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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 25 Apr 1929

Vol. 12 No. 5

Censorship of Publications Bill, 1928—Third Stage.

The Seanad went into Committee.
Section 1 agreed to.
In this Act—
the word "Minister" means the Minister for Justice;
the expression "periodical publication" includes any newspaper, magazine, journal, or other printed publication which is published periodically or in parts or numbers;
the word "book" includes every printed publication which is not a periodical publication and, save where the context otherwise requires, includes every edition of such book;
neither the expression "periodical publication" nor the word "book" shall include a journal, book, or other publication which is certified by the Board to be publishedbona fide for the information or instruction of members of the medical profession;
the word "indecent" shall be construed as including suggestive of, or inciting to sexual immorality or unnatural vice or likely in any other similar way to corrupt or deprave.

I move amendment 1: Section 2. After the word "medical" in line 32 to insert the words "or legal."

The clause to which this amendment refers is the third in the section. "Neither the expression `periodical publication' nor the word `book' shall include a journal, book or other publication which is certified by the Board to be published bona fide for the information or instruction of members of the medical profession.” I do not think that was necessary, because I do not think any Board would have censored a book which was intended simply for medical education. If you put this clause in you should also put in the words “or legal,” because there are a large number of legal books which, so far as unpleasant subjects go, are very much worse than any medical books. I suggest that the words in the section are not necessary; but as the Dáil has put in that proviso about medical books, I think the Minister should also include legal books.

I entirely agree with what Senator Brown has said in regard to medical books, but that is new embodied in the Bill. It was put in because the College of Surgeons passed a resolution, and we just did it to oblige them. I do not think it was necessary to have these words about medical books put into the Bill at all. The rest of the Bill makes it absolutely clear that legal books would not corrupt or deprave. I ask the Senator not to press the amendment.

The section would be absolutely clear if you had left out medical, but having put in medical. I am afraid that the inference might be drawn that they are the only ones that are excluded.

I think the books it was intended to deal with were books on medical jurisprudence.

There are certain legal reports published which are much worse than any books on medical jurisprudence.

The trouble is that if you take in medical and legal, then you may spread the definition too far.

I do not think so.

I do not mind the words suggested by the Senator going in, but I think they are perfectly unnecessary.

Would it be possible to make a rule that books in typescript—typewritten books of words —would not come under the many possibilities of this Bill?


You could not deal with a matter of that kind under this particular amendment.

The reason I make that suggestion is that we do not want the theatre in this country to be brought under this Bill. There is another point to be considered, and that is where a man prints a play in book form after this Act comes into operation. I would like to move an amendment to the effect that a book of that kind would be excluded from the operations of this Act.


That cannot be done under this particular amendment.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment 2, Section 2. To delete all after the word "immorality" in line 34 down to the end of the section.

My amendment concerns this much-debated definition of the word "indecent." As Senators probably know, it was altered in the Dáil, and now it seems to be perfectly satisfactory up to a certain point. It reads as follows in the Bill:—"The word `indecent' shall be construed as including suggestive of, or inciting to, sexual immorality or unnatural vice." My suggestion is that the definition should end there, and should not continue with these words, "or likely in any other similar way to corrupt or deprave." Those words either mean something or they mean nothing. I suggest that they mean nothing, and that they are unnecessary. If they are unnecessary, I suggest that they are ambiguous. I think that the Minister should give us an illustration as to what he has in his mind by the use of these additional words, because it appears to me that the terms "sexual immorality or unnatural vice" completely cover the whole problem.


I would like to point out to the Senator that under his amendment he proposes to delete the words "or unnatural vice" because the amendment seeks to delete all words after the word "immorality."

I ask the leave of the House to alter that. My intention was not to delete the words "or unnatural vice," but to delete "or likely in any other similar way to corrupt or deprave."


May I take it that the House gives its permission for an alteration in the amendment by leaving unchanged in the section the words "or unnatural vice"?

I would like to discuss these two words "unnatural vice," and if it is made clear that I may discuss them, then I have no objection.


The Senator may discuss them.

Leave granted for alteration of amendment on lines suggested.

If there is not some very clear reason for the retention of these words that I propose to delete, then I think they should be deleted. If the Minister has in his mind certain books that he thinks would not be fully covered by the words "sexual immorality or unnatural vice," then I suggest it is dangerous to leave the words which follow. I speak, of course, only as a layman and not as a lawyer, but I suggest that it is undesirable to retain those words, which are ambiguous. If the Minister wishes to remove any ambiguity that there may be, I suggest he can do so under another amendment which I propose to move later, and which I think is much clearer than this one if further expansion is wanted.

With regard to the point which I wish to raise, I do not know whether it is quite in order now, in view of the leaving in of the words "unnatural vice." The point that I wished to raise is as to the legal meaning of these words. There is a common colloquial understanding as to their meaning, but this obviously is a phrase that is intended to cloud. I think that we should at least have some clear leading as to whether these two words mean anything in law beyond anything that is bad and vicious. It seems to me that the intention would be more clearly conveyed by such words as "unnatural sexual acts." I do not know. I am afraid I am ignorant on that subject.


The Senator has no amendment down dealing with this matter.

No, because I want to have some guidance from the Minister or other legal authorities that may be willing to give a non-legal judgment as to whether these two words really convey anything to lawyers.

They convey no absolute legal meaning. In law—I think the Minister will agree with me— these words would be taken in their ordinary outside meaning. They have no special legal meaning.

I agree with Senator Brown that these are not technical words at all. As far as I know they have been introduced in this Bill for the first time. They are words which are in pretty ordinary use. I think everyone knows what the practices are that they are aimed to stop. As far as Senator Sir John Keane's amendment goes, he wants to know why these extra words are put in. It is always usual and advisable in the drafting of a Bill that you should have what are called similar words—general words which would be similar but which are completely controlled by the words which go in front. That is to say, that they may be a sort of draw-net which will allow nothing of the same character as themselves, and which are defined by the earlier part of the section, to escape. They are general words controlling that. The Senator asked me if there were any kind of crimes that I had in mind that might come under this. That is really a difficult question to discuss here. They take in everything of the particular nature which is mentioned by those words in front, and if any book might escape because it does not come under this— although it comes under the spirit, but not under the actual lettering of those two expressions used before-hand—it would be covered by these general words. These general words are simply to ensure that the spirit of the preceding words will be carried out. I hope that I have made myself clear. It is a usual thing in legal drafting to have the general words controlled by such words as these.

These words do not extend the nature of the offence. They simply include everything else of the same kind that may have been forgotten or left undefined.

I would like to have some further explanation as to the reason why the words "conduct of a similar kind" are inserted here. It seems to me that the better way would be to leave out the words "unnatural vice" and to continue the definition, "or inciting to sexual immorality or likely in any other similar way to corrupt or deprave." The introduction of the words "of a similar kind" seems to me to lead to a confusion of thought.


We have not come to that particular amendment yet.

If the House is satisfied, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment and to argue the question on my next amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment 3:—

Section 2. To delete all after the words "immorality or," in line 34, down to the end of the section, and to substitute therefor the words "conduct of a similar kind which is calculated to corrupt or deprave."

As it is necessary to have some general words, I suggest that the words in the Bill are not absolutely clear. I think that the words in my amendment are better. Instead of having the words in the Bill, "or likely in any other similar way to corrupt or deprave," I think it would be much better if the words in my amendment were substituted for them—"conduct of a similar kind which is calculated to corrupt or deprave." To say the least of it, I suggest that the words in the Bill, "or likely in any other similar way to corrupt or deprave," are ambiguous and equivocal, and that it is desirable to make the change which I propose in the amendment.

I am afraid that I cannot quite follow the case that has been put for this amendment by Senator Sir John Keane. If his amendment were adopted the section would then read: "shall be construed as including suggestive of, or inciting to sexual immorality or unnatural vice or conduct of a similar kind which is calculated to corrupt or deprave." I cannot follow the meaning of that at all, because it is the book that is calculated to corrupt or deprave. I am afraid that the Senator in this amendment is rather getting into the field of metaphysics. What we want to prohibit here is the circulation of books which would degrade the mind, and it is only a degraded mind that leads to degrading conduct.

The words "sexual immorality or unnatural vice" are not, I suggest, sufficient. I am proposing to extend these words to all acts of a similar kind which are calculated to corrupt or deprave. I think that the words in my amendment are better than the words in the Bill.

I am afraid that the amendment would not work in.

Then I do not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 3 (1) AND (2).
There shall be established a board to be called and known as the Censorship of Publications Board (in this Act referred to as the Board) consisting of nine members appointed under this section.
The Minister shall, as soon as may be after the passing of this Act and from time to time thereafter as occasion requires, appoint nine fit and proper persons to be the members of the Board.

I move amendment 4:

Section 3, sub-section (1). To delete in line 40 the word "nine" and to substitute therefor the word "five."

When the Bill was originally introduced the number in it was five. That number was only altered in the Dáil by a majority of a single vote. We have learned since the Bill came into this House that the members of the Board will be unpaid, and that there may be considerable difficulty experienced in getting such a large number as nine men of the mentality, largeness of view, judgment and knowledge required to deal adequately with these matters. The administration of the Act will depend on the efficiency and the broadness of view of the members composing the Board. Having regard to the fact that the members of the Board are to be unpaid, and that in all probability it will be desirable that all of them should be drawn from in or about Dublin, it may be a matter of real difficulty to get nine men. I suggest that if you get five men of the proper mentality, that number will be absolutely adequate for the purposes for which they will be required.

There is a good deal to be said for what Senator Dowdall says. I suggest that as between the two figures named there should be a compromise, and that the number should be seven.

I object to this amendment because I feel it is necessary that there should be nine people on the Board, so as to allow the Minister sufficient scope to give all phases of opinion on this very important question representation on the Board. I disagree with Senator Dowdall in saying that a difficulty may be experienced in getting nine members to attend. I think that people who will be nominated to membership of this Board, and who will be prepared to undertake the responsibilities of the position, will have sufficient public spirit to attend the meetings when highly moral questions and other matters in connection with this Act will have to be decided. If the membership of the Board is fixed at nine then I suggest all shades of opinion will be given a chance of having their views represented on it.

Senator Dowdall, in putting forward his amendment, did not, I think, give us any sound reasons as to why we should alter the decision of the Dáil, even though that decision was only carried by a majority of one vote. There are a great many people in this country, and whatever the number is, it really should not be impossible to get the members of the Board to attend. If that is the only reason given for the putting forward of this amendment, I do not think it would justify the Seanad in upsetting the decision arrived at by the Dáil. I think that a Board with five would be quite unworkable. The business to be done and the decisions to be given will be very important. Members may be prevented through illness and other causes from attending meetings of the Board, and therefore I think it would be quite unworkable if the membership were limited to five. A company carrying on a big business could not have its affairs properly attended to if the Board in control only consisted of five people, because illness and other things might prevent all the members from attending on occasions when important decisions had to be arrived at. The Censorship Board will have very important duties to discharge. Therefore, I think that the membership of it ought to be nine and not five.

The Board, I believe, will be workable if you make provision for nine members. I agree with Senator MacKean that it is certainly not right to say that we cannot get nine people to act in a capacity of this kind because salaries are not attached to the post or that they will not do their duty. If that is all that lies behind this Bill, then I am afraid that we are not going to get the Bill to work very much. The country demands a Censorship Bill of this kind. Surely, there must be nine people in the country who are willing to give their services and to make the Act workable. Personally I do not think it would be workable unless we have at least nine members on the Board. In a later amendment it is provided that seven members must be in attendance. That leaves you with only two to play with. I think that the Act would be made unworkable if the number were reduced to five, and therefore I think that the Seanad ought to adhere to the figure of nine.

Suppose that the membership is to be nine, I suggest for the consideration of the House that the quorum ought to be six.


We are not considering that at present.

I am strongly opposed to this amendment. This question of the size of the Board was one that was very strongly considered by the Committee on Evil Literature. That was the Committee that recommended the introduction of this Bill. That Committee was of opinion that the minimum number on the Board should be nine. It suggested a Board of nine to twelve. I suggest that the considered opinion of a Committee like that is one that should have very great weight with this House. There are many reasons that occur to one why a Board of nine is preferable to a Board of five. The success of the administration of this Act will depend entirely on the confidence which the public have in the Board. I submit that as a matter of common sense the country will have more confidence in a Board of nine than in a Board of five. A Board of five would be spoiled by even a single crank, and it is very hard absolutely to exclude cranks from any Board. If you have a Board of nine, you can afford to have a crank or two on it, and yet not spoil the Board. Now there is one more reason why I prefer a Board of nine to a Board of five. It is that the members are more likely to deal with questions with an open mind. If you have only four or five people dealing, time after time, with questions of this kind, they are very liable to get into a rut and not to come to a solution of the questions before them with an open and a fair mind. I am, therefore, entirely of opinion that nine is the safer number, and that it ought to be adhered to by the Seanad.

In view of the fact that we have a great number of amendments dealing with this particular question, might I ask, sir, that with your permission we might discuss the whole question of the composition of the Censorship Board on this particular amendment?


Is the House agreeable to take that course?

I am afraid that if we were to do that it would lead to a lot of confusion.

I do not suggest that all the amendments should be taken together. The point that I am making is that we might discuss the whole question on this particular amendment.


I am afraid we cannot do that at this stage. We must confine discussion to the amendment before the House as to whether the membership of the Censorship Board shall be nine or five.

I thought that, with your permission, sir, I might discuss the general question of the constitution of the Board on this amendment.


I think the Senator can do that.

There seems to me to be a difference of opinion as regards the number of members that should constitute the Board. A number of the members of this House would strongly advocate nine but, on the other hand, we have a number in favour of five. It occurred to me that if we considered the matter calmly and discussed it in a friendly way, exchanging our views one with the other, we might arrive at a reasonable compromise on the question. I think that a matter of such importance as this should be debated with a view to arriving at a solution that would be satisfactory. It has occurred to me, after reading one of the newspapers this morning, that the suggestion made there might meet the situation and satisfy everybody concerned. The suggestion has been made that the Board shall be constituted of nine persons and worked on the principle of a rota, that six should be called upon to act on every occasion when it was necessary to call the Board together, that the other three would take their turns automatically, and if one of the six happened to be absent the Minister would have one of the other three to call upon. The suggestion was made that a majority decision of four out of six present should be the deciding factor with regard to any question that came up for consideration. It appears to me that is a reasonable compromise. I throw out the suggestion that that is a plan that might meet the different points of view and would enable a compromise to be arrived at that would be satisfactory to all concerned.

I have a good deal of sympathy with the idea of trying to reach a compromise on matters on which compromise is generally desirable, but it seems to me that between the two points of view it is not a matter of five or nine, or a matter whether a small committee is the more effective, or whether a larger committee which would be more representative should do the work. Seven has the objections that would be urged against five and the objections that would be urged against nine. Generally, a small committee appeals to me, and at first I was inclined to support the original proposal in the Bill. I have formed the opinion definitely, and I have been approached by people of all points of view with regard to this Bill, that you will not get confidence if you go back to the five, although I think there are many arguments for it. The suggestion made by Senator Farren is a very interesting one. A reverend friend of mine sent me a suggestion a short time ago, and the result was that one was able to give a considerable amount of thought to the question and I have come to the conclusion that it would be a great mistake. In the first place, who is to choose the panel? Then, again, you have a particular book or newspaper examined by six persons. The question arises as to whether the prohibition of that book has to be withdrawn, and then it is to be examined by six persons, quite probably, under the scheme, with the result that you might have a change, possibly even frequent changes, with regard to a book about which a certain amount of doubt may exist.

My principal reason for rising was to raise the question of attendance. There seems to be the assumption that a book is to be brought before a meeting of the Board, and that by a majority vote of seven out of nine, or whatever it may be, it will be decided whether the book is to be censored or not. That seems to me absurd. It seems to me the members of the Censorship Board will have to read the book in the privacy of their own homes and form an opinion as to its character. Personally, I do not say that absolute attendance is necessary provided regulations are made safeguarding any abuse. For that reason, I have come to the conclusion that the proper thing to do is to support the proposals as passed through the Dáil after a great deal of discussion. I believe that both in the matter of the number of the Board and the number required to reach a decision we should support the other House.

In regard to what Senator Douglas has said, it is necessary for us to know from the Minister whether the decision of a member of the Censorship Board is to be arrived at in his own library and communicated to the Board, or whether he is to come to a meeting of the Board and discuss the question as to whether a book or newspaper should be excluded or not, and listen to what his colleagues have to say and arrive at a decision on the question in consultation with his colleagues. That would seem to me to be the fairest way of dealing with the matter. The Dáil has decided, by a small majority it is true, that the proper number of members is nine.

I think the Senator is getting out of order.


We are not discussing that point. What we are discussing is the number of the Board.

Well, I am in favour of nine.

There is certainly no question of principle involved in this. It is only a matter of detail. It involves a matter of judgment. If I was desirous of making this Bill a farce I would make the Board as big as I possibly could. The larger the Board the less likelihood of their arriving at anything in the nature of intelligent decisions, and the longer they will be in arriving at decisions the greater the expense will be to those who have to attend without payment of any kind. After all, the members of the Board have to give their time free, and their time is worth something to themselves. If they are kept beyond the time absolutely necessary it means a loss. In the case of the censorship of films we appoint one censor and except you have a precautionary measure by way of a Censorship Board from which there is an appeal. The whole film censorship devolves on one man. There are not many appeals from his decision, comparatively speaking, and in the great majority of cases his decisions are upheld. If one man is capable, and I believe he is, of giving intelligent decisions I think it would also be possible to give equally intelligent decisions in regard to books.

I think we could get five people to do that, and it is easier to get five suitable people to do it than to get nine equally suitable, and who can spare the time. If we are to get back to the fact that every party and religious sect is to get representation on the Board, then it will be necessary to have a membership of much more than nine. That is all I see behind this desire to have nine on the Board—to give political and sectarian representation. If the Board is to become a sectarian and political battle ground, if the Minister can be swayed in that way, all sorts of people must get representation and I have not much hope of good results from this Board. I am going to vote for the amendment in the honest conviction that it is going to give a better Board than a Board of nine, and for no other reason.

Senator O'Farrell has drawn attention to one possible danger in a larger Board, and one which cannot be overlooked. I hope, before the vote is taken, we will have some further guidance from the Minister as to the number of nine or the number of five, because I think there are dangers that have to be considered in regard to both. I think the analogy between the film censorship and this particular kind of censorship is not strong at all. The task of the censorship of publications will be much more involved, much more complicated, and a much more important function. I regard the functions of this Censorship Board as something very similar to the functions of a jury. If a charge is made against a certain publication, which in effect is a charge against the author of that publication, the Censorship Board is a jury empanelled to try whether that charge is well-founded or not. The decision that tribunal is going to arrive at may affect very adversely the character of the person against whom the charge is levelled. I can see a danger if you have a Board of five, and that a decision of three of that Board is decisive you may not give the person who is indicted a fair tribunal.

The question as regards the difficulty of attendance at the Board by members is, to my mind, a minor consideration. There is no precipitate action required. The one thing I think that is least desirable is that anything that could savour of a hurried judgment should be arrived at. There should be the fullest possible time allowed and the fullest possible consideration given by the Board. If there is to be a small Board, I believe that a decision which is going to condemn any publication should be an unanimous one. On the other hand, it is for that reason, I think, there is some degree of safety in the larger Board, but there is undoubtedly a danger to which Senator O'Farrell referred, and that is the constitution of the Board being one of representation of interests. I think that would be a totally mischievous basis for such a Board. The function which that Board will have to discharge will be a very special function, and it will not be one where the varied interests should be brought into consultation and balanced one against the other.

Before the debate concludes I hope we will have from the Minister a statement informing us as to the grounds upon which he would make his selection for nomination to that Board, whether he would have to select one man from this interest and another man from another, or whether he would consider the function of the Board is to determine whether or not a certain publication answers to a certain description, and that and that alone, and should be asked to arrive at a sound judgment on that point, whether that would be the sole ground on which they would be appointed. Weighing both figures, at the moment I am inclined to think, considering the peculiar and delicate nature of the functions this Board will have to discharge, that a lesser danger is involved in the larger number unless we have it clearly understood that a small majority of the Board will not be the final decision in the matter. The way in which my vote will be cast on this particular amendment will depend on this—if it is to be a Board of five, and if the majority of a lesser number constituting a quorum is to be decisive, then I would be inclined to vote for nine. If, on the other hand, the decision on definite publications is to be that of the full Board, then I, for my part, would be inclined to support it, but I would be inclined to hear what the Minister has to say on the matter before I finally make up my mind.

I oppose the amendment strongly. Senator Brown referred to the recommendations of the Evil Literature Committee as regards the number that should constitute the Board. I would like to stress that point for a moment. Everybody on both sides of this controversy is agreed that the Committee's report was drawn up with very great care. It made a most painstaking and judicial inquiry. It is curious that the only point of machinery upon which it expressed any opinion was this one respecting the size of the Board. Of course the Committee did not embark upon any large consideration of the machinery of the Bill, as its duty was to inquire and to report upon the general principle of censorship, but it did apparently think this point was important. It made this recommendation:—

"The Committee thinks the Minister for Justice should be entrusted with the power of censorship, and to assist him in its exercise a permanent committee should be established consisting from 9 to 12 persons representative of the religious, educational, literary and artistic opinion of the Irish public."

I say the fact that that is the only machinery part that is mentioned should weigh with the Seanad before they reject the opinion of the Committee which recommended that the Board should consist of 9 to 12 persons. I hope the Senators who think of voting for the amendment will throw their minds back a little further than Senator Milroy has done, and will consider the majority that would be necessary to carry a recommendation in favour of prohibition. If they are going to vote for five are they to vote, say, for a majority of three as proposed by Senator Dowdall, or for four, as proposed by Senator O'Hanlon?


I do not think you can anticipate that.

I think in considering five it is a consideration that should enter into our minds. Senator Farren referred to the suggestion that there should be a rota of six which should act for a certain time, and then be replaced, and that the rota should change from time to time. It seems to me that that is open to the objection Senator Douglas put forward, but may I point out that there is another alternative covered in the amendment of my own—that is, that the quorum of the Board should be fixed at six. I think it should be the right of every member of the Board to get every book which is the subject of complaint. If a rota is established that right would not exist, but if a quorum is substituted for a rota of six then every member of the Board would receive a copy of the publication complained of and would be able to express his opinion upon it. If he thought sufficiently strongly about it he would come to the meeting. In that way, I think, we would get the advantage of the smaller number, and to some extent have the advantage of the larger number.

The question has been raised as to whether decisions should be given at actual meetings of the Board, or as to whether members should make up their minds in their own homes and send in their opinions. I must confess that at first I was of opinion they should be invited to consider the matter at home and send in their opinions, and that they should be registered by the chairman or secretary of the Board, but on fuller consideration of the matter I have come to the conclusion that would not be the better arrangement. I think it would be essential in the earlier stages of the Board that they should come to a definite understanding as to the kind of books that should be excluded or passed. That could best be done by consultation and discussion by the Board of publications, and in that way the Board can come to a common mind on the whole subject. On the other hand, it would be very hard to expect every member to come to every Board meeting, but if the system of a quorum is established they would be free to absent themselves occasionally.

For that reason, I strongly support the proposal that the size of the Board should be nine, and further, that in arriving at the majority which would be requisite to reject a book, we should not consider merely the number present at the meeting and assenting to the recommendation of a prohibition, but rather to the number who are dissenting from it. At present, if nine stands, seven members must assent to the prohibition, so that if one member is absent there must be a majority of seven to one; if two are absent the seven must be unanimous, and if three are absent there could be no decision at all. If we enjoin that in order for a motion for prohibition to be defeated it must be dissented from by at least two members of the Board. That would give a working arrangement something like this: if nine are present, seven must assent to the prohibition; if eight are present, six would be necessary; if seven are present, five would be necessary; and if six were present, four would be necessary.


This is altogether outside the scope of the amendment.

I bow to you in that, but I think they are considerations that must be borne in mind.

We have been discussing whether the Board should consist of five members or nine. When one considers the nature of the Censorship Board, then the nearer you come to one man the nearer you will come to the one opinion. Some may think the ideal thing would be that every schoolboy should be a censor. A lot of people who do not work in the open will have scope if the number is nine. In my opinion the ideal would be zero. The Board should be of as compact a size as possible. There is one consideration which more or less suggests that there is a contradiction in the establishment of a Board of nine as against five, and that is, you are exposing four extra people to the depraving influence of bad books. Therefore, I think the membership of the Board should be limited.

Senator Hooper and Senator Brown referred to the constitution and findings of this Committee on Evil Literature, and pointed to the fact that the Committee reported that the Board of Censors which will be set up should consist of from nine to twelve members. I am not so sure, from what I have read since, that the Committee regarded that point as one of very great importance. In that respect it will be well to read the pronouncements of certain members of the Committee who have since spoken. One of the members of the Committee said he favoured a Board set up on the lines I have indicated in my two amendments rather than a Board set up on the lines indicated by Senator Brown and the other speakers. That member of the Committee, at any rate, did not consider this matter of such prime importance that it should be unduly stressed in this House. Two Senators who have spoken paid tribute to the manner in which that Committee carried through their deliberations. They did not make any point that this Committee, which did such excellent work and was so painstaking, consisted of five members. They did exceedingly good work. Another point referred to by Senator Brown is that there was a greater likelihood of having a crank on a Board of five than of having a crank on a Board of nine.

I referred to a Board of five being spoiled by a crank.

There is almost double the likelihood of having two cranks on a Board of nine than one on a Board of five. It is a question of mathematical calculation. If the cranks are there they are bound to show themselves. Reference was made to the question of attendance. It is going to be just as easy, in fact easier, to get four out of five rather than seven out of nine. In my opinion it will be easier to get four out of five rather than seven out of nine. Senator Brown adverted to the circumstance that a Board of nine would inspire greater confidence in the public. Now, there are only two matters in which a Board of nine would inspire greater confidence than a Board of five: one is by reason of the fact that nine is a greater number than five, and the other is by reason of the fact, as Senator MacKean pointed out, that a Board of nine should be composed of representatives of various interests, and that it should be constituted of representatives of various phases of life. Take the first point: it is the first time that I ever knew Senator Brown to lay such stress on and to admit the superiority of quantity over quality, and I take it that what should be aimed at in setting up a Board of Censors should be to get the right type of man rather than a great number of men. In a tug-of-war team there are eight men pulling, all contributing their weight, but it is an entirely different thing where the pull of each does not contribute to the total, and in this the pull exercised by the nine men would not contribute in any way to the total. It is the quality of the men and the general reading, perhaps, in which they have indulged, the sound judgment, and above all the plain commonsense that they can bring to bear on the matter that will count. That is what we are looking for—the quality of the men rather than the number of the men who will contribute to the examination of these books and periodicals. Nine could only mean the other thing, and that is a representation of various political and sectarian interests, and all the rest. If we want this Board of Censors to be really ineffective, to become a debating society, to raise extraneous matters, not to do the job for which it is constituted, then we will set up a Board consisting of representatives of the various sections.

That is the very thing which should never be mentioned and which should be completely eliminated. If we cannot appoint members who will do the job, who will care about public opinion, who will not be swayed by resolutions from county councils and other local bodies, then away with it. There is one way of gaining public confidence and getting down to the job, and that is by selecting the right men. If you get the right men, men who are competent, it does not matter whether you have five or nine. As Senator O'Farrell says, there must be undoubtedly greater difficulty in getting nine men of the right type than there will be in getting five. There is always difficulty in getting a greater number of the right type than in getting the lesser number. That is an axiom in life from which there are very few, if any, departures, and there is no departure in this instance.

In the second place, if you constitute this a Board of a large number it will undoubtedly make for delay. I do not know what is in the Minister's mind, or whether, when regulations will be drawn up in the case of books, one book will be given to each member. I will be interested to know what the Minister for Finance will have to say when he comes to consider the cost. It may be that one book will have to do the rounds. There is no doubt that nine will be a little cumbersome. Undoubtedly in the aggregate it is going to make for delays, and I do not think that delays would be justifiable in this instance. A suggestion was embodied in the compromise proposal, which Senator O'Farrell indicated, that there might be a policy of rotation of groups relieving each other. I think there is one thing we should aim at in respect to censorship, and that is uniformity, setting up a standard of censorship and, above all, having the same men on the job most of the time. Do not bring in one type of man one time and another at another time. We should aim at standardisation, at some uniformity in method and in judgment. In the next place, there is this question of what I might call the diffusion of responsibility. If you have nine men on a Board it is perfectly logical to assume that they will not feel the responsibility thrown so much on their shoulders as would be the case with a Board of five; five men would be right down to the job; they would give more care and attention to the job they have on hands, and I think a Board of five in that respect would be much better and should be definitely preferred to a Board of nine.

Then there is the question of cost. The cost will be very great. The Minister says that the members of the Board will be unpaid, but certainly the least I would expect from the Minister is that the railway fares and travelling expenses of members should be paid, and that, if they are detained over-night in the city, they should get some allowance to cover out-of-pocket expenses. There are various methods by which money could be spent. There is no doubt that a Board of nine will be more costly than a Board of five. Then there is this question of setting up a debating society, men representative of various classes, and divided on the social, religious, political or economic lines. If these lines of difference ever appear, then I think the effectiveness of this Board will simply vanish. I strongly support the amendment that the Board should be constituted of five, instead of nine, and that it should revert to the original position.

I am against the amendment. No doubt this is a matter upon which very much difference of opinion exists, but in my opinion nine is better than five. In most kinds of work which is referred to committees or boards, I am disposed to agree with what Senator O'Farrell and Senator O'Hanlon stated, that a smaller body tends to have a greater sense of responsibility and to get more work done, but what we have under discussion to-day is a kind of work which differs very much from most other kinds of work, from any kind of work which this House delegates to a committee. What I think you want to get is what you might call a superior public opinion in this matter, and I think you have a better chance of getting it with nine than five, and less chance of members of the Board tending to be swayed by one or two people. You would get something more genuine in the way of public opinion with nine. That is the way I look at it.

The question has been raised as to the basis of selection of this Board, and the Minister has been invited to inform the House as to that matter. With great respect, I would urge him to do nothing of the kind. I can conceive the Minister being made responsible for the Board, and I have no doubt that he takes that responsibility seriously. I can conceive of no circumstances which are more unsuitable for debate in a House like this than the composition of a Board of the kind. For the reasons that I have given, I think a Board of nine is better than a Board of five, and I will support nine.

One or two points have been made that I would like to refer to, but before doing so—I do not know that I am quite in order— I hope that whatever number will be agreed upon, and whatever their machinery and method of procedure may be, that the Board wil be masters of their own procedure and machinery of administration, whether they read the books in their libraries or come together and discuss them. I think it should be left altogether to themselves. Let them make their report to the Minister, who may or may not accept their recommendations. Senator Jameson rather amazed me by referring to what happened in other concerns. Senator Jameson, if he will excuse me for telling him, knows quite as well as I do that a Board very often consists of one, no matter how many are on it. It usually consists of two —the managing director and the secretary. It is a matter on which Senator Jameson has very wide and extensive experience, and I am not altogether innocent of the procedure of Boards myself. Senator Jameson knows that, and so do I. I am rather disposed to agree with the suggestion thrown out by Senator O'Farrell. I would like to come to what Senator Brown said with regard to the danger of a small Board. Now, Senator Brown, practically all his life, has appeared before tribunals of one, and in the most important matters that could go before any tribunal, a tribunal of three. No matter how important the question may be, the Court of Appeal consists of three judges.

There are seven in the Lords.

When you go to the Court of Criminal Appeal in this country or in England, where a man's life is at stake, the number is three, and the majority may be one. In practically all cases, except before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, where you have a large number, it almost invariably is three, no matter how important the question, and I think on the ground of efficiency there is a great deal to be said for it. Again, no matter what the number, for Heaven's sake let us not have representatives of different sections, of different views of political thought, or one hundred and one other things, which would make this Board utterly ineffective and not suitable for the purpose for which it will exist. Senator Bagwell said this was a different class of work from practically any other. With all respect to Senator Bagwell it is not different from judicial work in which judges must go into all questions that come before them. The work is of that kind and nature, and, as I said before, a legal tribunal is almost invariably small.

I am at present uncertain whether we are debating the actual number on the Board, the quorum, or how the Board is to be appointed. I suppose we have to form our opinions, but if each one in turn has to say whether he prefers five or nine, we will be here all night. Personally I prefer nine, for the very excellent reasons given by other Senators. Having presided over a great many committees I find it very difficult to ensure the attendance of a quorum out of five. Accordingly, I shall certainly vote for a Board consisting of nine members.

Of course my viewpoint upon this matter is pretty well known to the Seanad because I stressed it very strongly in the Dáil. In my opinion a Censorship Board of five is much better than a Board of nine. As I stated before, I think that a Board of three might be better than a Board of five, but the weight might be too heavy on the backs of a Board of three. I think a Board of five is as large a Board as you really can safely take, and be certain that it will work all right. I need not go through the arguments put forward in favour of a Board of nine. They have been fully answered by Senator O'Hanlon and by Senator Dowdall, and I need not repeat them. But there is one thing I would like to say, and that is that in my opinion if this Board becomes representative of all shades of opinion in the country, it simply will not work—it will fight. You will have some one elected in one particular interest and some one elected in another particular interest. They will either fight or they will combine, each one trying to outvie the other. This is a Bill upon which there is no room for difference of opinion, except upon one ground: "Is this book decent or indecent?" Pulling men from this and that class to say that a book is indecent seems to me to be entirely wrong. Everybody knows when a book is indecent. The Board may have to stand a certain amount of pressure from outside. It may be that outside puritanical persons of all shades of opinion may declare that a certain book should be condemned. Which is likely to be the more solid body— five or nine? A Board of five is more likely to work together and to have a sort of community feeling in their work. A Board of nine would not. A Board of five would be able to stand any external pressure very much better.

Then again there is the question of cost. Of course a certain number of books will have to be sent in. That will not be at State expense; they will have to be sent in by the persons who make the complaints. They will have to send in a certain number of copies—I cannot say how many—but the regulations will deal with that; but they will have to send in a certain number. If you have a Board that is too big it will add to the expense. I think Senators who referred to the difficulty of Board meetings have not quite visualised what will happen. Senator Comyn and Senator Douglas asked whether the members of the Board were to come together to discuss as to whether a book was to be condemned, or as to whether they were to make up their minds in their homes. I think it will be a half-way house between the two. They will read their books at home, and then come to the meetings and, I suppose, that in 99 cases out of 100 of the books which will be condemned they will be unanimous. Such and such will be condemned; they will all say: "Yes, certainly, that is a book that ought to be condemned," and it will be condemned. There may be an odd book which is doubtful and it is only in the case of that odd one that there will be a discussion, and, of course, it will be an adequate discussion. I think a Board of five is better than a Board of nine, and I also think you would get five sensible, commonsense persons who will be willing to give up their time much more easily than you would get nine.

Will the Minister inform us if the Board is composed of five how many of them will be required to sign a report?

That, of course, I cannot answer. That is for the Seanad to decide.

As the Bill stands it means seven. If you change this to five you will have to change the seven. That will have a very important bearing on the question.

There are two important amendments down, one in the name of Senator O'Hanlon and another in the name of Senator Dowdall. One says that the number should be three out of five, and the other says that it should be four out of five.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 17.

  • Alfred Byrne.
  • Mrs. Costello.
  • John C. Counihan.
  • William Cummins.
  • James Dillon.
  • J. C. Dowdall.
  • Michael Duffy.
  • Sir T. Grattan Esmonde.
  • Thomas Farren.
  • Dr. O. St. J. Gogarty.
  • Major-General Sir W. Hickie.
  • Thomas Johnson.
  • Patrick W. Kenny.
  • Thomas Linehan.
  • General Sir Bryan Mahon.
  • Seán Milroy.
  • William John Molloy.
  • Colonel Moore.
  • Joseph O'Connor.
  • John T. O'Farrell.
  • Michael F. O'Hanlon.
  • Bernard O'Rourke.
  • Thomas Toal.


  • John Bagwell.
  • Samuel L. Brown, K.C.
  • Caitlín Bean Uí Chléirigh.
  • William Cummins.
  • James G. Douglas.
  • Michael Duffy.
  • Michael Fanning.
  • Dr. O. St. J. Gogarty.
  • Sir John Purser Griffith.
  • Henry S. Guinness.
  • Right Hon. Andrew Jameson.
  • Thomas Johnson.
  • Sir John Keane.
  • Cornelius Kennedy.
  • Seán E. MacEllin.
  • The McGillycuddy of the Reeks.
  • Seán Milroy.
  • Colonel Moore.
  • James Moran.
  • John T. O'Farrell.
  • Bernard O'Rourke.
  • Siobhán Bean an Phaoraigh.
  • Séumas Robinson.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

John Bagwell.Sir Edward Bigger.Samuel L. Brown, K.C.Michael Comyn, K.C.James G. Douglas.Sir Nugent Everard.Sir John Purser Griffith.Henry S. Guinness.P.J. Hooper.

Right Hon. A. Jameson.Sir John Keane.Seán E. MacEllin.The MacGillycuddy of the Reeks.James MacKean.James Moran.Siobhán Bean an Phaoraigh.Séumas Robinson.

I do not know exactly in what position my amendment (No. 5) stands, considering that I have suggested in it a quorum of five.


Perhaps the House will allow you to alter your number.

There is another amendment.

I will leave it over.


Is there a further amendment dealing with the quorum?


Then I think it would be possible to bring in an amendment on Report and make the matter right.

Is this amendment withdrawn?


It is passed over as not being quite germane to the Bill at the moment.

I move:—

Section 3. To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—

(9) No person in Holy Orders shall be eligible to be a member of the Board.

I hope that the Minister and the House will not think, as was unfortunately suggested in connection with my remarks on the Second Reading, that I am moving this in any sectarian spirit. I should like to put myself right in that respect. I would remind the House that this was moved in the Dáil by a person who is above all suspicion in that respect. But after all, I think that we have to come back, in considering this matter, to what the task before these censors is to be. I can imagine nothing simpler. Judging by the debate that has taken place, it would appear as if there were elaborate duties germane to those of a judge—a highly expert legal mind. On the other hand, to judge by what the Minister has said on more than one occasion, the Board will have to deal only with matters that are entirely indecent—I think pornographic was the word used— that it is hoped to exclude under this measure.

There is undoubtedly in certain minds the belief that there is a very great danger that this Board may be used not to prohibit bad books but to inculcate certain moral doctrines, rather by excluding a large number of books which are not really bad, to impose a certain moral bias by means of this Bill. It is not only reasonable that as that danger exists all members of religious denominations whose purpose, and rightly so, is positive morality, should have nothing to do with this? After all, there are precedents for excluding such gentlemen from public bodies. They are not eligible to sit in the Houses of the Oireachtas; they are not eligible to sit, I think I am right in saying, on urban or county councils, so that in this there can be no slight whatever upon them. I would suggest that as this matter is so entirely simple to plain men, if you get a certain type of men—I think Senator O'Farrell used the term "moral felon-setters"—you may get into elaborations. But as you are aiming to deal with books that are undoubtedly beyond the border-line— disgusting books—you will incur the suspicion in the appointments you may make that you are likely to create moral tendencies of a positive kind. I hope that this amendment will be accepted.

I was very glad to hear from Senator Sir John Keane the positive statement that he did not introduce this amendment in a sectarian spirit. Whether the spirit in which Senator Sir John Keane introduced this amendment was sectarian or not, the effect of the amendment would be penal, and if the spirit in which he introduced it was not sectarian, then the spirit in which the last of the Penal Laws against Catholics was introduced was not sectarian. I was astonished to see this amendment on the paper, and my mind went back to the year 1829 when an Act, wrongly called the Catholic Emancipation Act, was passed.

On a point of order——


I think the Senator is in order. We are discussing Holy Orders, and the Senator is trying to show why they should not be excluded.

Is it relevant?

I am answering the question as to whether this is or is not a sectarian amendment.


I do not want to have a discussion as to whether this is a sectarian amendment or not. If you are trying to argue in favour of the admissibility of persons in Holy Orders to be members of the Board, then I think you are justified in your argument.

I am trying to do so. When the Catholic Emancipation Act was introduced by that great old soldier, the Duke of Wellington, who was no bigot, in order to satisfy a rugged sectarian spirit that existed in England, he had to introduce a number of sections which were most penal as against the Catholic clergy and the Catholic hierarchy, and one of them was Section 9, the section which prohibits a Catholic priest from exercising the ordinary functions of a citizen, that is, appearing in Parliament, or exercising any other function——

On a point of order. Might I ask if it is permissible for a Senator to put an interpretation on an amendment which that amendment does not convey, and is not intended to convey?

I am answering, sentence by sentence, the statements of the Senator who moved the amendment.

The Senator refers to one religion and one only, and he has already admitted that Senator Sir John Keane's amendment has no such meaning. If he accepts Senator Sir John Keane's statement to that effect, I do not see why he should confine his remarks to one particular religion.


I would suggest to the Senator that he ought not to confine himself to Catholic priests at all.

Nor do I mean to. I intend to deal with the rights of clergymen of the Church of Ireland as well as those of clergymen of the Catholic Church, and I am going to take my own method of dealing with them.

Leave out the division.

There must be a division. I submit to your ruling absolutely, sir.


You can discuss it purely as a question as to whether gentlemen in Holy Orders ought or ought not to be members of the Board.

The way I put it is this: The Constitution under which we sit, in its opening sentence, provides that "Dáil Eireann, sitting as a Constituent Assembly in this Provisional Parliament, acknowledging that all lawful authority comes from God to the people and in the confidence that the national life and unity of Ireland shall thus be restored, hereby proclaims the establishment of the Irish Free State." I take it that under that declaration we are a Christian State. I take it that under that declaration clergymen of the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, or of any other Church, have the ordinary rights of citizens, and if they have the ordinary rights of citizens, why should an amendment be proposed in this Assembly to deprive them of those rights?

Why do they not sit in the Dáil?

Because Section 9 of the Act of 1829 prevents them.


I think that is outside the amendment.

I am answering a question. Now, what is the purpose of the Bill which is under discussion? Does it not affect the faith and the morals of the people? If it affects the faith and morals of the people, who are better qualified——


The morals of the people, I think, Senator. The question of faith is not involved.

It certainly affects the morals of the people, and if it affects the morals of the people, who are better qualified to decide a question like that than the men who have been trained to direct the morals of the people, whether they are Catholics or Protestants? There is another question in it which affects the faith of the people. Speaking for myself, and I think, speaking for a great number of people in this Assembly, there is one object proposed in this Bill in respect of which we have a vital interest. We are determined at all costs to prevent the campaign which is called by various names—contraception, race suicide, call it what you will. At all costs we as Catholics are determined to put that down. That itself is a question of faith—

On a point of order—


There are so many points of order.

I will ask you to rule that these references to different religious denominations are out of order.


I have already ruled that references to faith are out of order. References to morals are not out of order. I would ask the Senator to confine himself to the moral issue, and to the question of gentlemen in Holy Orders. It is very difficult for him in the circumstances. This is an amendment which I would rather not have on the paper, but there it is.

Do you admit that this amendment was also moved in the Dáil?


I do not know anything about that.

I assure you that it was.

I submit that you are not compelled to answer questions as to what happened in another Assembly.



I also appreciate what you have said, that it is rather difficult to develop an argument, having regard to the interruptions from various parts of the House. I was going to say that with us marriage is a sacrament, and that all that flows from marriage is sacred. Consequently this question of contraception, this question of race suicide——

Are we discussing that question? Is the Senator in order


I think it is not relevant.

Very well, then, if it is not relevant I will not pursue it. But this, at least, is relevant, that clergymen, whether they are Catholics or Protestants, have the ordinary rights of citizens. In the Act of 1920, which was passed over the heads of the Irish people, and which was assented to by the then Unionists of Ireland, there is a clause giving complete freedom of religion, and there is another clause authorising members of the Catholic Church and of the Protestant Church to be members of the Seanad of Ireland. Now, if that is the spirit which obtained in 1920, I think it is only reasonable to suggest that we have advanced somewhat, and that the spirit of 1929 ought to be more liberal still. I would recommend the House not to accept an amendment of this description, because it is a reminder to us that the clergy are proscribed. It would be a declaration of this Seanad——


You are narrowing your issue again, Senator. Senator Sir John Keane argued that no clergyman of any denomination ought to be on the Board, and you are narrowing it to a particular issue, which I would ask you not to do.

I desire to submit to your ruling, but would I not be entitled to elaborate the main question?


I think you might argue that clergymen are eminently fitted to act on such a Board. That would be a different line of argument altogether.

I accept your ruling, and therefore any observations I make must refer to clergymen of all denominations.



What I submit is that if you exclude clergymen of all denominations from this Board, you exclude the very men who are eminently suitable to determine the questions which will arise before it. Senator Sir John Keane seems to have rather an antiquated idea of what clergymen would be likely to do on a Board of this description. I believe there are clergymen on a somewhat similar Board that was set up in Dublin in relation to pictures, and I believe that no objection can be found to their rulings on questions of morals. I understand that they are eminently reasonable men. That is what I would expect, and that is what might be expected from anybody who understands or who has read the history of Christianity in days long past, before we had those differences which did not improve it or improve the people of the various sections into which it was divided. Is it not a question in respect to which clergymen have a special training, a special education, an education which broadens their minds instead of contracting their views, an education which makes them charitable to the weaknesses of human nature? I submit that it is. I submit that the experience which we have had of the rulings of another Board of a cognate kind is an assurance to us that if clergymen are selected on this Board they will act with prudence and with moderation. I do not ask that clergymen of any denomination should be put on the Board: what I do ask is that the prohibition against them should not be made part of the statute law of this land.

I rise to oppose this amendment, like the previous speaker, but for different reasons. To my mind, Senator Sir John Keane advanced only one argument which in any way might tend to bring us round to his point of view. He stated a fact, and that is that in respect of certain professions, boards, etc., there is a disability as against clergymen, and his case was that because there is a disability in certain respects we should extend the disability and apply it in respect of the membership of this Board. That is his only reason——

No, no. That is the Senator's only reason, but not my only reason.

That is my interpretation of his reason, and it is the only reason he gave in this matter. There are two extreme points of view, even in this country. One is the extreme point of view put forward by Senator Sir John Keane, that persons admitted to Holy Orders should not be eligible for membership of certain boards. There is the other point of view that prevails in this country, that there shall be no board set up which shall not be constituted of certain persons and a clergyman. Those are the two points of view. One says no clergyman, and the other says at least one clergyman. I think we should not make any concessions to extreme points of view. A very fair attitude has been enunciated by the Minister, and that is, that what we want is a board properly constituted. Senator Comyn said that a clergyman, by reason of his experience, his training, his general reading and his knowledge of human nature, is quite likely to possess those qualities which would fit him to be a sound, common-sense member of this Board. If the Minister, acting on the best advice that he can get, appoints a clergyman who, in his opinion, is a right man to sit on the Board, then surely there should be no possibility of refusing to make that man a member of the Board.

I also oppose this amendment, for exactly the same reasons as the last speaker. I do not think we should place any disability on any particular profession or class. We must leave it to the good sense and judgment of the Minister as to whether he shall or shall not include clergymen on the Board. I have had personal experience of a censorship board on which there were two clergymen, and I must say that they were as broadminded and as common-sense people as you could meet. There are puritanical people amongst the clergy of all denominations who would make very bad censors, but there are puritanical people among laymen probably in a far bigger proportion. We had an example in the speech of Senator Comyn——

I was never accused of being a puritan before.

——a series of rambling irrelevancies which I was amazed to hear from a member of the Irish Bar. As a humble member of the same religious persuasion as Senator Comyn, I certainly object to him making it a sort of laughing stock in the speech he delivered to-day. I do not think religion gains anything from latter-day saints or prophets who drag it in on every conceivable occasion. The amendment is an absolutely non-sectarian one from that point of view. It does not deal with the clergy of any particular church; it refers to the clergy of all churches, and it is utterly unfair to try to twist it for the purpose of making a cheap publicity speech——

I object to that statement.

——that will do no good whatever. I believe that the amendment should not be carried, and I appeal to the mover not to press it. We should allow the Minister as wide a field as he possibly can have. If he can get suitable clergymen to put on the Board, he will put them on, I presume, and if he thinks he can get better men outside the clergy he will use his own judgment also. But I do not think it would be wise, in the interests of the censorship, or in the interests of the effectiveness of the Censorship Board, that we should place a disability on anyone.


I am rather inclined to think that the amendment is against the spirit of what is in the Constitution, which says:—

Neither the Parliament of the Irish Free State nor the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall make any law so as either directly or indirectly to endow any religion or prohibit or restrict the free exercise thereof or give any preference or impose any disability on account of religious belief or religious status.

I think that this amendment deals with status and that there should be no disability thereon.

It is part of the business of the Chair to decide as to whether an amendment is constitutional or not?


It is.

I think that there is a Standing Order dealing with that which does not place upon you the duty of giving a final ruling in a matter of that kind.


It is my duty to point out to the House that I think it is against the Constitution.

But it is not incumbent on the House to accept it?


Oh, no.

Are we to take it that you are ruling it out of order?


No. I am pointing out that I think it is against the spirit of the Constitution.

Well, I agree with you in that respect. I think it would be wise for Senator Sir John Keane to withdraw the amendment, because I cannot see why clergymen, or any other class in the community, should be specially picked out. Surely of all classes in the community they are the men who are anxious to keep their minds clear of indecency and filth of all kinds. If we knew that, by reading the sort of books that are brought before the Censorship Board as immoral and indecent, they were saturating their minds with such filth—I maintain that no one can touch pitch without being defiled—I say it would be bad for the clergy and bad for those who put their trust in them as leaders. I very much doubt whether any clergyman who wishes to escape the temptations of the world would accept the position of censor. Look at the enormous number of those who seek seclusion from the world in monasteries. Why do they do that? To escape from the world and its temptations. I think it is invidious to say that clergymen are unfit to act as censors of publications. I think that of all men they are the most fit.

I think this very simple amendment does not mean the raising of all the constitutional and sectarian issues that have been referred to. Senator Sir John Keane desires to limit the choice of the Minister as to whom he might select to be proper persons to act on the Censorship Board. To my mind, the amendment is most undemocratic. It seeks to limit, not the Minister's field of selection, but his choice. My view is this, that you must not tie the Minister's hands. I believe it is the desire of the Oireachtas that the Minister should select the best people he can get to discharge this very onerous duty. If the Minister, in his wisdom and judgment, thinks that a clergyman of any denomination would be a fit and proper person to act on this Board, he is quite entitled to select one. Therefore, I do not think there is any need for a long discussion on this amendment. Most of us have made up our minds on it, and it is desirable, I think, that we should have a vote on it without any further discussion.

I wish to speak in support of the amendment. I know that it has not the least chance of being carried, but I have something to say about it which, I think, I ought to say. Having regard to the functions of this Board, I consider that the amendment is desirable, and for these reasons: that it is really much more difficult, in my opinion, for a clergyman, of whatever denomination, to act independently, and, if I may say so, unselfconsciously, on a Board of this character dealing with this particular kind of work, than it is for a layman. That is my view on the matter. I would not desire to see any clergyman of my Church in the position of a censor on the Board. It is for that reason I propose voting for the amendment.

As I do not want to give a silent vote on this, I wish to state briefly my views. I think it was exceedingly bad taste on the part of Senator Sir John Keane, in moving an amendment of this kind, to point out that anyone in Holy Orders is not fit to serve on a board of this sort. I agree with the Senators who have urged that this matter should be left entirely in the hands of the Minister. Surely the Minister will select the best type of person to serve on the Board. I suggest that those in Holy Orders, because of their education and training and their long study of matters of this kind, are quite capable of serving on the Board if the Minister so desires.

With the permission of the House, I desire to withdraw the amendment.

Section 3 agreed to.
Sections 4 and 5 agreed to.

I move amendment 9:

New section. Before Section 6 to insert a new section as follows:—

"6 (1). The Minister may by an order made under this sub-section recognise for the purpose of this Act any group or association of persons (in this Act referred to as a recognised association).

(2) The Minister may at any time revoke an order made by him under the foregoing sub-section and upon such order being revoked the recognised association to which such order relates shall cease to be a recognised association."

This amendment proposes to reintroduce into the Bill the old Section 6, which was deleted by the Dáil, and which aims at confining the right of complaint to associations recognised by the Minister. My object in bringing the amendment forward now is purely in the interests of the smooth and efficient working of the Bill. I have no concern for the associations as such, nor indeed, so far as I am aware, are the associations themselves much concerned in the subject. I think, so far as I can learn, some, at any rate, of them are pleased that this amendment was made by the Dáil. I do not know how true that is of all of them, but I can quite understand why it should be so, because the deletion of the provision reduces the responsibility that would devolve upon these bodies under the Bill, and proportionately lessens the expenses to which they would be put in regard to the purchase of books and so forth.

However, as I say, that does not concern me, nor does it concern the Seanad. Our concern should be, I take it, to secure the proper administration of the Act, the Oireachtas having decided to set up this Censorship Board, and to give it the best chance possible of working well and doing its work effectively. From what some Senators have said, and from what people have written on this Bill on the action of the Dáil in respect to this particular section, there would seem to be the idea that there was some deep principle involved. If there is, I confess that I have not been able to discover it. I hope, if there is a discussion on this amendment, that we will be told what the real principle involved is. If the amendment made by the Dáil disqualified the associations altogether and withdrew from them the right to make complaints, one could understand the attitude that has been taken up. It is believed in many quarters that that is what the Dáil did. Only within the last couple of days I saw a statement in an important paper which made it quite clear that the writer was under the impression that these recognised associations would not now be entitled to send in complaints. Of course, that is not the case at all. These associations are now in exactly the same position in regard to making complaints as they were in before. What the amendment has done has been to give the right, in addition to those associations, to individuals, and in that way, in my judgment, it greatly impairs the machinery of the Act. Every person in the country will now be entitled to forward complaints direct to the Minister. No doubt they will come up by the hundred. Goodness knows in what quantity they will come up. Many of them that will come up will be perfectly legitimate and of a proper kind, but a great many others of them, and indeed I fear the preponderating number that will come up, will be trivial and frivolous. These frivolous complaints will clog the work of the Department, which will have to deal with these complaints.

We all know a great many excellent and worthy people in the country to whom we would be slow to give a certificate of wisdom, broad-mindedness and tolerance, particularly on matters affecting morality, but these people are very often the most active people, and I believe that the greater proportion of the complaints that will come forward will come forward from them. The result will be that the officials in the Department will have to examine these complaints, and that the really serious complaints will be overlaid and delayed. All that will involve not only extra staff but extra expense in many ways upon the Government. Now, let us take the other picture at least as I visualise it and as intended by the Bill originally. All complaints will come to the Minister through a number of associations. I do not know how many associations the Minister had in mind to recognise. I should think that at first there would be a fair number. By that I mean probably about twenty. I do not know, but I am perfectly sure, that after a time the number would be greatly reduced, and that, say, at the end of twelve months, the Minister would not have to deal with more than six or eight associations. These associations would soon get to know the mind of the Censorship Board. They would learn what kind of book the Board was prepared to pass and what kind of book it was prepared to reject. They would not be spending money on sending up books of a kind that they knew had already been rejected. They would confine themselves to books that they believed the Board would consider indecent, and that it would consequently prohibit. In that way, you would get co-operation between these recognised associations and the Board that would produce a rapid and harmonious working of the whole system, and that would become of a very satisfactory kind —and I believe a much cheaper kind —than you are likely to have under the Bill as it stands. For these reasons I would urge the Seanad to consider favourably the reinstatement of this section.

I oppose the amendment. We discussed a few minutes ago an amendment which was intended to discriminate against a certain section of the citizens of this State, and the general feeling of the House was decidedly against any such discrimination. The Senator's amendment proposes to discriminate against the bulk of the citizens of the State and to select a few elements in the State who will become recognised and, if I may say so, privileged bodies within the State for this particular purpose. It may be said that there is nothing in the section which would prevent any individual or any unrecognised association sending in complaints. The original intention, as the Bill was first drafted, was to refuse access to the Board to any but recognised associations. I presume that the intention of the Senator in trying to insert this provision regarding recognised associations is to prohibit access to the Board by other than recognised associations. If that is not the case, then there is no value in the proposal at all, because if the recognised association and the non-recognised association and the individual can have equal access to the Board to make a complaint, the value of recognition is nil. So that we may assume that the value of the Senator's proposal is to take certain associations, approve of them and discriminate for them as against the rest of the community. It seems to me that that is quite antagonistic to the spirit of opposition that was manifested to the amendment recently withdrawn that had been moved by Senator Sir John Keane. The opponents of that amendment cannot, with any consistency, approve of this discrimination by way of privilege to certain recognised associations. The probable effects of such recognition would be, as has been pointed out, to give a particular status to certain groups of people and associations of people over and above the rest of the community or any other association or group of people who happened not to be selected. That, I think, is an undesirable development, and therefore I propose to vote against the amendment.

I am opposed to the amendment because the effect of it would be to group together certain bands of people whose business it would be to poke their noses into all sorts of literature and find out whether, in their opinion, such literature was moral or immoral. I presume that if the people of the country are left to themselves to go into this question they will not be too ready to appeal to the Board unless they have a very strong reason for doing so. If certain bodies of people are instructed to go into this question and are told to go round and see what they can find out they will be always engaged in that sort of thing. They will do what they are told, and if they fail to do it then there will be a body of opinion crying out: "Why do you not object to this particular book?" I think that, on the whole, it is better to leave this matter as it is in the Bill at present. Under the Bill at present everyone is free to object and make a complaint if they wish to do so.

I am going to vote against this amendment. I think that the Bill was very substantially improved in the Dáil by the dropping of the section dealing with recognised associations. I cannot see what advantage is going to be gained by the reinstatement of that section in the Bill. I believe that these associations would be a prolific cause of mischief. I think that the proposer of the amendment should have given us some indication of what the composition of those associations was likely to be, and from what sections of the community the members would be drawn. He should also have told us what qualifications they would require to have before they were sanctioned as recognised associations. I read the debate which took place in the Dáil on this matter, but I failed to glean any information as to how it was proposed these associations should be formed. I can see a very considerable danger of busybodies getting together and thinking that they would acquire a certain reputation for godliness by taking up this class of work, and meeting together from time to time to register their complaints.

I can imagine a meeting of such people taking place in the course of a couple of months, and of the Chairman addressing them somewhat in this fashion: "Well, now, ladies and gentlemen, three or four months have elapsed since we condemned a book, and if we do not condemn one soon we will be asked why we are in existence at all, and, therefore. I think we had better condemn something." I have here a document which seems to me to be typical of the kind of body that might possibly be a recognised association. They had a meeting. There were on it very eminent gentlemen, very respectable men of considerable status in life. They condemned and ordered the withdrawal from a certain library of a certain list of books. The list is here, but I do not propose to reveal the names of the books or the names of the people concerned. Certainly, if certain of the names on this list would not warrant such a body being recognised as one of those associations, I do not know what would.

On a previous amendment I spoke of the importance of the functions to be exercised by the Censorship Board. There is one point that bears to some extent on that aspect of the question. It arises out of a suggestion made by Senator Hooper, that there would be hundreds of complaints sent in and that many of them would be frivolous. I think that the danger of frivolous complaints being sent in would be increased rather than diminished by the existence of those associations. I think also that some steps should be taken to minimise the possibility of frivolous complaints being made. I would like to know from the Minister whether he would consider accepting a suggestion that all such complaints against a publication should be accompanied by a fee, the fee to be returned if it was found the complaint was well-founded and to be forfeited if it was found that the complaint was without justification. I can see this kind of situation arising: Somewhere in the country, A produces a publication. B, who has some kind of a difference with A, and who is of a vindictive temperament, decides that he will bring A under some sort of a cloud by circulating the rumour to the effect that he has produced a scandalous publication, and he sends on a complaint. The complaint may be utterly unfounded, but before that is made clear very considerable injury may have been done to the person concerned.

I suggest it might be well worth considering having some sort of potential penalty attached to the sending in of frivolous complaints. I think that possibly that is less likely to happen under an association, but I certainly believe that the recognised associations would not help the working of this Act. Rather, I am afraid, they would become rallying centres for cranks and busybodies, instead of facilitating the effective working of the Censorship Board. In fact the position might be this: that they would bring the whole spirit behind this measure into disrepute. One of the objections that Senator Hooper has made to the Bill as it stands had reference to this matter of the sending in of frivolous complaints. On the Second Reading of the Bill, the Minister pointed out that unless the person sending in the complaint also sends a copy of the book or paper of which he complains, then his complaint will not be dealt with. I think that there are very few people who are going to go to the expense—at least I do not think it is going to happen very frequently—of purchasing expensive books to send in frivolous complaints, unless there is some particular reason for it, such as I referred to in the hypothetical case I mentioned a few moments ago. There is one thing certain, and it is this, that if an individual sends in a complaint there is a greater possibility that he will have read the publication of which he complains than that the members of a recognised association would have read the publication if a complaint had come from them. As I understand it, it is not necessary for the person sending on a complaint with regard to a publication to state that he has read it. I hope, before the members of the Censorship Board condemn a publication, that they will have to go to the trouble of reading it, and that three or four of them will not depend upon the judgment of one of their colleagues to arrive at a decision on the matter. I am going to vote against this proposed new section. I think that if it were embodied in the Bill that it would be a fruitful source of mischief. I think that the Bill has been immensely strengthened by its deletion in the Dáil, and I hope that the Seanad will not restore it.

I think, when we are discussing these matters, that we ought not to go to extremes on either side. To my mind, Senator Milroy has gone to extremes in his condemnation of this amendment. When he talked about every set of busybodies in the country getting together and forming themselves into an association, he knows that he was talking utter nonsense.

I beg your pardon, I do not know anything of the kind.


Senator Farren seems to think that you do, and we will leave it at that.

The Senator did not say that. He simply made the allegation that I was.

In the first place, he assumes that the responsible Minister is going to recognise every party of busybodies in the country that asks to be recognised as an association. One thing that would make up my mind in favour of this amendment was the statement of the Minister on the Second Reading, when he said that, in his opinion, for the smooth working of the Bill it would be far better in the interests of the community that this section had not been deleted. He gave what appeared to me good reasons why the section dealing with recognised associations ought not to have been deleted in the Dáil. As far as I understand, the reason given by the Minister is that there would be recognised associations, and I am assuming that the Minister would not give recognition to any association other than an association of competent persons, and not every set of busybodies. What the Minister has in mind is—and I am assuming that no responsible Minister would recognise any association other than those composed of responsible people for doing work such as the Censorship Board will be called upon to do—that there would have been a preliminary examination by an association of responsible persons before a complaint came to the Minister, in order to obviate the sending forward of frivolous complaints by everybody acting on his own responsibility.

If you are to confine the busybodies to a recognised association you will have to eliminate some of the nonsense that would be carried on. The Minister's object is quite clear. Any association claiming to be a recognised one must be one that satisfies the Minister as an association of responsible people for the smooth working of the Act. That would prevent all the busybodies stepping in and giving an untold amount of work to the Minister and his Department. It is better that these associations of responsible people should have a preliminary examination, and that there should be a prior form of censorship before the association sent objectionable literature to the Minister for his consideration. That is a sound proposition. It is not a proposition for giving recognition to sectarian or other organisations. I take it what the Minister had in mind is that an association of responsible people would be recognised as an association to send complaints to the Minister with regard to objectionable literature. I think that for the smooth working of this Act this amendment should be accepted.

Did the Minister suggest that these recognised associations will be, in effect, a series of preliminary censorship boards?


I do not think that is pertinent.

I did not suggest that, but I did suggest that any association of responsible people that would be recognised as an association by the Minister would not send on any frivolous complaints, and that any matter would have received their careful consideration before a complaint was sent to the Board.

I would like if we were given some definition of what in this connection constitutes a group or an association. It is a point that calls for explanation.

It appears to me there is nothing in the Bill defining who is to make a complaint. The opening words in Section 6, which is the section in which "complaint" is mentioned, are "whenever a complaint is duly made." It does not say by whom the complaint is made, but I believe it is generally understood that it is made by an individual.

May I point out that if this amendment is carried there is a further amendment saying by whom the complaint is made?


This is a question which should be delayed until we come to Section 6. We must preserve some decorum.

As I understand it, we are on an amendment which introduced the question of an association. What I wanted to point out is, there is no definition as to who should make the complaint. It is quite open to any association, whether recognised or not, to make a complaint, and the introduction of this amendment by Senator Hooper is quite unnecessary, because what it seeks is inherent in the Bill as it at present stands.


It alters the character of the Bill.

If Senator Hooper's amendment is carried, and the further amendment is carried, recognised associations will have the sole right to make complaints.

For that reason I oppose the amendment. I think it is highly undemocratic to cut out the individual who must go to the trouble of reading a book. I do not think you will find a very large number of what is called busybodies reading books for the sake of sending them to the Minister. I think if there are associations interested in the work they will continue to work, and they can work through an individual member of their association and give their views on all points. The last amendment, that the Board shall consist of five instead of nine, was carried principally on the suggestion of certain Senators that it would be very difficult to get nine competent censors. Here you have the same people asking that these associations ought to be selected because they are competent as minor censors. I think there is a great deal of difference in these points of view. If there is a difficulty in getting five competent people for the Board how are you going to get twenty associations of competent people?

This is a very important amendment and requires careful consideration before we vote on it. I fail to discover, like Senator Milroy, any indication or instance of the type of association that is going to be recognised. Surely, the Minister himself is not going to establish new associations for the purpose of acting as felon-setters? If he is not, I suppose some of the associations which are active at the present time are to be recognised. I have a yellow handbill here from one of the most active of them. I take it that will be one of the associations that will claim his recognition. If it is, heaven help the Censorship Board and the Minister if that is the type of association that is going to be recognised. If I as a private citizen find a book—I do not go looking for books like some of those latter day saints who make it part of their lives, but if I accidentally come across a bad book and I feel it my duty to draw the attention of the Censorship Board to it through the Minister, why should I be compelled to join one of these associations that may impose all sorts of objectionable conditions on me before I join in regard to contributions and pledges and restrictions on my individual liberty? In other words, we are setting up a court of first instance to try a book before it is submitted to the Minister, and the Minister may have no control over the composition of these organisations, or over their rules, or the type of persons they are going to admit to the organisations.

If he is going to have that sort of function he is going to extend his activities ad infinitum, for he will have to regulate the composition of the associations, the subscriptions to them and the type of persons to be admitted to membership. He can make them proper statutory organisations only when he does that and exercises proper control over them and inquires into their whole work. It is a most undemocratic thing to give recognition to an assembly composed of scandal-mongers. Every sorehead and long nose in the community will find his way into these associations and will wallow in literary filth. This induces associations to make people read books that they would not read if it were not for these assemblies of scandal-mongers, and who put temptation in your way that would not have come in your way if not brought before your eyes. I think it is absolutely dangerous to set up these organisations. I think in establishing these organisations you are creating a sort of immoral bacilli that will gradually filter through into the community. I hope the Seanad will take a statesmanlike attitude like that of the other House and turn down these organisations.

I speak subject to correction, but it seems to me that it is a very unusual, if not almost an unprecedented thing, to set up associations with regard to law in this kind of way, excluding an individual. Apart from that, I think that to do so would give a special status to the puritanical and busy-body element, which, of all things, I detest. I do not see why they should be given a special status in this particular case. I entirely associate myself with what Senator O'Farrell has said on the subject. I trust the amendment will not be passed, and that this right of complaint will be left to individuals and not merely to associations.

I am opposed to Senator O'Farrell's line of argument. He states that individuals who group themselves together to do a certain thing, that is, to carry out the preliminary work of censorship, are felon-setters. A condition of things has existed in this country up to the present which we admit to be wrong, and our admission of the fact that it is wrong is proved by the introduction of legislation to remedy the condition of things. Certain people in the past gave attention to the matter. They acted irregularly, in what we are now trying to do to regularise. That Senator O'Farrell should refer to the people who will do that as felon-setters is peculiar. Senator Bagwell referred to these people as narrow-minded and puritanical busybodies, while Senator Milroy applied some other term. As individuals, they have a right to complain to the Board, but when they change in their capacity as individuals to recognised associations there is a transformation implied, according to the arguments put forward. That I cannot understand. I am prepared to put forward a proposal that in order to stop frivolous complaints a certain sum of money should be forwarded with a complaint, and that it should be forfeited if the complaint is a frivolous one.

I listened to the Minister's statement that individuals who wanted to make a complaint with regard to books should forward several copies of the books. If an individual has to forward several copies of first editions of fairly expensive books, that is forfeit enough, and individuals are not likely to incur that expense with regard to these books. If you want to minimise frivolous complaints do it through regular associations. If for no other reason, complaints will be fewer in number. I regard literary periodicals of a certain type as liquid which is not very pure. When the Minister, as the analyst, comes to certify that it is pure, you have certain filter beds, and the first filter bed would be the recognised associations or groups. Is it not logical that the first filter bed should be of rough strata? The further process should follow.

There are certain weekly papers on sale in our cities and country towns and villages. There may be a paper of the "Ally Sloper" type, and it may contain an article near the border-line, and the individual busybodies will send a few thousand copies of that newspaper to the Minister. What machinery has the Minister set up to deal with that condition of things? Is he to set up a new Department to deal with that? Is he to leave them unopened and unanswered? If this thing is to work effectively it surely is incumbent on the Minister to set up a staff to deal with each and every complaint. If the Minister receives thousands of letters of complaints he must give due regard to each and every letter containing a complaint. I think there should be between the Minister and the periodical or book a filtering bed, such as a recognised association. There are associations of the kind in existence and they have done good work.

There is no use in Senator O'Farrell citing extreme associations, and attacking associations which did good work and which were attempting to remedy a condition of things which legislation is now attempting to do. If individuals wish to bring complaints before the Minister there is nothing to prevent them forming a group. I think what the Minister will do is, he will prepare a schedule of books that conform to his requirements in that respect, and will be recognised by the Minister. I suggest that the right way to bring complaints would be through those organisations.

The Senator who has just spoken referred to certain organisations or groups of people who work without legal powers. I think I am right in saying their activities were confined to periodical publications and that they were never in a position to deal with books. Those organisations brought pressure to bear on newspapers, but that is a very small part of the subject. I do not agree with Senator O'Farrell as to the importance of this matter. I see no objection to leaving the thing as it is. I believe this is the way out, and I believe it is the way it will work in practice. Very few individuals will make complaints to the Minister, but I think it is wrong that they should be debarred from doing so. I cannot see individuals making complaints. What I see is that individuals will go to organisations, or people connected with organisations, like the Catholic Truth Society and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the Girls' Friendly Society, when they want to make a complaint, and these organisations will use their machinery in regard to the matter. What will happen in practice is that 90 per cent. of these complaints will come through the organisations. In that event the whole machinery will be much simpler, so why not leave it alone?

The objection I have to the proposed amendment is that it has very little reference to the characteristics of the people who will compose an organisation. They may, or may not be busybodies. They may, or may not be active seekers after the prurient. I am going to assume that they are the best qualified and most decent-minded and careful sifters of the decent thing and know how to do the thing properly and in order. But it has been pointed out in the course of this debate that what is going to happen is that the censorship is practically the trial of a book that is liable to corrupt public morals. It is proposed that the court of first instance, as has been mentioned by Senator O'Farrell, is to be a body which the Minister himself appoints, and about which there is not laid down any rule by the Oireachtas which is able to give a character to that book, whether ultimately the censor determines against it or not. If I object to a book and think it ought to be ruled out, I am bound to send that objection to a particular association, and that particular association says: "In our opinion that book is bad." Then to the extent of its power it is denouncing that book as guilty, and the fact that it has got a verdict of guilty is against the book.

If there is going to be an association of that kind, if a court of first instance is to be set up, let it be set out in the Bill, and let the character of the association be set out in the Bill, just as we set out the requirements in respect of the Board; but when you are asking that the Minister shall have power to say that this is an association or group that is qualified to give judgment in the first instance in respect of a charge against the book, then I think it is going beyond what is desirable. It is giving the Minister, in the first instance, powers beyond what he should have, and it is putting that association in a special relation to the public, though the public has no authority over it. I think the case against an association is quite strong enough without any reference to the characteristics that might rule the activities of the association. I hope the Seanad will stand by the decision of the Dáil and refuse to put up those associations.

Senator O'Hanlon argued that the opponents of this Bill and the opponents of these organisations are illogical in their arguments, because, he said, while we had an objection to busybodies in an organisation, we had no objection to them as busybodies in their individual capacities. I have a great objection to individual busybodies, but I have a greater objection to associated busybodies. I think that giving this kind of status to associations in this particular connection is likely to make these associations more active as busybodies, and to receive more complaints than they do. There is a point of difference between an individual busybody and recognising them collectively as an association in which they get special status. The recognition of these associations by the State, to my mind, is wrong.

I would just like to draw attention to what this amendment is going to do. It says: "The Minister may by an order made under this sub-section recognise for the purpose of this Act any group or association of persons." I want to emphasise the word "any." We are working in the dark. Before we commit ourselves to the principle of the association, we are entitled to know what exactly is the kind of association that the Minister has in mind.


The amendment says "any group or association." I do not think you can go further than that.

As far as I am individually concerned, it is not sufficiently definite. It conveys nothing to me. It might be a group of people called by public meeting, it might be two or three people; it might be some existing organisation that has been called into being for a very different purpose. Since I spoke last, I have got an indication from two of the defenders of this amendment as to what the function of these associations is going to be, although they themselves do not know exactly what it will be. Senator O'Farrell first, and Senator O'Hanlon next, made it very clear that these recognised associations were to be preliminary censorship boards.


I think Senator O'Farrell was against the amendment.

Senator Farren. They are so intimately associated in most things that it is very hard to distinguish them. We can see with what enthusiasm these amateur censors would get to work. We can see that while the matter was under consideration by the Censorship Board, the authentic body, this preliminary body, having registered its judgment, and naturally having come to the conclusion that the publications were unfit to be read, would, even pending the decision of the Censorship Board, do its utmost to prevent the sale and circulation of these things. It would be anticipating the judgment of the Board. While the matter is so indefinite as it is, until we get some idea as to what is to be the composition, the basis and the function of these recognised associations, until we get beyond the stage of "any group or association," I do not think any man with any responsible outlook can conscientiously support such a proposal. I think the words "any group or association" may have been an oversight on the part of the drafter of the amendment, but still that is the amendment, and I think we should hesitate before committing ourselves to the recognition of any group or any association.

Will I be allowed to follow up this discussion by directing attention to what we are really doing in this case by a reference to the next amendment?


The next amendment is the really important one, as far as I can see.

It reads: "Section 6, sub-section (1), after the word "act" in line 38, to insert the words "by a recognised association." The section will then read: "Whenever a complaint is duly made under this Act by a recognised association." That is what we are going to be asked to do when we deal with this amendment. What Senator Johnson and Senator O'Farrell said seems to be absolutely right. We are putting very great powers, which I do not like, into the hands of the Minister, which is not democratic—a word which covers such a multitude of things. I am in favour of the Minister having a great many of the powers that are sought here. In one part of the debate I thought we need not have discussed it as we were quite willing not to interfere with the Minister there. If we pass this amendment, as Senator Milroy said, we are giving powers to bodies about which we know nothing. Any kind of body may be got together, but they have to be recognised by the Minister. Therefore, the Minister will appoint these bodies, or approve of their constitution, and the conditions under which they will act. But having approved of them they will be the source, and the only source, through which complaints will come.


Not by the present amendment.

There are two amendments. I think there is no use in passing one amendment without the other, and I think Senator Hooper will agree with that.

That is the whole object of it.


They hang together.

With your leave I will discuss them together.


Very well.

The House must have the second amendment in mind when discussing the first one. Looking at the Minister's powers it will be seen that he has the right to limit all complaints to certain associations which he will recognise, and to which he alone will give power. They will be the only bodies through which complaints will come in order to go before another body which he himself again is appointing. Supposing the second body, the Censorship Board, chooses to disagree, you have two bodies which the Minister himself has appointed disagreeing. Objections to books or publications that come from the ordinary public are not attended to in that way at all. They are perfectly free expressions of opinion by the ordinary public, and I imagine that in approving of this Bill both Houses want that. They want the people to act. They do not want to establish a purely Government arrangement, by which the Minister at the head of affairs appoints a body of censors and appoints bodies throughout the country who are to send up complaints to the Board. That is the proposal before us, and I hold it is directly against the principle that the two Houses, as far as I have read the discussions, meant to establish, which is that the Irish people want to put an end to this evil literature, that every citizen has the right to send up whatever he thinks is wrong for investigation by one body, the selection of which we leave to the Minister. But I hold that when we impose on the Minister the duty of appointing other bodies below the Board and take away the right from the public, we are conferring on the Minister rights which might easily be greatly abused. There is no doubt about that. It is a power which I think the Seanad does not mean to give, and certainly the Dáil did not mean to give it, because they put it out and I think recognised the full weight of what they were doing. I believe the Seanad would be acting extremely wisely in guarding the public from a weapon which might easily be used for very bad purposes.

I agree with every word that Senator Jameson said. I do not want details of these recognised associations, because the principle alone is sufficiently objectionable. It is the most monstrous proposal that has ever been made in this country. In this context I recall what was said by Provost Mahaffy when a friend complained to him of the autocracy of the Czar and the knouting of his subjects. He said: "My dear fellow, if the Czar does not knout them they will knout themselves." The proposal is that we should make use of our recently-won liberty to fill every village and hamlet with little literary pimps who will be "recognised." We all know the people who lay themselves out to be self-appointed moralists, greasy-eyed little fellows with a sensitive conscience and a strong stomach for drink.

The details cannot be put before the House, but every village will have a "recognised" censor of literature. We were confronted with the difficulty even to get nine men to act as censors, but it is proposed now that everyone in the ten thousand villages in Ireland should appoint himself a censor. We do not want that kind of thing, because there would be no end to these men's capacity for moral felon-setting. They will turn into political organisations. It is quite democratic enough evidently, if this lamentable Bill is to go through, to allow everyone to have something to say to the Minister, but we should not allow people to grow Klu Klux Klansmen at the expense of their fellow-countrymen. We have had several attempts made already by individuals to exalt themselves morally at the expense of others. That should be scotched at once. I am surprised at it. It shows the supineness to which we have sunk when we can envisage such a state of affairs in this country. I never heard the like of it. I hope the House will concur with the Dáil. The Bill was foisted on the House because there was an incontrovertible subject introduced, the subject of contraception, and I suggest that on that have been erected all the arguments against books. If the Bill were really not duplex it should have directed itself solely against this contraceptive literature and nobody could object. Goodness knows we have not very many books in the country, which has the lowest reading public, I suppose, in modern Europe. The Censorship Bill will only stimulate people's curiosity and not their literary activities. But that each village in Ireland should have a literary pimp produced to form round himself a society to be "recognised" is highly invidious. Even the three well-recognised charitable societies would be sufficiently unwelcome, because this is, in effect, a dividing of the public against itself. We will have the condition of things that existed in Scotland in the 18th century, when every village had a Holy Willie.

Apart from the denunciation of the associations, which we can all evaluate for ourselves, which would seem to me to be extremely unfair and exaggerated, the main argument against this amendment is that it is undemocratic. I cannot agree that it is in any way seriously undemocratic. The individual will still have the right to take action in regard to any book or publication of which he complains. He will still be entitled to send in a complaint, not to the Minister but to one of the associations that may be recognised under this amendment. It does not seem to me that that is any great invasion of the right of the citizen. Similar invasions are made day by day in many other directions. It is the right of the citizen, I suppose, if he has a complaint to make to the Minister about any other matter to go and see him. Does he go and see him? If he is able he gets an introduction. If he does not get that he goes to him through an organisation. Day after day the Minister is receiving deputations. That is really what it amounts to in this case—instead of deputations coming in, the organisation can send up complaints. Senator Johnson thinks that instead of having a preliminary filtering by the association the Minister should set up another filter, a lower filter, through which complaints would have to pass rather than to pass through the association. Of course that would be a possibility, but it would be a very costly possibility. The whole object of this amendment, as I explained, was to simplify the procedure and to cheapen it. If the Minister were to set up the filter or court which as Senator Johnson suggested——

On a point of explanation. I certainly did not advocate the setting up of a new filter. I thought I pointed out that that is what the amendment proposed to do —to set up a new filter, without any power of control from the Oireachtas.

I quite agree that that is not what the amendment proposes—an unofficial filter—but I understood Senator Johnson to recommend that instead of an unofficial filter there should be an official one.

That if there was to be one it should be an official one.

That is what I am arguing against. I say that that would add to the expense of the measure.

I am against it, too.

Our aim should be, once we provide the machinery, to make it as simple and as cheap as possible. There was a great deal of talk about busybodies, and perhaps I may have mentioned the word myself. My whole idea was to lessen the number of individual busybodies, that if busybodies were to be active they should be dealt with in a body, that they should be forced to act through a body which, though it might contain other busybodies, would not contain busybodies exclusively. There are a great many sane people in these associations, bad as they are represented to be by some Senators, and one would hope that their sanity would, at any rate, be a leaven to the fanaticism of the busybodies. The great objection that was raised—and I think Senator Jameson was very strong upon it, too—was that this amendment proposed to give the Minister the right to appoint and organise these associations. It does not do anything of the kind. It gives him the power to recognise them, to say that any complaints sent up by these organisations will be received and sent on to the Censorship Board. He does not propose, as far as I know, to set up any organisation. An organisation that exists now or that may be formed in the future will be entitled to recognition from him, and probably he, having investigated the constitution of the body, seeing what strength it has and what its character is, will grant that recognition if he chooses.

I do not think I am represented fairly in that.


If you wish to make a personal explanation you may do so.

My point was that the Minister alone is responsible for the recognition of these societies, and therefore they will be appointed by the Minister.

I object to the word "appointment." That is what I was criticising. He does not appoint them. He does recognise them.

He approves of them.

Senator Gogarty spoke about pimps, moral felon-setters, and fanatics of that kind. Well, it is to deal with these people that this amendment has been introduced. As the Bill stands now the portion that refers to complaints is a charter for pimps, a charter for cranks, and a charter for fanatics. My proposal is to lessen the number of cranks, to weed them out before they get close enough to the Censorship Board.

It could hardly be called a charter for cranks, but it will make organisations in the country. My objection was that organisations would be created.

It is a charter to the individual crank. It is for that reason that I think the procedure should be simplified and cheapened as far as possible, and that this Board of Censors, which will be giving its services free, should have its work made as easy as possible and not be flooded out with complaints from everybody in the country.

Everybody in the country must send up books if they make complaints.

I would like to say a few words on this matter, because while this amendment has been attacked from many angles the only person who seemed to know what he was talking about was Senator Jameson. Senator O'Farrell tried to keep his feet on the ground. Senator Johnson jumped considerably higher above the real facts at issue, and Senator Gogarty seemed to get right up in the moon, or somewhere very near it. What is the proposal before us? It simply is this—and Senator Jameson was the only one who recognised it —that the number of prosecutors of a book shall be limited—prosecutors, not judges. That was where Senator Johnson was absolutely wrong, and where Senator O'Farrell was almost as bad. Senator Johnson talked about the giving of judgment in the first instance. There is no giving of judgment. There is preferring a charge, and the difference between preferring a charge and giving a judgment is the greatest difference on earth.

Returned for trial.

It is not returned for trial. It is simply making the charge, and nothing more than the charge.

The person who represents the association is making the charge.

Simply the charge is made, and the charge is preferred by those bodies, if they come into existence, but no judgment whatsoever is given by them. It is said that it is not democratic because these charges must be made by associations and cannot be made by individuals under this proposal. Senator Jameson's objection is that that will unduly limit the number of charges that may be made; in other words, that by appointing persons who will make no charges the Bill can be made by the Minister perfectly nugatory. Of course any powers may be abused. Is there any danger of associations being such that the Bill can be made nugatory, that no charges may be made? That seemed to be Senator Jameson's point.

That was not my point.

That was absolutely different from the point made by other Senators, who said that the number of charges would be greatly increased, that people would go nosing around to make charges. That is quite inconsistent; the arguments put forward from one side and the arguments put forward from the other against this measure are destructive one of the other. What will happen if these associations do come into existence? The power of the individual to make a charge is not taken away. If the individual wishes to make a charge he brings it to the association instead of sending it direct to the Minister. You may say that the association can turn it down. So it can. It has been said that it is very wrong that an association appointed by the Minister should be able to turn a charge down, but the Minister can do that himself. I do not see any amendment to the section to the effect that the Minister shall have no power to turn down a complaint. In the first place, it is an additional protection for the owner of the book. It will prevent, as anybody who really thinks the matter out will see, frivolous charges from being made. There will be persons who will join recognised associations, and those persons will have a certain responsibility placed upon them. They will have to discharge that responsibility. Now, nothing kills cranks and all that type of people we have heard about as much as responsibility. The man who has no responsibility may go wild, but the man who has a certain amount of responsibility placed upon him will be quietened down a great deal. These associations as a whole will have responsibilities placed upon them; they will have a name and a reputation to keep up. All that will prevent them from making frivolous charges. They will not consist of individuals in villages, as Senator Gogarty seemed to think.

The Senator referred to something that happened in Scotland on one occasion. That might happen here, but those would be individuals and not associations. Nor could anyone visualise associations established in each village. An association would have to be something catering for a large area, and naturally associations will not be allowed to overlap and do the same work. That would be rather absurd. Attacks have been made on existing associations. I will assume, purely for the sake of argument, that the existing associations remain exactly as they are and that they are bad and pernicious. How is this amendment affected by that? It is said that things are unpleasant now and that this amendment will not improve them. That is the furthest you can go. Assume for the sake of argument that an association is bad. How is that affected by this amendment, which says that the number of associations shall be narrowed down and have regular responsibilities placed upon them? It does not follow that the associations should be existing associations. I should rather hope that a reasonable number of new associations would be formed, and that they, as well as, possibly, some of the existing associations, would take up this work and regard it as a serious work, and that in the carrying out of it the State commanded the co-operation of all serious-minded social workers. As I said in my Second Reading speech, just as you can get first-class, sensible social workers doing ordinary social work in Dublin, Cork, and various other places in Ireland, you can get exactly the same class of social workers to do this work. It is absolutely wrong to say that a social worker is a crank, that a person who takes an interest in the welfare of his neighbour is an absolute crank, that he must be a busybody, that a charitable visitor who goes around and gives out money, working in some charitable organisation, is naturally a busybody, sticking his nose into other people's affairs, and that nobody can do social work unless he is inspired merely as a busybody, sticking his nose into other people's affairs. That is not my experience, and I am perfectly certain it is not correct.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 15; Níl, 23.

  • Alfred Byrne.
  • Michael Comyn, K.C.
  • Mrs. Costello.
  • John C. Counihan.
  • James Dillon.
  • J.C. Dowdall.
  • Sir Thomas Grattan Esmonde.
  • Thomas Farren.
  • P.J. Hooper.
  • Patrick W. Kenny.
  • Thomas Linehan.
  • James MacKean.
  • Joseph O'Connor.
  • Michael F. O'Hanlon.
  • Thomas Toal.


  • Alfred Byrne.
  • Michael Comyn, K.C.
  • Mrs. Costello.
  • John C. Counihan.
  • James Dillon.
  • J.C. Dowdall.
  • Michael Fanning.
  • P.J. Hooper.
  • Cornelius Kennedy.
  • Thomas Linehan.
  • Seán E. MacEllin.
  • James MacKean.
  • Seán Milroy.
  • Michael F. O'Hanlon.
  • Bernard O'Rourke.
  • Thomas Toal.
Amendment declared lost.
Question proposed: "That Section 5, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

On this section I wish to draw attention to a matter which it is obvious will have to be changed. I suppose it will be changed on the Report Stage. It seems to me that sub-section (3) ought to be deleted altogether. I do not know whether I would be in order at this stage to move an amendment to delete it.


No. You could move the deletion of the section altogether, but nothing else, as you have not given notice.

There will be certain consequential amendments, but what form they should take is not clear at the moment. I think in the Dáil the Bill would be recommitted if consequential amendments were to be made, or they might be made on the Report Stage.

On a point of order. With great respect, surely when a motion is before the House that a section stand part of the Bill a Senator can speak in favour of it, or against it, before it is formally put. As a point of order I suggest that one can then discuss what is in the actual clause.


In the section as amended.

Either as amended or as in the Bill, when it is proposed that it stand part. My point was raised in view of what Senator Johnson said. I suggest respectfully that he was entitled to speak on the motion. It is provided in the Standing Orders that when motions are proposed in this manner a Senator can discuss the clause, because the motion is that it stand part.

I do not think there is any difference between the Cathaoirleach and myself, because the Cathaoirleach merely informed me that it would not be in order at this stage to move the deletion of sub-section (3), a ruling which I quite accept. I did make the point, on the motion that Section 5 stand part, that at some later stage sub-section (3) would have to be amended, it not deleted entirely.


On the Report Stage.

Might I suggest that you can always recommit in respect of a particular clause, or you can amend the clause?


You can recommit on the Report Stage if you want to. I am very grateful to Senator Douglas for his suggestion.

I just put it forward for your consideration.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

took the Chair.

SECTION 6 (1).

Whenever a complaint is duly made under this Act to the Minister to the effect that a book or a particular edition of a book is indecent or obscene or advocates the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or the use of any method, treatment or appliance for the purpose of such prevention or such procurement, the Minister may refer such complaint to the Board.

I move:—

Section 6, sub-section (1). After the word "book" in line 40 to insert the words, "the first edition of which was published after the 31st December, 1927."

This is an amendment which I consider—and I hope the Seanad will agree with me—is considerably more important than the one we have been discussing at very considerable length. Let us try if we can to visualise what will happen if you throw open to the operations of this Bill the whole of literature from the Creation, because that is what will happen as the Bill now stands. I believe that anybody who looks for undesirable literature studies booksellers' catalogues, where you see certain books at a rather high price marked "curious," and I believe that most of these books contain indecent or pornographic suggestions. No ordinary person knows anything about these books.

There are a few nasty-minded people who specialise in pornographic literature, but otherwise the interest in them is entirely among the underworld. You are now going to bring the underworld to the surface, in fact I might almost say that you are going to bring the women of the streets into society, and you will have all these books dug out by these associations, or by individuals working through them, books which have been absolutely forgotten, some of them, I have no doubt, very improper, that appeal to certain people, impelled by the lure of the forbidden, who want to find out what is in these books. Is that desirable? If the House accepts this amendment it would deal with practically all current scandal. Current scandal is always with regard to recently published books. It is ephemeral, soon forgotten, and if you stop it you will have concentrated upon the real source of the trouble, whereas if you allow the Bill to operate as it stands you bring under it a great deal of this murky literature, coarse stuff, some of which may be classical, and make yourselves utterly ridiculous by prohibiting some classics which undoubtedly are indecent, which are in certain places and which stay there, against which society is already quite amply protected without a ridiculous Bill like this. I presume that a certain number of people have read Boccaccio's "Decameron," and I presume you are going to publish it broadcast that that is an improper book. What is going to happen when all literature becomes prohibited? It would then be an offence for anybody to own these books.

I venture to say that some of those who have libraries will not know what they have got in their libraries. I remember that when I was a boy I was told that I must not look at the top shelf, that all the bad books were put up there. I do not know whether I looked there or not. They would be very bad books, books the titles of which are liable to be published and to be known to everybody who chooses to pay for the Official Gazette, and they will be read and wallowed in according to people's tastes. I suggest to the House seriously that you will do great harm, because there is great danger in this Bill that you will give free advertisements. Confine your free advertisements at least to more or less current literature, which is, in effect, the only literature that does real harm now— the modern novel of a bad kind. I do not want to say anything more on the subject, except that I have been misrepresented by certain people who said that I wished to apply this limitation also to birth control books. That is not my intention. It is quite clear that this retrospective limitation would only apply to indecent books, and there is no limitation whatever with regard to books dealing with birth control.

I second the amendment.

I think there is something worthy of consideration in what Senator Sir John Keane has said, though not so much in his amendment, but I think that a date as recent as the 31st December, 1927, is altogether too recent, even to secure the prohibition that he himself suggested.

I will not quarrel about the date at all.

Of course, there are a great many bad books that have become recognised as classics. I presume it is not the intention of the Minister or of the Board to prohibit books of classical merit, notwithstanding their demerits in other respects, and I think that those who are genuine students of literature and who might be writing a thesis on certain matters should have access to them. If Senator Sir John Keane and the Minister conferred they could readily agree on a date, and that could be accepted on the Report Stage.

I oppose this amendment in toto for the reason that if you are giving power to the Board to investigate whether books are objectionable or not you should not confine them to the dates of publication of the books. Some of the worst books are very ancient. There is reverence in vice and old iniquity. Before the House votes on this I would like to be permitted to read the section as it would appear if Senator Sir John Keane's amendment were accepted:

Whenever a complaint is duly made under this Act to the Minister to the effect that a book or a particular edition of a book the first edition of which was published after the 31st December, 1927, is indecent or obscene....

A book may be as indecent as the human mind can conceive, a book may be as obscene as possible, but if the first edition of it was published more than two years ago the Minister would have no control over it. I think that that is wrong. I also think that the arguments used by Senator Sir John Keane were not quite accurate. He said that it might be intended to suppress Boccaccio's "Decameron." Of course it is not, and I deny that Boccaccio's "Decameron" would be condemned by any association coming under the Minister.

What would they condemn, then?

Wait a moment. Boccaccio's "Decameron," it might be interesting to know, was published somewhere about the year 1447, the time of the Great Plague.

There was no printing then.

Was there not? It might have been written. It describes a scene in Florence during the Great Plague. Neither do I think that the works of Rabelais would be condemned by any organisation. It is said, and I think justly said by literary men, that no man ever derived any harm from reading the works of Rabelais or Boccaccio.

What about "The Midnight Court"?

That is in the language of your forefathers, in the Gaelic tongue, and a very good poem it is. I do not think that that would be censored either. But the principle is wrong. If the Censorship Board are to have authority over what is indecent and obscene give them that authority, and do not limit it to books recently published. If you trust men at all trust them fully. I think it is also wrong to suppose that a hunt for indecent books, whenever published, will start throughout all the libraries. I do not think that the Minister contemplates that, and I am sure that the Board will not be troubled with matters of that description. If a book is reported to the Minister, of course, the Board will investigate it, and if it is a bad book it ought to be condemned whenever it was published. There is another matter which I think ought to be considered by the Seanad and it is this. You prohibit now indecent books published for the first time since 1927. That is certain to create an artificial demand for indecent books published before that time. In the old libraries in London there are plenty of indecent books—many of them indeed—that were published before that period. I think these reasons are sufficient to show that this amendment ought not to be accepted.

I think that this is an impossible proposition even to achieve the end that the Senator seeks to achieve. I am rather astonished at Senator Dowdall approving of it, provided that there is a certain dating back. To begin with, Senator Sir John Keane is astray in thinking that if the amendment were accepted a publication dealing with contraceptives would not be included. It obviously would, if he reads the section as it would appear and if the amendment were adopted. Certain books have been named, to my astonishment. I have not read either of them. They have a reputation, and I am rather astonished that in the mind of one who is so well versed in literature, sacred and profane, as Senator Comyn is, that he should say that no Board or association would consider them indecent. I think one of the troubles of the time is that these books which may be considered indecent by some people, and may be accepted to-day within literary circles as literary curiosities or even as classical, even though indecent and improper works, are being republished to-day in cheap editions for common consumption. "The Decameron" can be bought for 3d. in a cheap paper edition. It is being circulated all over the countryside. I do not know whether Senators would think it a desirable form of literature. I do not think it has a great reputation as a book, and so with regard to many other books. Those of us who have seen other towns and other countries know that there is a type of bookseller and newsagent who will stock his shelves and his windows with that particular type of book which may be looked upon as classical though indecent in cheap editions for broadcasting—books that obviously appeal to the prurient mind. Now under the amendment any edition, no matter how prepared or how widely spread, could not be considered to be indecent or capable of being prohibited under this Act. The adoption of the Senator's amendment, even though it were dated back 50 years, would destroy the purpose of this Bill in regard to books. I think there can be no question about that. The safety that the Senator seeks would, to my mind, be secured if Section 3 is amended as it is proposed to be amended—that the character of the book should be considered by the Board.

Surely there ought to be some date fixed. If the power to search were given, the position might be made very uncomfortable. If, say, the second edition of a book were prohibited, that naturally would arouse curiosity as to the earlier editions. It is quite probable that if a date is not fixed every edition of a book will have to go out. I hope that the Minister will appoint Senator Comyn, with his fine liberality, as one of the earliest members of the Censorship Board.

I would like to have Senator Gogarty as a colleague, and the two swans with us.

If we had some date fixed, it would decide the matter, and it could be regarded as a turning point which would prevent a great deal of contention. I can see that it is very necessary to decide from what time the provisions of this Bill will operate. It is quite possible that if there was a hue-and-cry about an author whose earlier works were not read at all there would be a search for his later works as the prohibition would make them sweeter. The point with regard to travellers coming into the country also has to be considered. Some traveller may bring with him a book that may be 20 years old. Suddenly that book may become subject to the provisions of this Bill. If travellers are to be interfered with in that way, it will not tend to develop tourist development in the country. An Englishman coming here on a holiday will not be very pleased to have his novel taken out of his bag. I suggest that there ought to be some exemption under the Bill in the case of people who are not domiciled here. Otherwise tourist development in the country may be seriously interfered with. I am in favour of Senator Sir John Keane's amendment that we ought to fix some date, even ten years back.

I am quite prepared to withdraw the amendment if the Minister would offer any hope of accommodation on the principle contained in the amendment. I must say in regard to Senator Johnson's point, that I feel there is the possibility of accommodation on the principle of the amendment.

I ask the Seanad to reject this amendment. If Senators look at the section as a whole they will see that books of classical value are safeguarded, and that one of the matters to which the Censorship Board may look in making up their mind is the value of the book from a literary point of view as well as the number of persons amongst whom it is likely to circulate. Senator Sir John Keane said that the names of certain books might be sent in that you would get in the ordinary bookseller's catalogue. But whoever sent a book in would also have to purchase some copies of it; that then the Board would come to a conclusion as to whether there was any chance of this book—a rare book, as Senator Sir John Keane says—getting into circulation. It would be absolutely impossible to put in any particular period. I quite agree with the Senator that the bulk of the damage is done by comparatively modern books—not the books that have been published since 1927, but probably the books that have been published since 1880 or 1890. Those are the books which have already got into cheap editions. I have been informed that amongst a certain class of booksellers there is a considerable demand amongst their country customers for what I am informed are very indecent books, written roughly some time in the 'nineties, by a lady called Victoria Cross—distinctly indelicate books. These books are now in cheap editions and are circulating. Books of that description would be completely safeguarded if you do not go back to some time before, say, 1880. I would not be satisfied, and I ask the Seanad not to be satisfied, in putting in any particular date. You must leave this to the Board of Censors themselves.

For instance, there are editions of Boccaccio which are certainly indecent. They may not be common in this country. Some of that author's books are on the Australian list and cannot be imported into Australia. Some of Boccaccio's stories, I understand, are quite excellent. My first acquaintance with him was when I was a very small boy indeed. I was given a child's book and one of the stories in it was the plaintive tale of "Patient Griselda." I do not think anyone could be shocked with that tale. There are certain books and stories of Boccaccio which are distinctly unpleasant. The cheap editions of his works do not include the good and the pleasant stories. They simply take a selection from his works, and these become entirely indecent and of no literary value These stories are simply selected for their indecency. They are prepared and published in order that they may get a circulation because of their indecency. These are the sort of books that I think Senator Johnson has in mind in opposing this amendment. I agree with him that you could not possibly put in a time limit into the Bill. The classics and books of high literary value will be safe, and if any other book that is not of literary value, and which is likely to have a wide circulation and to do harm, then no matter at what date it was published it may be condemned by the Board, and ought to be condemned. There are, for instance, some famous books of the eighteenth century. Suppose someone chose to reprint John Wilkes' "Essay on Woman," which is a parody on Pope's "Essay on Man." It is a book with many coarse passages, but the people in the eighteenth century were not easily shocked by the use of coarse language. It is the class of book that one would not care to see in general circulation, but supposing some enterprising publisher got that book reproduced at 6d., it might have a very big sale, and its circulation, if the amendment were adopted, could not be stopped here. That particular book was published, I think, about the year 1760.

I should like to withdraw the amendment on condition that I could redraft it.

So far as I am concerned, I am opposed to it on principle.

The Minister may be opposed, but the Seanad may allow me to try it in another form.


You may bring in a new amendment on Report.

I made that remark only in order to let Senator Sir John Keane know my attitude.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move:—

Section 6, sub-section (3). To delete in line 52 the word "may" and to substitute therefor the word "shall."

We have had some discussion of the relative merits of "may" and "shall." In this respect it seems to me the word "may" has no value whatever. It may be an indication to the Board that the Oireachtas should have some regard for these things, but there is no imperative obligation upon them to have regard to "the literary, artistic, scientific or historic merit or importance of the book," or "the language in which the book is printed, or the nature and extent of the circulation of the book which, in the opinion of the Board, the book is intended to have and the class of reader." It is obvious from the reading of the sub-section, and from what the Minister has said regarding classical publications, that it is the intention of the Minister that the Board must take into account these various matters, but it is leaving it to the option of the Board to take them into account.

While we may assume the majority of the Board would take into account these things, it is also likely, I think, that the minority of the Board would not take them into account. I think it is very desirable the Board should have it made clear that it is incumbent upon them to take into account the general character of the book. The whole object of the amendment is that the Act shall impose an obligation on the Board to take these things into account. I think it is unwise that an option should be left, as it is, by the word "may." The value of sub-section (3) seems to be very little unless it is made obligatory on the Board to take these matters into account.

Senator Johnson has said very much of what I intended to say. The object of the amendment is to ensure that there is no misconception in the minds of the Censorship Board of the policy which the two Houses desire them to pursue. I am inclined to think if this amendment is adopted that the alteration in the terms of reference will make it clearer and more definite. We have had a long discussion regarding different words in the Censorship Bill, and if the members of the Censorship Board come to argue, as we have done, though they may be extremely intelligent I do not think they will get any censorship done at all.

There is sometimes a question as between "may" and "shall"—as to whether "may" does not mean "shall." We lawyers know that is very often a difficult question. In the present section there is no doubt at all about it that "may" means "may" and not "shall.""Shall" is used in the previous sub-section. Whenever a public duty is passed on to a body for the benefit of the public when they are told "you may do a thing," they must do it. That does not apply to this section. It is obvious from the use of "shall" in the first sub-section that when they say "may" here they may not do the thing specified. I am strongly of opinion we ought to see that they should take account of the various items set out. I am in favour of the amendment.

I oppose the amendment. I think that when the Board are considering this section they should consider whether the literary and artistic value of a book is of greater advantage to the country than the disadvantage of its indecency or obscurity. I think the fact of putting "shall" into this section will convey to the Board that the Seanad thinks less of the obscenity and indecency of the book than of its artistic character or literary value. Whatever may be said of the scientific or literary merit of the book, when it becomes a question of whether we should admit to this country a book which is obscene or indecent, even though it has some literary or artistic merit, I, for one, would be in favour of rejecting that book and saving the people from the indecency and obscenity, and I would be satisfied to lose any literary, scientific, artistic or historic merit the book might contain. I think there is too much glorification of literary and artistic products. I cannot imagine how anything could be considered literary or artistic which at the same time would be obscene or indecent. For these reasons, I oppose the amendment.

Senator Linehan has begged the question that the book must be necessarily obscene, and he has painted a picture of some terrible book glistening with artistic allurement. That is not the position. The position is that it is possible that an author who has been excluded in one case might be excluded in all cases because of his name, and without consideration of his work. For instance, "The Countess Kathleen" could be excluded if it is not made incumbent on the Senators to consider it from another point of view, and also "The Merry Wives of Windsor" in a new edition coming in if its literary and artistic merits should not be considered. There are many authors who may have a bad name and who may produce good work. In that connection, we have the instance where "The Countess Kathleen" was howled down in a theatre a few years ago, and it has since won international recognition for Senator Yeats, so it is very important to have consideration given to the value of a work from a humanitarian or artistic standpoint where the higher expression of a nation's will and energy is represented in art. I would not consider the censors a bundle of cranks, but I think an author should have his work considered from every facet.

I support Senator Linehan, and for a very good reason. At the same time I agree to a certain extent with Senator Gogarty and with "The Countess Kathleen." This section is ministerial through and through, but whether "shall" means "may" or "may" means "shall" has never come up for adjudication anywhere in a court of justice. Therefore, the discussions we have had in regard to the meaning of "may" and "shall" some days ago have no application. It seems to me that "may" was put in deliberately and of set purpose to fulfil an urgent need in the Bill. Suppose you put in the mandatory "shall," what would the work of the censors be? I almost withdraw my offer to join my friend, Senator Gogarty, on the Censorship Board, because if "shall" is there the work of the censors will become an endless labour. They find that a work is clearly indecent or obscene, but some gentleman, I will not say some crank, who may be a member of the Board, may come along and say: "See the literary merit of the work, see its artistic value, see the beautiful rhyme, see the historical merit—you have not at all considered its historical importance." The business of the censor if this section was mandatory would be impossible and the business of the Minister would be impossible.

In reply to a point by Senator Linehan, I am not one who agrees that the literary or artistic merit of a book is the supreme matter. I am not willing to agree to the dissemination of any kind of literature, no matter how valuable it may be. If it is claimed by some art critic to be of high literary value I think the probable effect of the book on the mind of the reader is of more importance than the literary value in the eyes of a connoisseur of literature. After all, fashions change in literature, and what one set of art critics describe to be splendid and delightful one day is looked upon as anything but delightful and valuable in another day.

Senator Linehan will note that I have another amendment down which really covers his point. The literary and artistic merits of a book are not sufficient to satisfy my desires, if the general tenor of that book is bad, filthy and dirty, and I would like the Senator to bear in mind that the latter amendment will cover his point, that literary and artistic merit is not going to be the passport to a book alone if the general tenor of that book is indecent, and obscene.

To my mind there is not an enormous amount in this difference; in fact there is no substantial difference between the use of the word "may" and the use of the word "shall" in this section. I agree with Senator Sir John Keane in what he said in his Second Reading speech, that what is in this sub-section (3) and which, as a matter of fact was not in the Bill explicitly but was always in the Bill implicitly, that is to say, that it was only by having regard to matters such as these, that any Censorship Board could carry out fairly the work of censorship. These are all things which it must be taken for granted, that a Board of Censors will always take into consideration. In fact that must be taken for granted if you are going to have a correct Board of Censors. So that it does not matter enormously so far as I am concerned whether the word is "may" or "shall." Personally, since it is partly advisory so to speak to the Board, I prefer the word "may," although I do not care very much, because there is a certain amount in the statement of Senator Comyn that when you read the first couple of chapters of a book and discover it is grossly indecent you need not worry on to the end to see if there is anything artistically fine or good in the last chapter, and that then you should only take the last chapter into consideration. The difference is small, but, personally, I prefer the word "may." I was astonished at one thing that Senator Gogarty said. While he and Senator Comyn have been talking as to how they would like to appoint each other on the Board of Censors, if this Bill goes through I am going to have a little word to say on that. As far as Senator Comyn is concerned, I must absolutely dash Senator Gogarty's hopes to the ground, because he said "The Countess Kathleen" is indecent, and might be condemned by the Board.

It was condemned by public opinion.

Not for indecency.

For immorality.

No, not in the sense in which the word is used here. It was condemned because it was anti-Christian. That was the only reason it was condemned.

No, it was not even anti-Christian; it was supposed to be anti-Catholic. I do not want to bring up old sores, but the complaint was that a woman sacrificed her soul to the devil to get food for her subjects, and it was on a question of heresy and ethics it was condemned. Therefore the author got a bad name, and I was only quoting him as a possible example of an author who would get no chance at all from the censors.

He could not possibly come under it, providing that such a thing could be done as a man selling his soul to the devil ——

What about "The Merry Wives of Windsor"?

That is only a little diversion. To get back to our muttons, I do not mind which the Seanad does, though personally I prefer the word "may."

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 16.

  • John Bagwell.
  • Samuel L. Brown, K.C.
  • Caitlín Bean Uí Chléirigh.
  • William Cummins.
  • James G. Douglas.
  • Michael Duffy.
  • Thomas Farren.
  • Dr. O. St. J. Gogarty.
  • Sir John Purser Griffith.
  • Henry S. Guinness.
  • Right Hon. Andrew Jameson.
  • Thomas Johnson.
  • Sir John Keane.
  • The McGillycuddy of the Reeks.
  • John T. O'Farrell.
  • Siobhán Bean an Phaoraigh.
  • Séumas Robinson.
Amendment declared carried.
The Seanad went out of Committee.
Progress reported.