank Deputies for the contributions they made to this debate. As I said, it was an historic debate. For the first time the Parliament of this country has debated the question of how far the State can interfere in a matter of private conscience in this field of artificial contraception. The clear message from this Parliament is that the State cannot interfere in that field. In that sense the debate has been welcomed. I would like to see it finished and the matter now let go to Committee Stage. I commend the Bill to the House as being a good vehicle to bring the debate to the next stage and as something which is not inconsistent with the publicly expressed view on the part of the Opposition.

May I ask the Minister in what section or sections is it laid down that contraceptives or contraceptive devices will be available only to married couples?

Section 5.

It does not appear that way. Are there regulations to follow?

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I shall read section 5:

(1) A person who is unmarried and who is not the holder of a licence granted under section 2 shall not purchase a contraceptive.

(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence.... and is subject to penalty.

I asked the Minister what section laid down the non-availability of contraceptives or contraceptive devices to unmarried people. The section which the Minister has read to me would appear to lay down that it is not lawful for unmarried people to practise contraception, which is not quite the same thing as the Minister explained.

It makes it unlawful for an unmarried person to purchase contraceptives.

Could I further ask the Minister in regard to the part of the Bill in which is laid down the agencies through which contraceptives may be made available to those lawfully entitled to purchase them, is there any stipulation to ensure that only those lawfully entitled to procure contraceptives get them? In other words, in what manner will the chemist, for instance, decide who is married and who is not? Will he look for a marriage certificate, a passport, a photograph, or how will he know?

I made this clear in my Second Reading speech, that there is no onus on the vendor to inquire as to the marital status of the purchaser.

Without wishing to hold the House up, I would like to know is there any prohibition on unmarried people seeking or getting, without any offence being committed by the vendor, any of these devices?

There is a statutory prohibition against an unmarried person purchasing contraceptives, and such a person would commit an offence.

The availability is there.

The Minister said contraceptives could be imported under licence only. May I ask the Minister what will the position be in regard to hormones which at present are prescribed for reasons other than contraception and which have, in fact, contraceptive qualities? Will it be necessary to have a licence for them?

It would appear from what the Deputy says that the articles in question could only be made available on medical prescription and as such are exempt from the provisions of the Bill.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 61; Níl, 75.

  • Barry, Peter.
  • Barry, Richard.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Belton, Luke.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Bermingham, Joseph.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Cooney, Patrick M.
  • Costello, Declan.
  • Coughlan, Stephen.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Desmond, Eileen.
  • Dockrell, Henry P.
  • Dockrell, Maurice.
  • Donegan, Patrick S.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Esmonde, John G.
  • FitzGerald, Garret.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
  • Gilhawley, Eugene.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hegarty, Patrick.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Keating, Justin.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • Burke, Joan T.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Cluskey, Frank.
  • Collins, Edward.
  • Conlan, John F.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • Lynch, Gerard.
  • McDonald, Charles B.
  • McMohan, Larry.
  • Malone, Patrick.
  • Murphy, Michael P.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Leary, Michael.
  • O'Sullivan, John L.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Reynolds, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, John J.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Staunton, Myles.
  • Taylor, Frank.
  • Thornley, David.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Toal, Brendan.
  • Tully, James.
  • White, James.

Níl

  • Allen, Lorcan.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Blaney, Neil T.
  • Brady, Philip A.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • Brugha, Ruairí.
  • Burke, Dick.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callanan, John.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Colley, George.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connolly, Gerard.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Crinion, Brendan.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Crowley, Flor.
  • Cunningham, Liam.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Dowling, Joe.
  • Enright, Thomas.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Farrell, Joseph.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Finn, Martin.
  • Fitzgerald, Gene.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Flanagan, Seán.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gibbons, Hugh.
  • Gibbons, James.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Herbert, Michael.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kitt, Michael F.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Lemass, Noel T.
  • Leonard, James.
  • Loughnane, William.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, Jack.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McLaughlin, Joseph.
  • MacSharry, Ray.
  • Meaney, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Murphy, Ciarán.
  • Nolan, Thomas.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connor, Timothy.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Power, Patrick.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Timmons, Eugene.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Wyse, Pearse.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kelly and B. Desmond; Níl, Deputies Lalor and Browne.
Question declared lost.

Just one question: were the Government really serious in putting this Bill forward when the Head of the Government voted against it?

It was a free vote.

It was not a free vote.

Of course it was.

Item No. 18. Vote 27. Estimate for Local Government.

The Whips had more or less agreed that we would not go ahead with the next item tonight. Is the Minister satisfied?

There is no agreement so far as I know.

Ask your Whip.

If he is still you. Whip.

I am sorry. Apparently the agreement was made in the last few minutes.

It was made 20 minutes ago.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.45 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 17th July, 1974.