Seanad Éireann - Volume 27 - 18 November, 1942

Censorship of Publications—Motion.

Sir John Keane: I move:—

That, in the opinion of Seanad Eireann, the Censorship of Publications Board appointed by the Minister for Justice under the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929, has ceased to retain public confidence, and that steps should be taken by the Minister to reconstitute the board.

It is with no little hesitation I propose this motion. I know the subject is not popular and my first inclination would be to do as many others are doing about this matter, to adopt an attitude of cynical indifference, to say in my own mind that the whole thing is ridiculous and to be satisfied if I, personally, and my friends were not interfered with. I do not think that is adequate. I think there is a big principle involved in this, and I feel it my duty as a public representative, after 13 years of the operation of this Act, to ask the House to consider where the country stands in this whole matter. I am not challenging the main principle of censorship. The battle was fought and lost 13 years ago. My views are on record for those who wish to read them. I contested the proposal resolutely in its entirely. I said the thing was not workable and that the methods employed across the water were quite adequate to safeguard the morals of our country as regards reading. However, Parliament thought differently, and we have had this Bill, which has now been in operation for 13 years. I am striving for the legal [17] safeguards that were embodied in that measure.

After all, we are still governed by the rule of law, and where one has reason to believe that the rule of law is being disregarded there is a public duty to call attention to the fact. What were the safeguards which were introduced into this measure? They were mainly two. I shall read from Section 6 of the Act:

“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 have to deal fairly frankly with this whole subject. After all, we are all aware of the facts of life, and unless I deal frankly with the subject it is quite impossible for me to make my case. Senators have to read that section in connection with the definition. There was a great deal of controversy about the definition, and finally and, I think, somewhat reluctantly, the Government conceded this definition of “indecency”:

“The word ‘indecency’ 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.”

It is in the light of these safeguards that I wish the House to examine what has happened. In that connection it is appropriate to quote certain passages, and more particularly passages containing what the Minister said, from the debate which took place when the Bill was being passed. In a court of law what the Minister said could not be quoted, but I take it that there is general agreement that this House is acting more as a court of equity. The Minister said in the debate on the Bill:

“As to the general principles on which the board of censors should [18] act ... there must be general agreement amongst all reasonable and intelligent men. A book can be fairly condemned only when, in its whole course, it makes for evil, when its tenor is bad, when, in some important part of it, it is indecent, when—I might put it in this way— it is systematically indecent.”

On the next page, the Minister, adopting the jargon of his profession, says:

“To my mind, that is a great, broad, clear distinction, a distinction which, as I said before, I believe all intelligent, thinking men will agree exists. To sum it up in two short phrases: a book to be condemned must ex professo be immoral; it cannot be condemned if it is immoral merely obiter.

I hope the House understands that.

Mr. M. Hayes: The Senator will have to get a grind in more than Irish.

Sir John Keane: Senator Tierney took a very active part in the debate on this Bill 13 years ago. He said in that debate:

“I am very much afraid that the result of this section——”

He was, I think, dealing with Section 6, but I have been unable to make sure of that from the context:

“——will be that, under the authority of this Dáil, a list of prohibited books will be produced which will make a laughing stock of this country.”

The Senator had certainly prophetic vision when he made that statement.

As I have already informed the Minister and the Chairman of the Board of Censorship, whose presence we have the benefit of in this House, I propose to deal mainly with three works. Senators will not, I hope, think that these are the only works with which I could deal. I should have to keep the House a long time if I were to deal with all the books, or with samples of all the books, which, in my opinion, have been improperly banned. Firstly, I come to the book entitled The Tailor and Ansty. This book, apparently, aroused a great deal of interest—more [19] interest than did other books which, I think, are far more deserving of interest. It is a book dealing with local country life. It contains the sayings of country folk in rather a remote part of Country Cork, the sayings of an unsophisticated but, nevertheless, rather interesting and racy couple—the tailor and his wife, Ansty. Its banning has aroused more indignation, I think, on the part of those who are interested in the domestic literature and genius of our people than on the part of those interested in that of the wider world. If I am not wrongly informed, those with Gaelic sympathies raised their voices for the first time in opposition to and in condemnation of this censorship. They did that on account of this book.

I do not want to hide anything from the House. The book is somewhat Rabelaisian in character. I understand —many people know this better than I do—that country folk, talking around the fireside, are somewhat frank and, perhaps, coarse in their expressions. I propose to read you certain passages from this book, which I feel entitled to do in order to make my case. I do not want the Seanad to be under any delusion as to what the book is about. Unfortunately, some Senators cannot get it. I got it, and I could have got as many copies as I wanted. If anybody wants to get a censored book, there is no trouble in getting it; I do not mean any ordinary plain person, but anybody who knows the way about. Here is a sample. The tailor had not seen much of the world; he did not want to see much of the world, because he knew life better than those educated people. But they persuaded him to go to a cinema in Cork, and those are his comments:—

[Here the Senator quoted from the book.]

I do not suppose the Censor minded that. It goes on:—

[Again the Senator quoted from the book.]

I am not reading this in order to call forth amusement. I am reading [20] them out seriously, as samples which you should hear, and on which you should form your own judgment. There is another passage, but it is only incidental, where they make fun of modern education because they find that some of the younger people, even though they are married, do not know the difference between a cow and a bull. I do not imagine that can be the offending passage here, but, according to the definition in the Act, a book, in order to be censored, must be in its general tendency indecent. The first passage I read was on page 54.

Professor Magennis: Would the Senator read the rest of that reference? I think I am entitled to ask, if he quotes a passage, that he should quote it in its entirely.

Sir John Keane: Unfortunately, I thought I made a note on the back of the cover, but I find that I did not. I am only too anxious to read it. Could the Senator tell me what page it is on? I cannot find it, and I do not want to take up the time of the House.

Professor Magennis: I suggest to the Chairman that, before Senator Sir John Keane reads the remainder of the passage an instruction should be given to the official reporters not to record it. Otherwise, we shall have some of the vilest obscenity in our records, and the Official Reports can be bought for a few pence.

Mr. M. Hayes: I should like to be clear as to what are to be the rules of debate on this matter. I can understand the anxiety of Professor Magennis that the passage be read in its entirety, but it would be an extraordinary thing if we were to adopt the rule that we must hear the whole of them in all their obscenity.

Professor Magennis: What I submit is this: the only defence that can be made by the censorship is to give the public an idea of what the thing is, in its real and full character. I would not foul my lips nor defile the ears of this House by quoting the passage in its entirety, and I had no anticipation that Senator Sir John Keane would [21] quote from the book, but when he does quote and omits what is the gravamen of the offence, then I am entitled to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the quotation is garbled, and it is for the Chairman to decide on the dilemma which Senator Hayes has properly pointed out. I do not want it recorded. Some fig-leaf language can be used to describe it, but it must not be referred to merely as a piece of harmless, if coarse, jocosity.

Mr. Goulding: I happen to have read this book, and I certainly object to some of its passages being read out in this House. They are generally obscene and I would be very loath to sit here and listen to them.

Sir John Keane: I am in the hands of the Chairman. If the Chairman rules, I will ask the Committee of Privileges to sit in regard to the matter. I consider that I am perfectly entitled to quote from a book which has been censored and put the facts before the House.

Cathaoirleach: The Senator is entitled to quote.

Sir John Keane: I will read the passage to which I have referred.

[Again, the Senator quoted from the book.]

Professor Magennis: I would now ask Senator Sir John Keane if he will first read the next passage to himself.

Sir John Keane: I will go on until Senator Magennis tells me to stop.

Professor Magennis: The Senator is now trying to put upon me the responsibility for having this stuff read out and put in the Official Reports. I am asking, in the interests of public decency, that he should read the next paragraph to himself before he inflicts it on the House.

Sir John Keane: I have considered all the implications of this. I consider that, if we are going to be put under what I suggest is a literary Gestapo, we are entitled to know the facts.

Cathaoirleach: The Senator might use discretion as to the quotations. [22] There is Ministerial responsibility for the Board, and the Senator may employ quotations to illustrate the arguments for the motion.

Sir John Keane: I know; I was going to deal with that point. Responsibility is on the Minister and I was going to deal with that point later on. The Minister takes responsibility, and that is why the matter is raised here.

Professor Magennis: On a point of explanation, the Senator has tried to fix responsibility on me because I said that the only defence for the censorship would be to make the public acquainted with the contents of the book. I suggested to him that to leave off with a quotation which, though coarse, was comparatively harmless, was to give a wrong impression, and then he said that if I demanded it he would read it. That, I submit, is to put the responsibility for the reading of it on me, and I have appealed to him to read the passage to himself and use his own discretion.

Cathaoirleach: The Chair's concern is with the terms of the motion on the Order Paper of the House.

[Sir John Keane quoted from the book.]

Cathaoirleach: I presume the Senator does not intend to read the whole book?

Sir John Keane: Not the whole book, but I do not want to be accused by Senator Magennis of distorting or suppressing anything.

Pádraic O Maille: I think the Censor was a public benefactor in stopping that kind of rubbish.

Sir John Keane: That is a matter of opinion. We are each entitled to have our own opinion, and I would ask the Senator to have respect for my sincere and honest opinion. It may be misguided but——

Professor Magennis: There is a part of the Constitution which guarantees full liberty of expression but there is an express proviso with regard to the safeguarding of public morals.

[23] Sir John Keane: But, is not the book in circulation for quite a long time? A number of people have read it. I am sure the Senator would not read it. I take it that the Senator is contending that I should not be allowed to read from a banned book. I think that is an entirely unconstitutional argument.

Mr. M. Hayes: These interruptions are not fair, Sir.

Professor Magennis: It is not fair to the House to have this book read and put in the Official Reports, where it can be bought and read by members of the public.

Sir John Keane: That is for the House to say.

Cathaoirleach: The Senator must be allowed to proceed. I will consider the action I should take on the other matter.

Sir John Keane: Thank you, Sir. I am entitled to go on until I am ruled out of order. There is a further passage—the last one I intend to read from this book—and I am entitled to read it.

The Senator quoted from the book.

I do not think there is anything more in it unless the Senator is interested.

Professor Magennis: If the Senator would like me to answer him——

Mr. M. Hayes: I think, Sir, we have had enough.

Professor Magennis rose.

Cathaoirleach: On a point of order?

Sir John Keane: I can assure the House that I have plenty of time.

Mr. M. Hayes: We have had enough.

Sir John Keane:

[Quotes from the book.]

Mr. M. Hayes: We have had enough of this, Sir.

Cathaoirleach: I suggest that the House has heard sufficient quotations.

[24] Mr. M. Hayes: Hear, hear!

Sir John Keane: I do not want to be accused of reading garbled quotations—that is why I read those long extracts. I submit that the book is Rabelaisian, but that it is not indecent, and these three quotations are all anyone could suggest might be indecent. It is not intended to corrupt or deprave or to excite to sexual passion, or unnatural vice. I do not see how anyone can argue that it is. Now, I have another book here, and whatever you may think about The Tailor and Ansty, this is a most astounding case. It is called Land of Spices, by an Irish writer, Kate O'Brien. It is a book about convent life. I read it carefully, and I may not be a very good judge, but I considered that its general motif is almost religious. It shows the inmates of convents as human beings. They had their little jokes, their little jealousies and little intrigues, and nuns have their favourites too, but surely no one is going to suggest that that is a reason for banning the book.

Professor Magennis: Of course not.

Sir John Keane: Do not interrupt me, please. As anyone who has read the book will agree, the Reverend Mother depicted in it is a most noble character. She goes into the convent and takes the veil because she discovers, to her great surprise, that her father is given to unnatural vice. How she makes that discovery is important. If references to unnatural vice ran frequently through the whole book and was dwelt on persistently I could understand, possibly, the ground for objection. But, it is a single reference, and that is what I am going to read now. It is commendably short. It is the sole reference to the discovery which made this lady enter the convent life and ultimately rise to be the Mother-General of this Order—an international Order.

Professor Magennis: Page 157.

Sir John Keane: Thank you very much, I have got it.

[The Senator quoted from the book.]

[25] For that phrase and that phrase alone that book is censored. Where that book can be held to be in its general tendency indecent or in the words of the definition, “to incite to sexual immorality or unnatural vice or is likely in any similar manner to corrupt or deprave”, I cannot see.

I have got one another book—I shall refer to several in passing—to which I wish to refer. Here again I approach the matter with hesitation but I cannot help it. This is a book called The Laws of Life, by Halliday Sutherland. I want to be as clear as I can about this matter. It is difficult to get exact information nowadays on account of postal delays and one thing or another of that kind, but my information on the best authority is that the book is issued permissu superiorum. That is not the imprimatur but I understand that the only difference between it and the imprimatur is the difference between a first-class and a second-class ticket. I may be asked whether the edition I have got is the one that is issued permissu superiorum. My answer is that all editions of the book have been banned and the only grounds on which they have been banned are that the book deals with the question of the safe period. Now I am not going into the question of the safe period, but I do claim that the knowledge and use of the safe period is approved by the Catholic Church. I should like to hear on what grounds, other than the reference to the safe period, this book has been banned. I say that advocacy of the safe period does not bring the book within the definition of a book which advocates unnatural methods and unnatural prevention of conception. I do not want to elaborate this matter, but I say that the safe period is not, to my mind, unnatural, and I leave it at that.

I have dealt with three books and my task from now on will be rather easy. I pass now from the specific to the general. I ask the House just to consider the volume of the censorship. In the 13 years during which the Act has been in operation, some 1,600 books have been censored; that is an average of three a week. I ask this [26] question: Is it conceivable that the censors, who are not remunerated and many of whom have other occupations, can possibly read—as they should read if they are to do their duty conscientiously in deciding whether a book infringes the definition of indecency— three books a week in addition to other books which they read and which have not been banned? There must be a substantial number that are not banned even under the rigid standards that are now applied. If they do not read these books completely and satisfy themselves that their general tendency is indecent, if they merely arrive at their conclusions from marked passages, I say to the Minister that they are not discharging their duty.

I pass on to the composition of the board. Here, again—of course I hope the Senator will not take me as making any personal reference to himself—I say that, generally speaking, the board are too academic and detached from the stream of life and the outlook of youth. One member of the board we all regret to hear is very ill. I understand another member of the board has been ill for some time. I suggest that their outlook, generally speaking, like that of many of us here, merely on account of their age, is Victorian and I think it is important to realise that the standard of judgement on these moral questions has changed. Why, in my young days, it was quite exciting to see a lady's ankle if she raised her skirt. Nowadays, it excites little or no interest. A member of my family the other day, chaffing me, said a rather true thing: “Daddy, I do not think that book is fit for you.” I am sure some of the families of the censors might very likely say the very same thing. We cannot be expected to understand youthful psychology in these matters. I do not profess to understand what their reactions are to the facts of life. For instance, I do not agree for a moment that they are going to turn a hair or that they would be in any way depraved by the passages which I have been reading here, while these passages might have quite a different result on some of the older members in this House. That is my criticism of the board, that they are [27] not men of an age or an outlook qualified to say whether or not these books are depraved.

There is another matter to be considered, the loss to libraries and booksellers. What happens is that some books are not censored until they have been in circulation for two or three years. I understand that The Fountain, one of Charles Morgan's books, was not censored for three years. Nobody would imagine that a book by a man of such eminence would be censored—a man who won the Hawthornden Prize and a man of wide literary repute. He is a dramatic critic of The Times. No librarian would imagine—I do not care what the library was, even if it were a country library— that such a book would be censored and, of course, it was stocked. Years went by and then it was banned and all that stock is a dead loss. I am not sure that the publishers would take it back, although publishers sometimes certainly do incur heavy losses at times. That is happening frequently. I am told that a book is censored after it has been some time in circulation. Incidentally, it defeats the object of the Act if this poisonous matter, as the censors consider it, is in circulation for two or three years before being banned. As to the range of exclusion, I should like to say that there are 1,600 books concerned and there is hardly a modern author of repute who is not represented on the banned list.

I am sorry that I have left my list behind me, but I remember many of the names. There were Shaw, Eric Linklater, Morgan, Hugh Walpole, Somerset Maugham, and a leading American writer, Ernest Hemingway. In addition to those, there were, I think, all the modern Irish writers— Kate O'Brien, Frank O'Connor, Seán Ó Faoláin, Liam O Flaherty and even —would you believe it?—Austin Clark —who, I believe, is recognised by the Church as one of the outstanding poets. There is not a modern Irish writer I can think of that is not on the list. It is especially hard on the Irish writers, as their circulation is, of course, mainly in the country.

[28] I would like the House to consider another aspect of this. If this censorship had been in operation 50 or 60 years ago, where would we be to-day? Would not the gaps in our collections of modern classics be perfectly deplorable? We would not have a single George Moore in our libraries except The Brook Kerith. Whatever we may thing of George Moore—and I can understand people not liking him—he is an outstanding master of English prose and one of the great writers of our time. One may not like his works, but it would be perfectly deplorable that we should not have a single George Moore in our national libraries or private collections. I hope these remarks will not encourage the vigilance authorities to further excesses. The Minister already has censored one of George Moore's books, The Story-teller's Holiday, and I hesitate to think what would happen if all the other works of his were censored. I should have to take steps then to correct my own collection, at any rate. If this censorship had been in operation for the past 40 years, there would have been serious gaps in our collections of classics. Is that a position that anyone would contemplate without concern or be proud of?

I have been trying to get to the bottom of this question. What are the standards that are adopted by those whom I advisedly call the literary Gestapo? I think there is this standard—and this is reinforced by moderate Catholics I have talked to, who say: “Would you like your young daughter to read that book?” I said: “No, I would take steps to ensure that she did not.” But is this the proposition—that no one shall be allowed to read a book that cannot safely be read by a boy or girl in their formative years? Is that the standard on which the whole of our literature is based? If that is so, we are turning the whole country into a national seminary. I cannot see any justification, other than that, for bringing the whole of our literature down to the safe standard for the most innocent of our young people, and telling adults they shall not be allowed to read any other class of book. It is a poor outlook for the future.

[29] If our object is to preserve the morals of the young, why is censorship confined merely to the English language? I think there has not been any book censored in French or Gaelic. I understand that we are trying to become a Gaelic-speaking people, and I suppose that speaking means reading as well. I am credibly informed—I hope I may be corrected by those who know better —that there are many passages in Gaelic literature which are far more objectionable than any I have read to the House—passages that, by any standard of censorship, are objectionable. What about French? Our educated people, and many of our young people, know French. Are we to allow them to go to the libraries where there are whole collections of Balzac and a book like Madame Bovary? What is the sense in that? If the censorship is to be national there must be some logical purpose running through it.

The Minister may say that if the Act is not being worked correctly one can invoke the law. We have gone into that, and have had legal opinion on it. The legal opinion says that you cannot get an action and that, even if you could, it would not be worth very much, as the law can come along and correct itself. You cannot get a legal injunction unless you can prove mala fides. I think one could make a pretty good shot at proving mala fides in the case of the Land of Spices, but not in the case of The Tailor and Ansty. You cannot prove it, although you might prove ridiculous narrowness. In any case, as far as I can see, if you do upset the legal end of censorship, there is another Act under which it can be done—the Customs Consolidation Act. Without right or reason, and acting under an Act originally intended to deal with obscene publications, the Government can stop any book, without censorship, coming through the post. Therefore, I do not think there would be much good in going to law.

I feel that this is a serious matter, and that it damages our national reputation. I know that there are some people who are satisfied to preen themselves in this atmosphere of insulated sancity and say: “We are not the [30] same as other people; our standards are not the same as those of other countries.” The other day I heard of someone writing to the papers and saying that the Catholic standards of morals were not the same in this country as in England or other countries. I will not elaborate on that. I imagined that there was one Universal Church, with the same code covering all members of the flock. It is true that only a minority is affected and I realise that this is a bad time to bring forward this matter. There is an election imminent. The Minister is a politician— let us be frank about these things— and it would not be good policy for him, whatever he may feel himself, to admit even a fraction of what I have been trying to prove. I do not expect a favourable response. I know too well the hidden forces at work in this matter and the dominating power of individual needs. I shall not be a bit surprised, and shall bear no one any ill-will, if I am told later on that I have been wallowing in literary garbage. That will leave me perfectly unperturbed.

I want clean, fresh air on the facts of life. I want a sense of proportion applied to human values and temptations, and, if I read my history a right, I feel that, under this censorship continued in its present form, the seeds are being sown now of a movement which, though we may not see it in our time, will sweep away the authority that is striving to repress us in these matters.

The McGillycuddy of the Reeks: I am seconding the motion although I do not entirely care for the form in which it is.

Mr. Goulding: I said that I had read the book referred to by Senator Sir John Keane. I must modify that. I read portions of the book. I could not read the whole thing through. Not alone is it silly and indecent, but it is hopelessly tiresome. Senator Sir John Keane quoted certain passages, but he did not quote the worst passages. The book is Rabelaisian and vulgar, and it is an utter travesty of the Irish country. I know the Irish people, and I know the people of the Irish country districts a bit better than Senator Sir John Keane. I have sat by their firesides [31] and I have listened to their fireside talk. Any man who dared to use the language used by the character in the book referred to by Senator Sir John Keane would be thrown out from their firesides. Any man who dared to sit at an Irish country fireside and use the language used by these two characters would be forbidden to enter the house again. Senator Sir John Keane refers to the fact that standards have changed. Yes, they have. They have changed in many countries. At a meeting of some Church body reported in the English papers this week, a speaker referred to the fact of and deplored the growth of crime amongst youth in England. The growth of this crime in England is due to the unfettered reading in that country, and anybody in this country that would fail to check the issue of such books as that referred to by Senator Sir John Keane would be wanting in his duty. I for one would call for the abolition of the Censorship Board if they failed to ban such a book as that quoted by him. Now, we Irish people are not afraid of the truth. We do not object to the circulation of good books in this country. We do not object to young people, to any of our people, reading the best literature, but we do object to the dissemination in our midst of books written by people who design, well, perhaps not deliberately, but whose books at least have a tendency, to undermine the moral character of our people. If the Censorship Board failed to check the circulation of such books, then I think it would be worthy of censure. Senator Sir John Keane quoted from other works. I have not read them. He claims that to be within the meaning of the Act a book must tend to corrupt or to degrade.

A single passage in a book could corrupt or degrade. It is not necessary that it should corrupt or degrade throughout the whole. A single passage, or two or three passages, make a book liable to censorship. I hold that the Censorship Board is quite justified in banning a book if it contains any such passage. There is sufficient good literature in the world, in every country, to supply reading for any normal [32] human being. Why should we pander to the people who write the sort of thing Senator Sir John Keane quoted and we have listened to just now. From another point of view these books are utterly unfair to us Irish people. I do not like to mention authors. I will just say quite a number of Irishmen have written books within the past few years at least unfair to Irish people. They take certain types—and we have, unfortunately, types that people would not care to associate with—they take these types of people and they hold them up as representative of us Irish people. Apart from the moral point of view it is a thing we should object to and do everything in our power to suppress. The writers to whom I have referred have a name abroad of being wonderful writers of English prose. Perhaps they are. But the more famous they are and the greater their name abroad the more damage they can do. These men have written plays and books that are damaging to us Irish people all over the world. I wonder what sort of opinion people who do not know us very well form of us, people in European countries to whom Ireland is but a name? At one time we were told we were a nation of drunkards. If our character is to be taken from the writers of these books we are not alone drunkards but we are immoral. Apart from the moral censorship I think there should be a censorship of books that portray us Irish people in the way I have indicated. I do not agree at all with Senator Sir John Keane. Perhaps his standards are not ours. The body in England that I have referred to deplored the growth of irreligion there. One speaker mentioned that only one out of 20 ever went into a church. Thank God our standards are not those, anyway. There is no doubt whatever about it, it does not matter how great literature is supposed to be, it should not be allowed, if it is subversive of religion and morals.

Sir John Keane: What about the Bible?

Mr. Goulding: No respect whatever should be paid to a writer's fame as a writer of good English prose. I hold the [33] Censorship Board is quite justified in banning a book if it contains one passage subversive of Christianity or morality.

Liam O Buachalla: Nílim chun óráid fhada a dhéanamh mar is dóigh liom dá luaithe a cuirtear an díospóireacht ar ceal gurb amhlaidh is fearr é. Maidir leis na sliochtaí do léigh an Seanadóir Ó Catháin silim gur churuth-uigh sé an géar-ghádh atá leis an mBord seo. Chruthuigh sé go láidir go raibh an ceart ag an mBord. Is dóigh liom nach raibh duine i láthair annseo, agus an Seanadóir Ó Catháin ag caint, nach raibh déistean air de bharr na sliochtaí do léigh sé. Chruthuigh sé go raibh an ceart ar fad ag an gCoiste a shocruigh stop a chur leis an leabhar sin, The Tailor and Ansty. Ní eirighim chun tagairt a dhéanamh don ní sin ach chun a iarraidh ar an Aire agus ar an muintir atá san Aireacht áird níos mó a thabhairt ar an gCoiste sin agus ar na moltaí a thugas an Coiste i dtaobh leabhra. Cuireadh ar bun Coiste de Sheanadóirí tamall ó shoin chun an cheist seo faoi dhroch-litridheacht d'iniúchadh. Bhí baint agam leis an gCoiste seo agus is cuimhneach liom gur tháinigeamar isteach ar maidin agus gur leagadh os ár geóir carn mór de leabhra agus iris-leabhra agus eile; agus, gan aon aimhreas, scannróchadh an earn mór de dhroch-litridheacht duine ar bith. Is ceart don Aire agus is ceart don Aireacht i bhfad níos mó áird a thabhairt ar an gcomhairle a gheibheann siad ón gCoiste.

I do not intend to make a speech on this matter, because I think the general feeling of the House as a result of Senator Sir John Keane's quotations is one of disgust with the tone of the book from which he has read the passages and, generally, with his attitude on this matter. The general feeling of this House is, I think, that the sooner this debate is ended the better. The general feeling of the House is, also, I think, that, as Senator Goulding has put it, Senator Keane's standards are not our standards.

Sir John Keane: The Senator has referred to “the book”. Is he dealing with only one book or with more than one?

[34] Liam O Buachalla: I am dealing with the book which the Senator had mainly in mind when he put down this motion.

Sir John Keane: That is not so.

Liam O Buachalla: Apart from making a protest with regard to The Tailor and Ansty, and the general tone of Senator Keane's speech, my main reason in rising is to appeal to the Minister and his Department to pay a great deal more attention to whatever advice he may get from the Censorship Board. If, as the law stands, this board has not sufficient power, then let the law be amended in order that more can be done with regard to this matter than it has been possible to do so far. I might as well inform the House that, some time ago, certain members of this Chamber felt that more attention should be paid to this matter of censorship and the circulation of evil literature than was being done. A small committee came together to investigate this problem, so far as they could do so. I was a member of that committee and, on one occasion, when we met, I was absolutely horrified to see the pile of evil literature— magazines, weeklies, monthlies, and so on—that was laid on the table of one of the Committee Rooms of this House, stuff that was gathered in the cities and towns and even in the remote villages of this country. How that stuff is getting through I do not know. Certainly, it is getting through. My main reason for rising, as I have said, is to appeal to the Minister and his Department to take up this matter seriously and to pay a good deal more attention to whether advice and recommendations they may get from this Censorship Board than they have paid in the past. If the law does not enable them to move more effectively and more rapidly, let the law be amended, but it is time this matter was tackled and tackled in a proper way.

Professor Johnston: I should not like the House to remain under the impression that, in raising this matter, Senator Keane is putting forward a purely personal opinion. In this matter, it is quite possible that he speaks for people—perhaps, even a [35] majority of our people—who have somewhat different views as to what the principles of freedom require in this matter from the views expressed by most of those who have spoken from the other side of the House. I confess that the actual quotations which the Senator read from these books filled me with a certain amount of intelligible disgust. At the same time, I should like to state quite positively that, in my opinion, the Senator made a perfectly convincing case against the rightness of the action of the Board of Censors in censoring those books. The fact that they occasion a certain amount of disgust to us, on hearing them, is quite irrelevant to the legal obligation on the censors in deciding whether or not to censor the books. There are only two legal grounds on which they should be censored—(1) that they are indecent, and (2) that in their general tendency they tend to encourage a desire for irregular sexual relations. Whatever may be said about the first quality, it is quite certain that those books had not the slightest tendency to encourage a desire for irregular sexual indulgence. Their general tendency would, I think, be exactly the opposite.

With regard to their indecency, they are, if you like, in a certain sense, indecent, but I doubt whether they are indecent within the meaning of the Act, so to speak. In matters of art and literature we have to recognise different standards of decency and indecency from those we are accustomed to give attention to in the ordinary affairs of life. So far as indecency is concerned, these books are not any more indecent than a great deal of old literature which is not censored. Much of Latin, Greek and, possibly, even of Gaelic literature is full of matter just as indecent as any contained in these books. Certainly, the Bible and Shakespeare contain quite a number of passages which would compare very closely, in point of brutal realism, with some of the passages which the Senator quoted. Yet, we do not censor the Bible or Shakespeare, and we do not take steps to prevent these books from getting into the hands of the young, even in their tenderest years. I think [36] that we should recognise different standards of decency and indecency in matters of literature and art from what are the ordinary standards of decency and indecency.

Judged by the ordinary standard, the Venus de Milo is a most indecent piece of statuary. The female figure is very inadequately clad in that statue; yet everybody recognises that the Venus de Milo represents one of the greatest triumphs of the art of the sculptor the world has ever seen. From the point of view of art, its indecency simply disappears and it becomes artistically decent. I want the House to recognise that a thing may be indecent from the point of view of the ordinary way of life and may be, from the point of view of literature or art, perfectly decent. I submit that some of these books, which I have not read, may possibly be, from the literary point of view, perfectly decent and yet indecent from the point of view of the ordinary man in the street. My final conviction is that the Senator has made a very good case, and I should not like the House to feel that he is the only person who thinks that we should condemn the action of the Board of Censors in this matter.

Mr. Kehoe: The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of Seanad Eireann, the Censorship of Publications Board appointed by the Minister for Justice under the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929, has ceased to retain public confidence, and that steps should be taken by the Minister to reconstitute the Board.

I do not know in what respect the Censorship Board has ceased to retain public confidence. I have heard of no united or universal protest from the public at large against the Censorship Board. Ninety per cent. of the people do not know it exists and, of the remaining 10 per cent., not more than 2 per cent. have any animus against it. It certainly has not ceased to retain public confidence and, if we insist that it has done so, we are merely misrepresenting public opinion. We have heard a good deal about standards to-day. The only standards with which we are concerned are the standards of [37] ordinary public decency—the standards that the ordinary man in the street recognises even in his wildest moments.

I saw lately in some of the newspapers where Senator Sir John Keane, speaking to some of the numerous people who write paragraphs for the Press, instanced The Tailor and Ansty as one of those books from which he proposed to quote in this debate. That admission of Senator Sir John Keane, as seen in the public Press, so to speak, vitiates his statement that he is relying on other books for data. He cannot run away like that; we hold him to The Tailor and Ansty. I have been reading various works for the last 30 years, discriminately and indiscriminately, and a finer collection of “smut” than The Tailor and Ansty I have never read, and I have read all the authors from Rabelais down, or, as Senator Sir John Keane would phrase it, up. Senator Sir John Keane says “We have got legal opinion.” Who, pray, are the “we”? Who are the muck-rakers who are so anxious to fill their stomachs with this filth that they have gone the length of feeing some lawyer to discover whether they are within their rights?

Sir John Keane: Would the Senator like me to answer him now?

Mr. Kehoe: I should be delighted.

Sir John Keane: The Senator must live a rather ostrich-like existence. Does he not know that a large number of people have been concerned with this—not a large number as a percentage of the population, but a large number of people have thought that their rights are infringed, writers generally whose books were censored, muck-rakers if you like to call them that? Are they not justified in getting a legal opinion?

Mr. Kehoe: Yes; they are quite entitled to do so from the legal point of view. I did not know exactly the Senator's phraseology. I was merely anxious to know who they were and on that statement from the Senator I am quite satisfied that such persons exist. [38] I presume that if someone from a bacteriological laboratory wanted to scatter the germs of typhoid fever indiscriminately throughout the land, he would have a perfect right to ascertain legal opinion before doing so. I am quite sure of that. This affects our national reputation, I am told. I do not know; does it, I wonder? The fact of having fathered George Moore and others of his ilk—I do not know if that added one jot to our national reputation. Our reputation is built on other things than on literature which is indecent in its tendency. As far as Irish writers are concerned, it is true that Irish writers have gone beyond the pale in this matter—beyond the pale as the ordinary man in the street regards it. If they purvey their wares for gold or reputation, why let them. I seem to recollect a couple of lines of Moore:

“Undistinguished they live if they shame not their sires.”

You will always have Irishmen, just as any other nationals, who are anxious for reputation or gain, pseudo reputation in reality, and who purvey their wares for gold, whether it be British gold or not does not matter. We hear a good lot to the effect that we, the elders, are detached from the outlook of youth. Is the outlook of youth towards smut? Not necessarily. It may be in some cases—we cannot ignore that fact—but not necessarily. The adolescents who go to “the pictures” are tired of that kind of thing, and are not slow in expressing their views, and youth, if left to itself, is generally right. Even if they taunt their aged parents with certain books being too advanced for them, I do not think youth need have the least qualms of conscience about their elders. They are as well able to cope with the filth of the present day as their children. It is for them to show the example. Example is better than precept. Standards of morality do not change— standards of true morality. We have been told that certain books are not censored. Because books have been thrown on the market and were not censored, is that any reason why the books we are speaking about now [39] should not be censored? It is rather a reason, to my mind, for double censorship. I regret to say that the Censorship Board has not been adequately financed. On that point I have spoken here before, shortly and I hope to the point. Censorship should be doubled, and we owe a debt of thanks to those people at the ports, customs officers who sometimes usurp, even in their spare time, the functions of censorship, and do not allow in stuff which is not suitable for publication.

It is not necessary to be a purist in those cases. We have the ordinary standards of decency to guide us. If Senator Sir John Keane had read out in full some of the paragraphs and some of the implications that are in The Tailor and Ansty, for instance, the House certainly could not have stood it. Case-hardened and all as they may be, the individual conscience and the collective conscience still baulk at laying bare the sores of moral leprosy. As a Yankee philosopher once said: “There is plenty of filth in the world, but you need not pick it up”. There is absolutely no demand for this stuff. I think this proposal by Senator Sir John Keane is decidedly provocative and tends to no good whatever. The moral standards in the Ireland of to-day and in the Ireland of the past, whether people like it or not, are based on one particular standard, that is the religion we profess. If there are people who do not recognise that, let them recognise at least that the will of the majority, in this as in every other democratic country, must prevail. We heard a lot about the publishers. The publishers know very well the risks they are taking. As the Americans say: “It is their funeral.” They stand to lose, and they take the risk. Having taken the risk of launching this stuff on the public, they should be prepared to take the consequences. We heard about authors of repute. Authors of repute from what point of view? From the point of view of world standards, which, mark you, are not the standards of Ireland. Is it the ear to the keyhole type? Is it the type that advances to the fields and the kitchen fireplace, picks up every atom of smut they can [40] find and then launches it on the world as evidence of literary wit?

Sir John Keane: Does the Senator suggest that the kitchen is any more smutty than the drawingroom?

Mr. Kehoe: All I can say is that this particular kitchen is anyway. However, if the Senator cares to claim equality for the drawingroom, I grant him that. No doubt, there are things in French which are not very good, and some in Gaelic which are not very good, but can anyone contend that those are as accessible to the general public as are works which are launched in English? I have read stuff in the public libraries which is not fit to go on any man's table. There is a place for some of them in the gynæcological institutions. From the point of view of that or of obstetrics, they may be all right, but surely all we want to do is to judge by ordinary decency. Mark you, what opponents of censorship at the present day complain of very often is that vulgarity in itself is never censored. That is the casus belli of the high literary group.

Vulgarity is condemned, but what could be more vulgar than the book we are discussing to-day? I challenge anyone to read it and to lay it down without a feeling of profound depression that any man posing as a litterateur, coming here from England, should go along to collect garbage and father it on somebody as evidence that the Irish people are depraved. Perhaps they are depraved—so are people in all countries—but why should a man from England come over to portray them and make capital out of it? Have we no spirit that we do not rise up in revolt against this sort of thing?

Again, I say, that anyone who reads The Tailor and Ansty will come away profoundly saddened that such filth should be imposed on an unsuspecting people, with all our old stories transmogrified, added to, and shown in a different light altogether from the atmosphere in which they are heard— traipsed out in that subtle way which comes so easily to the born litterateur —and made to appear quite differently in the published volume from what they would appear in the rude context of their birthplace. It is not a [41] pleasant thing for a literary man to do that. Our standards are not the standards of the modern world. We may have our faults, but we should endeavour to keep our standards aloft and remain faithful to them to the end. If books of the type of The Tailor and Ansty are allowed to go through the country unchecked, the result will certainly be deleterious—I do not say disastrous. You cannot touch pitch and not be defiled by it. Sir John Keane quoted the Bible. We know that the devil can cite scripture for his purpose, but I will quote the Bible again for Senator Sir John Keane: “You cannot touch pitch and not be defiled by it.”

Mr. Fitzgerald: I do not see how exactly Senator Sir John Keane could establish what he affirms in his motion when he says that this board—the existing board—has ceased to retain the public confidence. I do not see how anyone can know whether it does or not, or how anyone can tell me what the people are thinking. If anyone says that he can tell us what the people are thinking, he does not know what he is talking about. I do not see how anyone could sit here and say that the board had got public confidence, because we do not know whether it had public confidence or whether it has lost that confidence. It would be a rather difficult and complicated thing to do, but I do not think that Senator Sir John Keane gave us any instance in which a book came under the ban of the board when it was not due to come under the ban within the terms of the Act.

I cannot say that Senator Sir John Keane did that, because you could not do it merely by reading extracts from certain books. Therefore, it seems to me that this motion remains rather in the air. It would be ridiculous for me to vote and to say that, to my knowledge and conviction, the public had a certain view with regard to the Censorship Board. Quite a number of things have been said during this debate which I found rather irritating. For instance, the last and other speakers have asserted often that we are not as other people are. If we [42] were not as other people are, you would then possibly have good ground for abolishing the board; it would be unnecessary. But, just let us observe one or two facts. At the present time, I think it is an undoubted fact that the old standards of decent reticence are not maintained as they were at a previous time. For instance, Senator Sir John Keane says that in the very beginning the methods employed across the water would be adequate for the exclusion of obscene literature. I think I can say that books are now published in England and allowed free circulation against which the law, which has remained in England over a long period, in its application before the last war, or 50 or 100 years ago, would have been in operation though it does not operate to exclude them now. The reason is that the public standards of taste or the conception of the reticence that decency requires have completely changed and one of the troubles in this country is not as our patriots are asserting, that we are not as other men, but that really this country is very much as other countries are.

On the point of freedom, I want to say two things. The fact that these books have such a wide circulation in this country comes from the restriction of freedom by the State. An enormous number of the readers of these books are able to read them by virtue of the operation of the compulsory School Attendance Act. At a cost of £5,000,000 a year these people have been put in a position to read, but are not educated, and they naturally tend to read that which requires the least mental effort. Every time I got on a bus or a tram I used to see copies of a certain illustrated paper published in England. It seemed to be in the hands of every second passenger. It does not come here now, not because people do not want to buy it, but because the paper restrictions in England have made it undesirable to use paper for the printing of copies for the export market. Some time ago I was with a friend of some academic distinction. He said that the job of the editor was perfectly simple—all you have to do is to have firmly in your mind an [43] intelligent child of nine. That paper, catering for the mentality of an undeveloped child of nine, circulated widely here.

There is a very peculiar and difficult situation in the world at present because you have compulsory literature along with literacy, arising from the taxation of people. In Anglo-Saxon countries, or countries which conform with all the institutions of Anglo-Saxon countries, you have at present a widespread system of public libraries. Local authorities impose a tax on the people to provide public libraries. I, personally, cannot see why I or anyone else should be taxed to provide an unlimited amount of these modern published books to be read by young men and young women and girls going to offices to be typists, and so on. I cannot see why the public should be asked to provide them with an unrestricted flood of that stuff.

There is a breakdown in the old standards of reticence, and the law which has existed in England for so long would certainly, when the ordinary standard was rather different from what it is now, have been applied in regard to a great number of books. There is the problem. I do not say that the body we are discussing serves any vital purpose, but I think it is a necessary institution. I was given figures showing that in England before the war, 17,000 books were published annually. Making a generous estimate of the value of literature published at the moment, I think we might say that not less than 16,900 of them certainly represented an awful waste of the wood pulp that went into the making of the paper. I am afraid that if I were on a censoring body, and if I could read all that mass of print, I would have felt called upon, and not according to the Act, to censor most of them, because not merely are these books a waste of time, but the reading of them has a corrosive effect upon the mind. On the other hand, it does seem to me, from the speeches against Senator Sir John Keane's motion, that there has been a general assumption that if any book contained anything which might [44] be harmful to any section of the community, for instance, young people, it is due to be banned. There, I think, is entirely a wrong point of view. Any book can do harm. Senator Johnston referred to Shakespeare and the Bible. There is no doubt about it, a prurient mind could go through the Bible and find things on which to feed its prurience. When he refers to Shakespeare, there are certain individual things in Shakespeare, and I think one can say this with some certainty, that the things which strike one in Shakespeare as most indecent strike one as indecent because they were written for no other purpose.

Some coarse language was put into the mouths of porters by Shakespeare, but Shakespeare's greatness was not enhanced by these passages. One assumes as the most obvious thing that he wanted to get his crowd in the pit when he inserted these little indecent bits without feeling that he was enhancing his tragic conception or adding to his enormous poetical power by what was merely a sop to the groundlings. I do not know what passages Senator Johnston had in mind but he certainly must be aware that Shakespeare did not need to be Shakespeare to write them. Any of the hack writers who wanted to play down to the lower types of audience could have written them just as well as Shakespeare.

That is certainly the problem in this country; is the Government in a world where the old standards of reticence have gone down—and I am not saying that we are any better than the rest of the world in this matter—to open the gates to the 17,000 volumes that flow annually out of England? There have been certain references to things in Latin and Greek literature. There is no doubt that to us whose language is not Latin a thing written in Latin would be less detrimental than something written in English. We have to recognise these various shades of distinction. I think it is rather unfortunate that Senator Keane hung so much on to the book to which he referred— The Tailor and Ansty I think it is called. I saw in a certain newspaper [45] —it might have been more than one newspaper—what was obviously the usual rant of protests worked up against this banning. I am not in a position to discuss the matter because I have not read the book but the passages which Senator Sir John Keane read struck me not alone as outrageously immoral but as inconceivably boring. There was, for instance, the constant repetition of that phrase about the bull and the cow. I think that anyone with a proper sense of economy of diction in literature would certainly have cut it down when it came to writing it out.

Senator Sir John Keane also spoke of one man whom the Church recognised as one of its outstanding poets. I cannot understand how he could say that. Certainly I do not know what machinery the Church has for recognising him as one of its outstanding poets. There is this problem, as I say, of the enormous masses of our people who have gone through the elementary schools, who are able to read, and who are then submitted to this enormous flood of literature written in a world which has lost its old reticence and which has largely ceased to have the identical moral standards that prevailed through Christendom for a long period. Those who suggest that our people are such an extraordinarily marvellous people that they should be protected from this imported literature are likely to destroy their own case because if our people were such a marvellous people this undesirable literature would really have no effect. It is because we know that the masses of our people can hardly be called educated that censorship must be exercised to protect them from this pernicious literature.

Reference was made to a book which has a wide circulation, and it was suggested that the suppression of such books in this country has brought us a bad name. I do not know of any book—it might have been that I have not followed the books that have been censored—that has been censored that I feel any the poorer for not having free access to. If we have public libraries, I do not see why unfortunate ratepayers should be called be upon to [46] pay for the circulation of books amongst the people other than books that have for a long period been recognised as books of great value. As far as modern novels are concerned, I do not know of more than half a dozen novels that have been published in the last 20 years that there would be any harm in the people not reading. Taking the modern novel, the publisher calculates that the copies that are not sold within one month of its publication may be regarded as practically unsaleable. When a writer writes a book he immediately submits it to a censorship. When you write a book you have got to depend on the publisher's decision as to whether it will be published or not. It is common knowledge that there are publishers in England who will undertake to publish a novel if it is sufficiently indecent to guarantee a certain sale. The writer has to submit first of all to the censorship of the publisher who decides whether the book will be published or not. Secondly, the book is submitted to the censorship of the reviewers. The people know only of new books in so far as they have been reviewed in various publications. So far as this country is concerned, our whole standard of judgment is completely that of a flunkey. We accept what has been acclaimed as a great book in England. Every Irish writer who is acclaimed by completely unimportant English critics, immediately establishes himself in this country as an outstanding pundit in all matters of literature, philosophy, politics and the ordering of society. That is our weakness. We have no critical standards. We do not produce any great numbers of writers ourselves that we can be proud of.

We are in the modern world which we can objectively consider as moving in the wrong direction. We have this position in all stages of society. Take, for instance, the university society which wants to attract a big crowd. What do you get? You get somebody who by reason of the fact that what he has to say requires such little mental application that he has won the mass of the English public. If you can bring such a man as that forward you are guaranteed an overflow meeting. You [47] can take an unimportant biologist, whose competence in biology has merely served as an advertisement tag for his work as an unimportant journalist, discussing politics and defending them from the Leftist point of view. The fact that he is a journalist and a Leftist guarantees him an enormous advertisement and a whole body of people will declare that he is one of the greatest thinkers of our age. Other men who came over here, and whose books are guaranteed to have an enormous circulation, might happen to have attained their position by being members of what the B.B.C. calls the Brains Trust. If you know anything about any particular subject and listen to those pundits discoursing on your subject, you would be astounded as to how any men could, in public, show such an enormous lack of elementary knowledge. They come over here and, of course, we hail them as some of the greatest thinkers in the world because of that general flunkeyism of spirit that is prevalent here.

All that censorship does and can do is to ban a very limited number of books—the number being limited by the number they can read during the year—and that number is negligible as compared with the enormous outflow from the printing presses available to the people here. It seems to me that some such body should be in existence symbolically, as on certain occasions there may be something so outrageous that it must be banned immediately. Otherwise, when people are denied access to half a dozen of more or less indecent books, they still have available to them a couple of thousand others to which they can turn for consolation. As I said in the beginning, I do not think any of us is in a position to show whether or not the present censorship board has the confidence of the people.

I want to refer to two books. One of them was mentioned by Senator Keane—the book by Halliday Sutherland. I can understand that it could be argued that that book, widely spread about and read in the wrong spirit, and by people who should not be reading such books, might be harmful; but, [48] at the same time, it does not follow that, because a book might do harm to certain people, such a book is necessarily bad. All that one can do there would be to try, if there were machinery for that purpose, to see that it circulated only amongst people to whom it would not be harmful. I wish to stress that point—because a thing can do harm, it is not necessarily bad. I think I can quote St. Thomas on the point. He says that a man who makes a bow and arrow, which may be used for killing somebody, is eminently justified in making it, provided it is for a good purpose. It is the same with books. There are some which you would not like to see in everybody's hands, but which, at the same time, are valuable and which should not be unavailable. I wish to embark on one point of literary criticism on which I am not more competent than, say, the editor of the Times Literary Supplement or the literary editor of the Sunday Times. I cannot confess that I am not going to be more competent than such negligible people. One book, The Power and the Glory, was full, if you like, of coarseness, and yet, in my judgment, it is the one great novel that I have seen published in England in recent years, or, I might say, in modern times. It is a book you might describe as outrageous, but it plunges into the depths of human perfidy and turpitude. Nevertheless, its total effect is what Aristotle calls catharsis—its total effect is noble, human and purifying. That is my personal judgement. I think the Censorship Board banned that. In that matter, I disagree with their judgment, although I can quite understand that they decided that such a book, in all the Carnegie libraries throughout the country, might easily have a bad effect on a great number of people.

As to certain Irish writers depicting Irish characters as undesirable, that is quite irrelevant to the Act under which this board operates. There is hypersensitiveness here: we are always afraid that the outside world will think that some character in some book, important or unimportant, written by an Irishman, will make everybody think that we are all like that. That comes only from a certain inferiority that we are conscious of— [49] we are always in terror of what other people think of us. If you read the Inferno of Dante and just note the characters there, from his own City of Florence, you will agree that most of the characters are rather undesirable —their very presence in the Inferno indicated that they were not perfect little saints. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the glorious City of Florence has, as its greater glory, the fact that it produced the supreme poet of all time—Dante.

Therefore, although the relatives of the various people situated in Hell could have been rather sore about it, and though Florentines of that time might have said: “The Venetians, Romans, Pisans and Franks will think we are an awful lot of people,” it is clearly established that Dante brought honour and glory, which will exist for all time, to the city whose people he represented in such an undesirable light. Irish writers who say that such characters would give people outside the idea that all the Irish people are like that, have a sort of inferiority complex which they should get rid of. When it comes to examining and analysing and plunging deep into the more obscene human passions, personally I do not think that, when that is done, the book is necessarily an indecent one. As a great French writer has pointed out, the author who is going to do that must himself be sure that he is moved by a terrifying purity.

There comes the point as to how the Censorship Board is to judge. One man, in whose heart resides that enormous purity, might himself plunge into these obscene depths of the human heart and himself produce a book which would be essentially noble and ennobling; whereas another man, writing of the identical subject and identical characters, would produce a book subversive to morality amongst the population.

I do not think that Senator Sir John Keane could establish what he states in the motion. I am quite prepared to believe, and quite prepared not to believe, if the proofs come forward, [50] that the Censorship Board has not acted strictly within the terms of the Act. That is the only thing that could be established. I do not see how we can propose that censorship in this country be abolished. Every State in every age has had to establish some sort of censorship. At the moment it happens that the majority of the books published in the world have cast away discipline and reticence, because it is so much easier to write without discipline or reticence. There must be some machinery available, to be put into operation any time that the threat becomes too vital. At the same time, I hate to hear people talking as though anything not suitable for a girl of 14 or for a typist going on the bus to the office, must necessarily be condemned and excluded. If some harm is done in that way, there is a greater good in seeing that the richest of literature and the greatest of human thought should be available to the people of this country.

Pádraic O Máille: Do réir mar thuigim-se, bhí meas ag muinntir na hEireann i gcómhnuí ar árd-intleacht agus litríocht. Sílim go ndéanfaidh an chainnt atá againn indiú go leor maitheasa. Ní raibh de mhí-ádh ormsa an leabhar faoi'n táilliur do léigheamh, ach do réir na ngiotaí a léigh an Seanadóir as an leabhar sin, níor chuala mé ríamh a leithéid de ráiméis agus a bhí ann. Tá árdmholadh ag dul don té a chuir stop leis an leabhar sin sa tír seo.

Aontuighim le go leor adubhairt an Seanadóir MacGearailt, ach tá aon rud amháin adubhairt sé annseo—má thuig mé i gceart é—nach raibh fíor, an rud a bhaineann leis an Anglo-Saxon race. Bréagnuighim é—níl aon bhaint againn leis.

As I said in Irish, the Irish people have always had a high regard for genius and literature. The creator of literature does a noble work that is an advantage to the people of his time and to the countless generations that follow. I have never had the misfortune to read this book The Tailor and Ansty but from the specimens of the book that were read out by Senator [51] Sir John Keane I think Senator Professor Johnston would be drawing the line very far if he claimed that book as literature or if he thought it worth comparison with the Bible or with the writings of Shakespeare.

Professor Johnston: May I interrupt to say I would not like without reading a book as a whole to decide finally whether it is literature?

Pádraic O Máille: I admire literature if it is literature, but the trouble is that second or third-rate scribblers, if they cannot get people to read their books, have a slap at religion or public decency. That is a noted fact as regards some of our writers who go across and feed the English public. If they belittle their own country or if they belittle the religion of the people they become heroes over night. I think it is a bad thing to pander to sentiment of that sort. Of all the extraordinary claims I heard put forward in this House or elsewhere, the most extraordinary statement, if I understood him aright, was made by Senator Fitzgerald when he said that we Irish were an Anglo-Saxon race.

Mr. Fitzgerald: I did not say that.

Pádraic O Máille: How he came to make that statement I do not know. I protest against the branding of this country as Anglo-Saxon, and I think we will be proud that we are not in the near future.

Leas-Chathaoirleach: It had better be left in parenthesis. We cannot have a debate on this matter.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Dubhairt sé nár thig sé an rud a dubhairt mé.

Pádraic O Máille: If many of these so-called books were banned it would be to the advantage of the reading public. I have yet to be convinced by Senator Johnston or anyone else that these so-called books—pure drivel I call them—could be classed as literature.

Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Minister.

[52] Mr. M. Hayes: Will that close the debate?

Leas-Chathaoirleach: No. Senator Sir John Keane will conclude the debate as the mover of the motion.

Mr. Boland: Like Senator Fitzgerald I have no evidence that the Censorship Board has lost the confidence of the Irish people. Apart from the few letters written by obviously interested people in a paper which is constantly attacking the principle of censorship, I have heard no adverse comments whatever on the question of censorship. One particular book has been mentioned, and that is The Tailor and Ansty, and I do not propose to go into the merits of that book. It is quite clear from the extracts we heard read that the work should have been banned. I read the book because I had to do the banning, and I am glad to have this opportunity of paying a tribute to the work of the Censorship Board. I think they have undertaken a very onerous task and discharged it with great credit indeed. They have been subjected, from time to time, to attacks from one organ, which apparently wants to have the floodgates of filth opened upon this country. There is one particular paper that keeps on attacking the censorship, and that paper is the Irish Times. It specialises in attacking the censorship. I am glad to be able to pay my tribute to the work that the Censorship Board has done.

When Senator Sir John Keane was quoting passages from books he mentioned some of the grounds upon which a book could be prohibited. He did not mention the ground upon which a periodical could be prohibited. I want to say that the work the Censorship Board has done in prohibiting the sale of certain periodicals has been of untold benefit to the country. Whatever may be said about books that have a limited circulation, their work in prohibiting periodicals has been of untold benefit. Thirty-two periodicals have been banned altogether, and many of them have been banned for a very good reason and a reason which is strictly in accordance with the Act, that is, that they devote an unduly large proportion [53] of their space to the publication of matter relating to crime. Before the establishment of the Censorship Board this country was flooded with periodicals, generally Sunday papers, which devoted practically the whole of their issues to crime. That has almost entirely disappeared. I do not know the periodical that Senator Fitzgerald was referring to, but I can say that 32 periodicals have been stopped.

Mr. Fitzgerald: I think that the periodical I referred to was just stopped through the British Government wanting to save paper.

Mr. Boland: It was a shame that any Government in these times should allow so much good paper to be used in turning out such an accumulation of filth. Since the board was established the circulation of 1,552 books has been prohibited and we get three books mentioned by Senator Sir John Keane. In the case of one book there is no need to answer. There were two others, and of one of them I had the banning, and that was The Land of Spices. I do not intend to go into the merits of doubtful books. I do not put up to be a literary man, but I think I have enough ordinary discrimination to have as good an opinion as the next. I have to ban the books. If I did not ban them they would not be banned, but I banned them on the recommendation of the Board. That has to be borne in mind. I admit that I had not read the book right through at the time but I agreed to ban it. That may be a condemnation of myself, but I admit that I did not read through the hundreds of books that were banned and I do not intend to do so. I have great confidence in the board we have established. I did not read this book and I read it with the inclination to be rather sceptical as to whether the board was right in banning it. When I had it finished, I decided that they were perfectly right, even though, as Senator Sir John Keane said, there was only the one passage in question. The central theme of the book was that particular class of crime. You asked yourself in reading the book: “What is all this about?” and you [54] were not enlightened until you came to that passage. Although the book was well written, I think the board were perfectly right in banning it because of its central theme.

The other book—The Laws of Life— is more a medical book, and I read that book, too. Senator Sir John Keane was kind enough to let me know what three books he intended to deal with in this debate. He selected these because, I suppose, they would provide the Censorship Board with their weakest case. I read that book before it was banned and I could see that it was a medical book. It advocated, as Senator Sir John Keane said, the use of the safe period, as it is called. I am satisfied that, if that book were in general circulation in this country, it would do untold damage. The permissu superiorum to which reference has been made may exist in England because conditions there are different from conditions here. Birth control is, I believe, freely advocated there. Whether it is widely practised or not, I do not know. The free advocacy of birth control is not allowed here, and I think the Censorship Board were bound to recommend the banning of this book. I have no apology to make for the board.

Sir John Keane: I stated that I understood that the use and knowledge of the safe period was approved by the Church in this country. Has the Minister made any inquiries on that specific point?

Mr. Boland: I am not a theologian but, on the board that made that recommendation, was a very eminent Catholic ecclesiastic and I am sure he was able to tell the board all about the position. I am never present at the Board. I feel quite certain that every aspect of the case was fully considered. Different circumstances obtain in this country from the circumstances which obtain in the country where this permissu superiorum is given.

Professor Magennis: May I interrupt the Minister to ask if he will allow me to reply to Senator Sir John Keane when he shall have concluded?

Mr. Boland: I am not concluding the debate. I did not know at what [55] point I should intervene, but I thought it well to intervene now.

Leas-Chathaoirleach: It is not necessary for the Senator to get the permission of the Minister to reply.

Professor Magennis: The members of the Board feel that we are in the service of the Department of Justice and that the Minister is our spokesman. We are not civil servants and, yet, in a manner, we are, so far as debate of our public conduct is concerned. I feel, and the board also feels, that I should not intervene in this debate unless the Minister gives me permission.

Mr. M. Hayes: That is an extremely bad principle and I think the Minister has no sympathy with it.

Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Senator must make up his own mind on the matter. There is no question of the Minister giving permission to any Senator to speak.

Professor Johnston: What does the law of the State say about the use of the safe period with regard to birth control?

Mr. Boland: I am not prepared to go into the law of the State but I repeat that I take full responsibility for banning this book. If it were widely circulated, it would do untold harm. Whether the Board was technically and legally correct, whether the book in its general tendency was indecent or obscene, may be open to question, but, on the ground that it was calculated to do untold harm, I was perfectly satisfied it should be banned. I am glad to have the opportunity, which Senator Keane has afforded me by putting down this motion, of saying so. I did not feel that I was required to do more than ban any book and if there were objections, then, seeing that we live in a democratic country, any Senator or Deputy could table a motion and we could discuss the action taken. I have no evidence whatever that there is any public dissatisfaction with the Board. I do know that a number of interested people, people [56] whose books have been banned, have been protesting. These are people who can write freely and who could sell their books without putting in these bits of filth which do not add to the books at all. They think that they will get extra sale by pandering to the lowest instincts of human nature.

Professor Johnston: Will the Censor ban the report of this debate?

Mr. Boland: I know nothing about that. It is a pity that some of the young writers we have, who are very able, would not try to get away from this sort of thing. It is a modern innovation even in English novels, so far as I know. It is only in the last 20 or 30 years that it has crept in. In a number of French books which I have read, I have seen chapters dealing with matters of that kind. If these chapters were taken out, the story would still go on. They did not affect the story and they were brought in for no other purpose than to pander to feelings of this kind. They did not add one iota to the book. Why our young literary men cannot resist the temptation to follow in that line is a puzzle to me. I am sorry they do not. They are not worthy of themselves. I have the utmost confidence in the board. Most of them are elderly, but I do not know that that is any harm. The more experience they have, the broader their outlook. I hope that that is so with myself because I am getting old, too. The ideas of our modern young people are, I think, changing. I am afraid that the reticence we always expected and generally experienced is not so strong as it was. That is a great loss, and we should do all we can to maintain that reticence. I do not suggest that we are better than anybody else. We aim at a fairly high standard and we should do our best to maintain as high a standard as we can. There is enough of the other type of thing in the world and we ought to make an attempt to maintain high standards. We are all human beings, no matter in what part of the world we are born, and we ought to aim at as high standards as are possible for us. It is a great pity that gifted young people would not resist the temptation to [57] engage in this sort of writing. I have a feeling that some of them are not concerned with this country, that they are glad to have their books banned so as to get a sale. It may be wrong for me to say that, but I have a feeling about some of them that they are really writing for an English clientéle. They know very well, when they put in this stuff, that the book will be banned, and that that will be an advertisement for them in England, and perhaps in the north of Ireland, where there is no censorship.

In regard to the other methods which Senator Sir John Keane said were adequate, that is police methods, they are not adequate; they certainly would not do at all. When the Bill was going through the House 13 years ago I did not speak against it, but I had great sympathy with the present chairman's attitude. I think he had great courage, and spoke very well on it indeed. I felt we might have all sorts of Pussyfoot people interfering and preventing us from getting books which we ought to get. I do not think that can be said now after 13 years' work. The stuff that has been stopped is simply filthy literature, a quarter or half or practically the whole of which was devoted to sexual crime, particularly the Sunday papers and magazines. The fact that they have stopped that should make us all feel very pleased and very thankful to the Censorship Board, instead of saying that they have lost the confidence of the people. When it is known that they have done this good work I think the people will be very thankful indeed to them.

Business suspended at 6.5 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

Mrs. Concannon: What most of us must deplore—speaking for myself, I most bitterly resent it—is that the House should be asked by the terms of this motion to associate itself not with an overt attack on censorship or the machinery of censorship but on a body of men who, without fear and with no reward but that of the consciousness of serving good morals and [58] the national well-being, have devoted themselves for long years to a thankless, and, in some cases, a revolting task. I think, perhaps, to-night we got some idea of the sort of stuff the censors have to read. The extracts from one book—and I suppose there are books that are far worse than that —will give us some idea of the dreadful task they have. I imagine it must make them almost physically sick to read some of the books they have to read. I was just thinking, when Senator Fitzgerald was speaking of Dante and the Inferno, that, if Dante came to life again and wanted to think of a really severe punishment for his political enemies, if he condemned them for all eternity to read a book like the Tailor and Ansty there could not be any torture that would get at their “innards” more fiercely. This is the sort of thing that our censors have to read. They do it from a sense of duty to their country and a sense of duty to God. I have said that the motion is not ex professo, an attack on the censorship but in reality it is, because do we imagine for one moment that if we pass this motion—of course, I am sure the House would never do such a thing—any body of men or women would be found to take on the ungrateful task of censorship? It is not a recreation. It is dreadfully hard work, and I am quite sure that nobody on whom we could rely would serve on the Censorship Board if this motion were passed.

For want of a board, the censorship would come to an end, except perhaps we were content to select our censors on the nomination of the League for Intellectual Freedom, whatever that may mean. I do not know what that organisation stands for. On the other hand, we know what our censors stand for, and members of this House know the chairman of the Censorship Board, Senator Professor Magennis. Probably no one knows him as well as I do, and no one can testify with such intimate knowledge as I, to the work which Senator Magennis through long years has done for Ireland. Gifted with a mighty intellect and a great store of knowledge he could, if personal ambition had been his guiding star, have [59] stayed in his study and written one of those great philosophical works that would have made his name shine forever. But, he found his country degraded, he found it wanting in education, and so with great self-sacrifice, he devoted himself to the task of education. There is no branch of education which Senator Magennis has not advanced. For long years he was Professor of English Literature. He knows what he is talking about when he speaks of literature, and generations of teachers have been inspired by his lectures. Through a great many years, too, he served as advisory examiner on the Intermediate Board, and I can speak of the revolution he worked. It was a cramming system, pure and simple, when we got it first, but downtrodden Catholic people who had not much chance of educating their children, at last got an opportunity when Senator Magennis made it a real instrument of education. To prepare a pupil for one of Senator Magennis's papers was to give him a real education in literature and what was best in literature. In the university with which he had been associated from the beginning he is responsible more than anyone else for the progress made.

There is no man in Ireland to whom we owe so much as Senator Magennis. But for him it is doubtful if we would ever have had a National University. He was chairman of the Catholic Graduates' Association and he prepared the ground for it and for a long period lectured in the university and gave it prestige which, without him, it might have had to go far to seek. I am glad to say that it is for these services the country has recognised him, and the Government has appointed him a Senator in this House. We all know that when he opens his lips everyone has to listen, and some of the best speeches ever heard in this room have come from his lips. Not only that, but the university has honoured him with the highest degree in its power—Doctorate of Literature. Recently, the Government appointed him as one of its nominees on the Senate of the National University. We know what Senator [60] Magennis stands for and when we talk of the work the censors are doing we certainly have the assurance that we have entrusted this job to a man who knows what ought to be done. The question is: are we to abolish the censorship, because that is the effect of the resolution if we adopt it. We must remember that in the first part of our Constitution we made a solemn declaration when we wrote:—

“In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred.”

The action we have taken here to-night comes under that declaration, and if we are going to do away with the censorship, which would be the effect of passing the resolution, we would open our gates to a flood of evil. We cannot do that without a sense of our responsibilities. I am very glad this debate has arisen, because it will have the effect of reminding us what we owe to the censors. We should appeal to the Minister to make their task easier by giving them the necessary help. I think that most of us were a little disturbed to read in one of the newspapers an extract from the Proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee in which the insufficiency of the machinery provided for the censorship was described. In the light of its importance, which the Minister has acknowledged, that machinery could be tightened up so as to give the censors the help they need.

Professor Magennis: When I saw the resolution that Senator Sir John Keane had set down, I said to myself: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” We of the Censorship Board have become accustomed to this campaign of defamation, of persistent and continued attacks on our personal character, our mental disabilities, and what not. I think the Senator finds himself in unhappy company. He undertook to prove that the board had ceased to have the confidence of the Irish people. How did he show it? There is only the one way to show it, according to his angle of view, and that is to bring forward this array of noisy agitators [61] who are sore—naturally very sore—because their books have been banned on the recommendations of the Censorship Board to the Minister for Justice.

You remember the story of the Three Tailors of Tooley Street who wrote a petition to the King of England and it began with the words: “We, the people of England...” In the same way Senator Sir John Keane, who used to speak for “the wealth, respectability and intelligence of Ireland,” as contrasted with us, the People, degraded and depressed. Senator Sir John Keane spoke for the settlers with the same air of superiority as he does in this House with regard to the national culture, and the effort of our Minister to protect it from the deluge of filth which will assuredly make its mark on the minds of the people subjected to it, as surely as the stone is worn away by a constant dripping from a roof. He undertook to show cause why the Minister should reconstitute the board; his reason is that the board has not given satisfaction to those people whom it was obliged to restrain in the discharge of its statutory duty. If we gave satisfaction to those people would not it be proof that we had neglected our duty? Praise from them would be tantamount to condemnation from every decent-minded citizen.

I think that Senator Sir John Keane, who was a distinguished soldier in the last Great War, has shown very bad generalship on this occasion in electing to give battle on such a book as that from which you have heard him read choice extracts. The other two books he did not deal with adequately because, as I suspect, one of them he did not read or, if he read it, was unable to understand it. But he saw enough of it to found a particularly venomous attack on the Catholic Church in Ireland. I shall proceed to show how and from where he is briefed —and he has been very badly briefed. The campaign began, in its venomous character, in the Irish Times, in or about autumn, 1935, reaching on well into 1936. Here is one of the letters, from a lady in Landscape, Waterford, the Senator's county:

“Who are the censors? By what [62] right do they hold office? And how, in case of incompetence, can they be removed?

Yours, etc.,

Teresa Deevy.”

That was the starting point of a long line of attack from a variety of writers. Soon Miss Deevy returns again like the Biblical dog—I need not particularise —in the Irish Times of 20th October, 1936:

“May I have a little space in your columns? I have just finished reading Bird Alone. I think that we, the reading public, are entitled to know why this book has been banned.”

Although she is one of the reading public, you will notice that she does not include in her reading the Act of Parliament under which the censorship is set up and in accordance with which it works. She reads, and you can see the type of reading she prefers. I ask the House to pay special attention to this:—

“Obviously the alleged reason is a cloak.”

The Senator was not above stealing that idea, or rather borrowing it without acknowledgment.

Sir John Keane: On a point of accuracy, I know nothing about this letter to which the Senator refers. I could not acknowledge a thing about which I knew nothing.

Professor Magennis: Well then, the atmosphere of Waterford must be held guilty. It must have created telepathic communication because there is a strange identity of idea:—

“Obviously the alleged reason is a cloak. There is not an iota to support the charge of general indecency. Does the real objection to this book lie in the fact that the central character turns from the faith of his childhood and does not, in the end, repent that turning?”

This letter is followed a few days later in the Irish Times by a repetition of that charge. I shall return to that presently, with your permission.

[63] “Have we come to such a pass in Ireland that men in a position so responsible as that of censors...”

You will observe that she has found the answer to the question she put previously as to who the dickens the censors were, and by what right they held office, but she has mistaken us for the Academy of Letters which is a self-constituted body, claiming to exercise authority over literature and writers because the coterie met and made itself an academy. She has discovered between October 19th and this slightly later date that the censors occupy a very “responsible position”.

“Have we come to such a pass in Ireland that men in a position so responsible as that of censors will publicly declare a man's work indecent because they disapprove of the philosophy of the characters he has created? One wonders—remembering also the banning of The Green Lion

I am omitting the author's name out of regard for his other literary work, which is very fine—

“If, in Ireland, we are not to be allowed to read of those whose faith differs from ours, if we are not to be allowed to read any criticisms of priests or religious orders, let that be said. But let us have an end to insults—lowering to those who offer them and to the nation that tolerates such practices.... The English Book Society has specially recommended Bird Alone.

So have the English sponsors recommended this book, The Tailor and Ansty, a low, vulgar, blasphemous work. It is true, according to the Act, that we are not entitled to take its vulgarity or its blasphemy into account. I mention them as a further illustration of what English papers recommend to English readers. The reviewers generally go by what is called the publisher's blurb, a “puff” of the book which the publisher gives on the “jacket”. Let me just read a little from this blurb so that we may see why it got an English publisher:

[Here the Senator quoted.]

[64] That is Irish countryside nature— “raw human nature”.

[Again the Senator quotes.]

I remember in a film being greatly struck with the remark—it was in the days of the silent screen, when one did not hear, but read, the speech— “He took politics as he found them and he found them ‘dirty’ ”. The Tailor sees life and speaks of life as he sees it, and he found it—dirty.

Sir John Keane: Would the Senator give the reference?

Professor Magennis: It is to the jacket of the book.

Sir John Keane: There is nothing in that about seeing life that is dirty. I suggest that the Senator should tell us when he is quoting.

Professor Magennis: Shall I read it?

Sir John Keane: Yes, and say when the quotation begins and when it ends.

Professor Magennis:

[The Senator quotes.]

I interrupted the reading, to emphasise “as he sees it”—he sees life dirty. What he sees, for example, is in no woman anything but either an employee in the kitchen or—I shrink from putting it so frankly, but I must put it so—a “biped cow.” This Tailor is sex-obsessed. He introduces stories that purport to be pieces of Irish folklore—one is a story that I read in an American paper some 40 years ago. It is the old “wheeze” about the man who became his own grandfather; but, as the Tailor repeats it, he saturates it with sexual innuendoes and indecencies, because, as I say, the man is sex-obsessed. His wife, Anastatia—called here “Ansty” —is what in the language of American psychology is called a moron—a person of inferior mental development, who may be 30 or 40 years of age but has reached only the mental stage of a child of four or five.

You may have noticed, in the passages which the Senator read out, that [65] you find her always repeating and dwelling on the last word said—and then eventually it dawns upon her what the sex-appeal in the matter is, and she goes away chuckling over it and repeating it. These two are represented in this book as typical of the Irish countryside.

There is a foreword by a Mr. Frank O'Connor, who is careful to explain his purpose in aiding and abetting the publication and circulation of this book, “because,” (he writes), “my friend, the Tailor, gave me the freedom of his circle.”

Sir John Keane: Is the Senator quoting now? I wish he would tell us when he is doing so.

Professor Magennis: I thought that I said there was a foreword by Frank O'Connor, and I openly turned the page of the book. That should have been sufficient. Evidently, the mind of the Senator is so distressed by his earlier performance that it has not the alertness that he customarily exhibits. I am reading from the foreword.

[Here the Senator quotes.]

I am skipping a little.

[The Senator quoted.]

Voilá l' Irlande! There is Ireland! This sex-ridden, sex-besotted Tailor speaks of no subject whatsoever without spewing the foulness of his mind concerning sexual relations. The author, Mr. Cross, leaves our Tailor and Ansty to speak out of his own personality, and what do you get? They arrive in Paradise and Ansty does not like the whiskers of St. Peter. Eventually, they are tired of Heaven, because they miss the cow and the neighbours, and “sweet Saint Francis of Assisi” goes down from the joy of the Beatific Vision in Heaven and shares hell with them by preference. I suggest that it is a blasphemous book.

I apologise for giving so much attention to this particular book, but Senator Sir John Keane notified me— very chivalrously—that he was going to confine the sphere of his criticism to the three books he indicated. I took it that, inasmuch as all the buzz in all the newspapers is about this book, it was [66] necessary to show you, even at the risk of being so tedious, the real character of it. It is propaganda, to show the English-speaking world what manner of man the Irish peasant is who is the citizen of Éire. It is propaganda, naked and unashamed.

Going back to our friend, Miss Devy:—

“The English Book Society has specially recommended Bird Alone to its members....”

Of course, it did. That is precisely the sort of book that would have the hearty approval of the body in question. Observe this writer, who wanted to know what she could have learned by buying a copy of the Act. Observe what she says about The Green Lion. I have made a note of that. Senator Sir John Keane made it easier for him, by confining himself to three books, but I do not feel obliged to confine myself to the books of his choice. I prefer to take the Waterford lady's choice for a moment. She writes:—

“One wonders—remembering also the banning of The Green Lion.

It is as unnatural as its colour.

Mr. Foran: The Senator asked that quotations should not be put on the record. I wonder if that is accepted, as excerpts are going on the record now.

Cathaoirleach: I will deal with that matter in due course as I have already stated.

Professor Magennis: I made that the subject of my petition to the Chair in the beginning. I have apologised before and I apologise again for detail. There is no other way of showing what we have to deal with except this dreadful way of presenting the books. I am doing my best to indicate the character of the work without hurting the imagination of hearers by putting it too vividly before them. Mine is a fair and accurate summary of the book. It is not my fault that it is so unpleasant.

Sir John Keane: Will the Senator say who objected to the censorship of this book?

[67] Professor Magennis: Yes, I have told the Senator several times already.

I am now reading again from the letter to the Irish Times: “The alleged reason is a cloak.” The alleged reason was what? That the book is “in its general tendency indecent”. What does the Senator say to that? What does this conspiracy—this conspiracy against Irish morality—seek to make out? That we take our orders from the Church, that we are merely hirelings and tools of the Church whose “power” Senator Sir John Keane says “will be swept away.” Does he challenge the accuracy of my quotation of him? I made a note of it. He says “we are a minority, there are hidden forces at work”, and he says they will be swept away. He says we will sweep away that power. There is in clear, plain language what the letter means, and, with the permission of the Chair, I will read from the letter to the Irish Times that followed upon this one. It declares sympathy for the lapsed Catholic because the lapsed Catholics will not be allowed by other Catholics to get a living and, at the time that letter was written, there were only two Catholics on the board because one had retired on account of the marriage of his daughter bringing him to London and another had died. Right Rev. Monsignor Boylan, one of our most distinguished scholars, who was chairman, and I were the only Catholics on the board. This letter declared that we were in a criminal conspiracy. That was not the term it used, because they were too clever to call a spade a spade, but they said we were making it impossible for lapsed Catholics, as the letter called them, to make a living by the pen in Ireland.

When I met the writer a few days later, I said to him: “How do you do, my libeller? Ought not you to be grateful that I have friendly feelings for you, or you would find yourself the defendant in an action out of which I would probably get at least £1,000 damages?” The poor man pleaded that he was wholly unaware of the legal implications of what he had said, and had merely followed the lead of his letter. It says that obviously the [68] alleged reason is a cloak, that there is nothing in it to uphold the charge of general indecency. Thus the super-censor. When I was at the Bar, I remember in a copyright case the solicitor for the defendant had the hardihood to get an affidavit from various writers declaring that there was no breach of copyright. The Master of the Rolls, Porter, who was an ideal judge, put it away indignantly, and he said: “Why, this is usurping the functions of the court; these people claim to settle the very matters which it is my function to settle.” And here you have some woman in Waterford of whom Senator Sir John Keane has never heard——

Sir John Keane: I do not want to be always interrupting but I think I am entitled to point out that I did not say I had never heard of her. I only said I had not met her.

Professor Magennis: I withdraw the words, “never heard of her”.

Sir John Keane: The Senator should be more accurate in what he says.

Professor Magennis: I have been very accurate. I am giving date and chapter and I have read the book which the Senator did not read and in that way I can claim to have superiority over him in knowing what I am talking about. She says: “If in Ireland we are not allowed to read, etc.”. This was the constant insinuation. Never was ours an honest verdict that the book was in its general tendency indecent, but always in 1936 those letters were written to show that we were stamping on someone or another unjustly and they had not the courage to bring us into court because let me tell this House that is the position in which the Board of Censorship stands. Senator Alton doubts that?

Professor Alton: I do not know how they could bring you into court.

Professor Magennis: They could if they had the courage. They could declare that our recommendation to the Minister was the occasion of his prohibiting the sale of their books. Surely that is actionable if it is shown [69] that we are going beyond our scope and authority or that we are animated by malice. For that is what we are accused of—that we are willing slaves of a despotic clergy; they have only to ban the book of the lapsed Catholic and the thing is done. Could you believe people who believe that and are too cowardly to bring us into court? There is the test of their sincerity.

It is good enough to bring charges against men who are fulfilling a public duty and who do not defend themselves. This is the first opportunity that any member of the board has had or taken of explaining what this campaign of calumny means, and what is its real purport.

Professor Alton: I would like to explain that unhappily I was not here for the earlier part of the debate. It was not my fault as I was detained elsewhere. I did not hear these charges and I hope that they were not made.

Professor Magennis: Senator Sir John Keane made them. I have read them out. Senator the Provost of Trinity College did not hear them, but Senator Sir John Keane said that there were hidden forces at work and that they would be swept away. The context in which that phrase was used was in regard to the book upon which he stakes his case of what he calls our mala fides. I refer to the Land of Spices. There is a distinct accusation of bad faith. Mala fides sounds better in a scholarly assembly, but the meaning of the words in plain English is bad faith. Now who are these people that become for the Senator the voice of Ireland? There is a famous passage of Burke in which he describes a scene in the English landscape, the giant oak and the great cattle reposing in their shadow and chewing the cud, while all the noise is the chink of the grasshoppers. The importunate in this case are the venomous gnats buzzing around the censorship.

These men have no ability to write anything but short stories. I grant that some of these men have written fine short stories, but they are not able for the sustained work of a novel [70] and, to make what should be a short story into the voluminous character of a novel to suit the English publishers' demand, they pad it out with sex and smut. Why does not the Senator say something in reply to that? Because he knows that I would not say that unless I could make the case to the satisfaction of this House.

There is an English writer called Cutcliffe Hyne. Most of us are acquainted with his name. He wrote a book a short time ago in which he revealed that a manuscript had been sent back to him by an English publisher with the admonition “Sex it up.” You have this dreadful spectacle to-day that great publishing firms like Macmillan and Cassell, which stood high in reputation as the publishers of most excellent and irreproachable books, have had, in sheer competition to survive, to pour out on the market, month after month, works that are abominable—absolutely abominable. Nobody would believe, until they heard it from Senator Sir John Keane, that there was in circulation—and in very wide circulation—a book of the type from which he read. What would they say to the books we have had to read advocating sodomy? What would they say to the books we have had to read, and form judgment about, which recommended that evil practice of which I have spoken of as “good for the health?” And we get these books. Beelzebub's demons of hell could not write worse than some works we have been obliged to read and report on to the Minister. They are vile beyond description.

This book upon which the Senator stakes his case is one in which the central interest is sodomy. He purported to give an account of it but the account he gave showed that either he did not read it or he read it very carelessly, because the passage he quoted is from the midnight reverie of a reverend mother in the 33rd year of her religious profession. It is not an account of a fact which is contemporaneous with the fact; it is a recalled fact. The reverend mother lies awake with the agony of having heard that her father was in his last illness. She had got her vocation to the [71] religious life—not so much a vocation as an escape—to get away from the house in which this monstrous wretch lived. In his dying hours, this comes to her mind as she lies awake. What the Senator forgot to tell you was that, from the first few pages of the book up to that passage, it is dominated by the influence of the terrible theme. Here is a reverend mother taking part in the reception into an Irish branch of her Order of three girls, one of whom is beautiful. She prays to God for forgiveness for the thought that occurs to her—such a cynical thought— of what a pity it is that this beautiful girl will be lost in the religious life— her Order.

You ask yourself “What is this cynicism due to?” and, as you read on, you get hints of something dreadful that happened in her life. She hates the mention of love. Human love is something so detestable, in her conception, that it is not to be mentioned. All the time your interest and curiosity are excited in a mounting degree as to what it was that happened. It is only now, when the woman has remorse for having hated her father to such a degree of enormity that she broke away from his house and took refuge in an Order, that you learn what it was. The Senator asked you to consider that it was only a single sentence that was in question. That single sentence is a vivid account of what St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, said was not to be mentioned amongst Christian men. This woman author chooses to make that the central and preponderating motif in a novel of convent life. It was not because the book shows up, as the Senator mentioned, the little weaknesses of convent life—the petty jealousies and so on—that we banned it but because we believed, and believe still, that the work is essentially—in its very fundamentals—an unwholesome work. There is a great deal of matter, which I am not going to quote from or refer to, in other passages in the book that makes it evil reading.

Sir John Keane: Might I ask the Senator to quote because he has given us a version of that book which I have [72] never been able to discover, after reading it very carefully? I think that we have a right to have the Senator's point of view supported by the quotation of definite passages.

Professor Magennis: You want me to go through the book? I think I am tedious enough and long-winded enough on the Land of Spices. If the Senator had read the book, he would have been alive to the accuracy of what I said.

Sir John Keane: I do not agree with you at all.

Professor Magennis: I ask the direction of the Chair.

Cathaoirleach: It is a matter for the Senator's discretion.

Professor Magennis: Then, I will not read. I return to this unread work —the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929. I do wish that those people who rush out with tomahawk and scalping knife would calm their transports and read the Act. Chief Baron Palles, who was a very distinguished Catholic, declared from the Bench in my hearing in those far-off, forgotten days when I was a barrister:—

“I must administer the law from the Bench as I find it. It does not follow that the judgments I give, in accordance with the statutes, is an expression of my view. I am a judge and I act as a judge.”

One who slangs the Censorship Board does so in total ignorance of what it is the Censorship Board is doing. The book which I held up in my hand a moment ago is a dirty book now, both inside and outside, because here is where it came from—The Argosy Circulating Library, Head Office, London, W.C. That book had been circulating through the country until it got into that partly decomposed, diseased condition on the outside. The outside and the inside of it are in perfect harmony thanks to its library circulation.

With your permission I will return to that point about circulation again. This Act is officially described in the official title as

[73] “An Act to make provision for the prohibition of the sale and distribution of unwholesome literature.”

In the case of a novel the understanding of whose plot, the understanding of whose characterisation, depends on a knowledge of what those words mean that Senator Keane read out, is it a wholesome book for circulation? Would any decent-minded man hesitate to destroy it as an unwholesome book? This Act has its machinery. What is the machinery? The Minister appoints what are described as fit and proper persons. According to Senator Sir John Keane, and according to Mr. O Faoláin, who describes my colleagues and me as addle-pated men, we are too experienced in life to be judges of life.

We are too long students of literature to be able to recognise the difference between art and the cheaper counterpart of it, which is a commercial thing, pandering to the lowest passions of the community who are expected to buy the work, the profits of the work making the remuneration of the publisher and some of the spoils going to the man who has soiled his own soul and his own pen with its authorship. What are we to do? The Minister for Justice is not able, although he is Minister for Justice, to prohibit the sale and distribution of an unclean or unwholesome book unless he has been “energised” by the Board's report. How is the Minister energised so as to exercise his prohibition power? Here is the Act. Lest I be tripped up again and asked to give the page, I may say that I am quoting from page 9 of the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929. I hope the Senator has it with him; he will have an opportunity of reading it now.

Sir John Keane: I have it here all right.

Professor Magennis: The Act says:—

“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 [74] 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.”

It is in the free discretion of the Minister, on receiving a complaint to the effect mentioned, to refer it to the board for examination, or to declare the complaint frivolous or something of that sort, and then the matter drops. But if he decides to send it to the board—I am quoting again— “the board shall consider every complaint referred to them by the Minister under this section”. That is a statutory duty. It is not “may” this time; it is “shall”. The Act says:—

“The board shall consider every complaint referred to them by the Minister under this section and for the purpose of such consideration shall examine the book or the particular edition of a book which is the subject of such complaint and on the completion of such consideration the board shall make to the Minister their report on such complaint.”

One might ask: In what form? Section 20 of the Act says:—

“The Minister may by Order make regulations prescribing all or any of the following matters and things, that is to say:—

(a) the manner and form in which complaints are to be made to the Minister under this Act.”

There is a set of regulations made accordingly, and they have the same legal standing as the Act itself. The section continues:—

“(b) the procedure of the Censorship of Publications Board and the forms to be used by them for the purposes of this Act.”

There are certain regulations, but the main regulation as regards the form of the report is contained in the Act itself, sub-section 6 of Section 6. Now, a great deal of misunderstanding arises through not going to this source.

[75] The sub-section says:—

“Whenever the board under this section makes a report not dissented from by more than one and assented to by at least three members of the board, stating that in the opinion of the board the book or the particular edition of a book which is the subject of such report is in its general tendency indecent or obscene or should for that reason be prohibited....”

The House will observe that the form of report on a work submitted to the board on a complaint made to the Minister is practically prescribed in that section. The report is to the effect that the work is in its general tendency indecent or obscene. It does not matter whether it is a clotted mass of obscenity or is incidentally indecent; the report is in precisely the same terms. It is not the board that invented this formula. This is the formula on which the board must make its report, and the board cannot shirk the making of a report. There is only one way out, and that is by resigning from the board or being dismissed by the Minister. A statutory duty imposed upon a member of the board is that he “shall” do this. I know I am being very tedious; I know I am being very long-winded, but the subject demands it.

I have here another cutting, a letter from a highly educated young woman whom we have on the staff of University College, Dublin, as a lecturer in English—a very nice and, in the ordinary way, when she is not criticising censorship, a pleasant and highly intelligent young woman. Her complaint is that the board and the Act have no definition of indecency, so that it is left to the sweet will of five men and the Minister to put any interpretation on it they please. When it comes to a question of slanging an administration or a Government you do not like, you need not be restrained by any considerations of accuracy or justice or Christian charity. They are scoundrels and should be treated as such. It so happens that such criticisms reveal abysmal ignorance about [76] the real nature of the law both here and in Great Britain in regard to obscene literature.

I brought with me for my purpose a very important law lecture delivered to the law school of the University of London in 1936 by Sir Edward Tindal Atkinson, K.C.B., C.B.E., Director of Public Prosecutions. The title of the lecture is “Obscene Literature in Law and Practice.” Anyone familiar with the law in its present state knows that in Great Britain there is no censorship in the sense in which we have it here, but there is a person in a cognate position to our Minister for Justice, the Home Secretary—I am sorry that I have not got with me a work written by Sir William Joynson-Hicks who was famous in regard to the re-writing and re-editing of the Protestant prayer book. Writing as Lord Brentford, he produced a little book called Why a Censorship? published by Faber and Faber for 1/-, and if some people would only go to a library and ask to read that work, instead of asking for indecent books and breaking into a rage on hearing that a book is unprocurable because it is banned, they would see an authoritative exposition of the attitude of the legal mind to obscene literature and obscene publications.

This crime which is made the central theme of that work called The Land of Spices was, until 1887, punishable by death in Scotland and the lowest penalty allowed by Scottish law for an attempt to commit it was ten years' penal servitude. Some of us are old enough to remember the awful tragedy of Oscar Wilde who suffered penal servitude from the judgment of a British court. We have in our Act, although not more than a score of people have adverted to it, the repeal of the Obscene Publications Act, 1857. Section 19 (3) of our Act of 1929 declares: “The Obscene Publications Act, 1857, is hereby repealed.” That is a very important fact. There were a great many powers that the British still exercise under that Act which we are deprived of as a result of that repeal, but the repeal was made necessary because we were setting up a censorship board to act in relation to the Minister in the relationship of the [77] jury to the judge in indictable offences under the Obscene Publications Act, 1857, better known as Lord Campbell's Act. As this lecture explained, the long tradition of Great Britain was to treat obscene literature as an offence under the Common Law, as a public nuisance. In course of time, judgments of courts became united to the Common Law, and eventually the habit arose of regarding as statute law what had hitherto been the Common Law, and that is the reason why there is to some extent a consolidation of items of the Common Law of England in an Act passed in 1925. That is an Act obedient to the facts of life, sponsored by men of public discretion and experience to suit the actualities of the time. That preceded the Act of 1929, which was passed under Mr. Cosgrave's administration and it was the reaction in the Twenty-Six County State to the social degeneration to which the English Act of 1925 was a like response. In the Common Law there were no definitions—the traditional view was to rule—but when, as I say, the Common Law became transmuted into statute law there were quasi definitions, and in this Act of ours, passed in 1929, the usual practice is followed of giving a definition clause.

This accusation that we are lawless men, that the board has nothing to guide itself by, has no idea of what it is doing except to go its own sweet wilful and objectionable way, is launched by sore-heads and repeated time and again and accepted by many people. Here, however, on page 5 of the Act are definitions of what the term “the Minister” means and what a book is. It declares that 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. Observe that this is not a formal definition, for the genius of the English mind is to avoid putting itself into a straight-jacket. It leaves itself elbow-room for the play of commonsense and discretion, and always, as in a case like this, there is an approach to a definition. Observe also the word “likely” in the definition. It implies estimation of probability. [78] Probability is estimated by a human mind.

What is the psychological reaction likely to be to an influence playing on mentality and character when temptation and the opportunity occur and in a moment of weakness by some ill-for-tune comes their way? That is to be estimated by men, and if a man is well on in years, and like the member of the Board who unhappily cannot be present to-day, if he happens to have been the head of a great college, and to have been in hourly contact with young people—youths and girls at the impressionable period of their lives—according to the Senator, we should hold that disqualifies Dr. Coffey from sitting on the Board animated by civic spirit and a sense of public duty. He is disqualified because he is so eminently qualified—yes, he is disqualified in the eyes of those people whose books have been banned. I am making a charge, but I am ready to withdraw if the Senator asks me. I thought he spoke with regard to Dr. Coffey as if he were ill through senility. He spoke of his illness as if it were a disqualification. Let me assure the Seanad that Dr. Coffey came by his illness through his devotion to duty. As the University representative on the General Medical Council, though he had a cold—and children have been known to have colds, even though they do not suffer from senile decay—he insisted on going to London. He arrived when there was a black-out and a raid expected and he had to walk from the station to the hotel to which he usually went. There was no conveyance and when he arrived at the hotel he found that there was no room there. He had to go out and walk in these circumstances in the middle of the night for miles to get a room in a hotel. All that was prompted by the desire to serve his university in the position to which he had been elected. I do not think it is at all worthy of the position which the Senator occupies to insinuate that the fact that he is ill is indicative of a more permanent incapacity. It may be that I am what Mr. O Faoláin called addle-pated but, at any rate, Dr. [79] Coffey is not. Neither is Dr. Fearon, a Professor of Bio-Chemistry in Trinity College, a young man in the prime of life, and an excellent writer.

Sir John Keane: I suppose the Senator could not give any indication of how often Dr. Fearon has been in dissent on the board? I imagine the Senator could not, but it would be interesting if he could.

Professor Magennis: I am not at liberty to disclose this——

Sir John Keane: It would be interesting to know.

Professor Magennis: I daresay it would be very interesting to know but I go thus far to the borderline. It was from Dr. Fearon that the complaint came, or rather it was to Dr. Fearon that the complaint was made, about The Laws of Life by a father who found his daughter reading the book, and who took it from her when he saw the nature of it. Dr. Fearon is an excellent member of the board. I could not speak too highly of his services but I am not going to be guilty of indiscretions at the invitation of the indiscreet.

To come back to this definition. When we examine a book we are obliged to report on it. If the complaint is that it is indecent or obscene, that complaint may be formulated in half a dozen different ways but our report has to be in a stereotyped form. We are not at liberty to report, that it is, in its general tendency, indecent unless, in accordance with the definition of “indecent,” we find it is suggestive of immorality or likely in some other similar way to corrupt or deprave. It is alleged that the members of the Board cannot do that. Some of these writers say that nobody can do it. What does that mean? To abollish the censorship altogether as an institution of State. Mark the insidious way in which these protests are made. They do not want the censorship to be abolished. They recognise that that is a call for anarchy, that every organised State must have its Government and that its Government must look after the [80] common weal, not merely in its physical life but in its spiritual. So what they say is: “We do not attack the censorship as an institution; we attack the instruments through which it works.” Get rid of them and if you can get the Minister to get rid of them, by virtue of this abusive campaign, they would expect a newer generation of more malleable stuff to form the personnel of the Censorship Board. Eventually, it would be a small paralysed body afraid to do its duty because of the slanders, the insinuations and the attacks. There is no difficulty whatever, on the part of the Minister, in getting men to replace the present board. From the time this Act was enacted, there was no difficulty. That part of the campaign is doomed to failure so long as we have a Minister who will be staunch and upright in the discharge of his Ministerial duty.

Now, this consideration brings me to the book on which I had expected the Senator would have taken his battleground. If his generalship had been better, he would have selected this book, The Laws of Life. All through this campaign of defamation, the charge was made that the Board had actually declared indecent a work which bore the imprimatur of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. When the members of this society that facetiously calls itself the Society for Intellectual Freedom, came to the Dublin Literary Society, of which I have been for 17 odd years president, to debate the censorship, they told me with the greatest confidence that we had been guilty of this enormity I asked them did they believe that charge was well founded. They said: “Of course. We read it in the Irish Times.” Some remember the advertisement in John Bull: “If it is in John Bull, it must be true.” I must not be taken as suggesting that there is any similarity between that highly respectable organ of opinion, that splendidly edited paper, and John Bull. I merely mention it to indicate the source of my quotation: “If it is in the paper it must be true.” I said to some of those young women who were there representing the Society for Intellectual Freedom—by the way, the chairfied—yes [81] man, Mr. Frank O'Connor, who had just been elected, did not come; he sent those young ladies to do battle for intellectual freedom. I put it to those young ladies, representing the Society for Intellectual Freedom, were not we intellectually free, that here were we, a body of five, four of whom were Papists, and we had decided to declare indecent a book which bore the imprimatur of a Cardinal Archbishop of our Church. Were not we, I asked, if their statements were accurate, displaying intellectual freedom? Unfortunately we could not lay claim to that glory for this reason. Here is the book as we got it and I defy anyone—I do not care who he may be—to discover the imprimatur of anybody. If the Senator cares to see it, I will have it passed over to him. There is no such imprimatur; there never was such an imprimatur and I shall tell him why.

This book was published in November, 1935, by an author who is in the habit of publishing books on the subjects dealt with here, or some of them. This book sold, as they say colloquially, “like hot cakes.” I do not know what happened, but in the subsequent editions the author saw the advantage of having some sort of countenance for his publication; and on the second and fifth impressions—which is the one I have seen—the words are found, permissu superiorum. This is the book which came to us for examination, The Laws of Life, by Halliday Sutherland. He does not indicate that he is a medical man.

Sir John Keane: Would the Senator say why, in the light of that, they did not ban all editions?

Professor Magennis: I will deal with that in its turn. One time the accusation is that we are banning too many books, and another time it is that we are not banning the books we ought to ban. I am reading this Act for the instruction of the Seanad and others not acquainted with it—although the Senator was a member of the Seanad which was the Second House passing the Bill and making it law. We are not in a position to go out—nor do we —to search the booksellers' shops to find the books which are suspect.

[82] Mr. Fitzgerald: I think the Senator is being unfair to Senator Sir John Keane. I wish to be impartial. What Senator Sir John Keane said was: “Why was it that the board banned all the editions?”

Professor Magennis: I thought he said: “Did not ban all editions.”

Mr. Fitzgerald: No, he said “Banned all the editions of the book.”

Professor Magennis: We did not ban all the editions. The Act bans them all. I will read that, if you wish.

Sir John Keane: Do, please.

Professor Magennis: It is subsection (8) of Section 6, page 11:—

A prohibition Order made under this section in relation to a book shall, unless it is limited to one or more particular editions of such book, apply to every edition of such book, whether published before or after the date of such Order.

Is that satisfactory? It is the Act of Parliament that has that effect, not the Board. Now, to return to this book. This is the only edition of which we were aware. As a matter of fact, the editions with permissu superiorum on them were actually in circulation and we were not aware of them; but, through the operation of that subsection (8) of Section 6, all the editions are banned. I wonder exactly what point the Senator desires to make of that, as if he desires to make use of it, I am going to present a broader battle-front for him to attack, and he can make his point. There is a Papal Encyclical named De Castis Connubiis.

Sir John Keane: I would like to ask —for information—if a Papal Encyclical overrides the civil law of the country?

Professor Magennis: No; no one has even suggested that it did.

Sir John Keane: The Senator is suggesting that now.

Professor Magennis: No; I am referring to the Encyclical as providing terms of reference to the subject [83] matter of the main part of this book, a fig-leaf terminology, to a certain extent. The Senator must be terribly inflamed against the Censorship Board if an apologetic remark becomes a treasonable statement that someone can override the law of the State. I think he is lost to all discretion in making an interruption of that type. Why did we ban this book? The fact that we banned this book has provided some of the most effective campaigning propaganda that has been in use against us. Here is the report of the Committee of Public Accounts, issued quite recently. As everyone here is aware, the Committee of Public Accounts is one of the very useful democratic parts of the working of our Constitution. There the representatives of the Dáil are able to criticise public expenditure in all its details, and to demand justification for the expenditure if they see good reason to question it. With your permission, I will read from pages 5 and 6 of the proceedings of that committee— Minutes of Evidence—under Vote 32, Office of the Minister for Justice. You will see that, from the dialogue, too, reported in the volume of the report, there proceeds one of the strongest attacks upon the Censorship Board's action, for all the newspapers copied this faithfully:

“Chairman: In regard to subhead A (3), Mr. Roche, does the Minister exercise any function in regard to the censorship of publications?”

Mr. Roche was there as accounting officer. He is the Secretary, as most Senators are aware, to the Department of Justice. The answer is:

“Yes, it is he who prohibits the circulation of books, not the board. The board are his advisers.

Could you tell us, Mr. Roche, how this money has been properly employed to prohibit the circulation of a book which carries the Imprimatur of the Archdiocese of Westminster?”

I am not responsible for the bad grammar, nor, I think, is the reporter. Mr. Roche very properly replies:—

[84] “I could not tell you that. As accounting officer, I have no literary or moral qualifications.”

Thus, he politely tells Deputy Dillon to mind his own business. Mark you, it cost the State £148 to print this irresponsible chit-chat introduced by the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts. “The cost to the State of publishing this volume is estimated at £148.” We are allowed £15 a year for our transactions with books. I think it was increased recently by the Minister's generosity to £20 or £25 and this dreadful expenditure is being inquired into. This awful waste and extravagance in spending public money is being inquired into by the acute minded scrutator, Deputy Dillon. He presses Mr. Roche to tell him and Mr. Roche very properly replies:—

“I could not tell you that.”

As an accounting officer he was there for another purpose altogether than to discuss whether or not the alleged setting aside of the imprimatur was worth the money or not. Now the accounts that were in that volume were for 1940-41 and I think if I had been the accounting officer I would not have been quite so polite to Deputy Dillon as Mr. Roche was. I would have told him that this cost nothing so that Deputy Dillon gratuitously went outside the proper limits of his office to make this attack.

Next my friend, Deputy McCann, joins in and asks Mr. Roche:—

“Do you consider the present system of censorship satisfactory?”

Whereupon Deputy Dillon is up in arms against such irregularity in asking an accounting officer to express an opinion on the matter. Deputy McCann is promptly rapped on the knuckles and the chairman says:—

“We are not here to get personal opinions, but to hear whether the money appropriated by Dáil Eireann to the censorship has been properly spent in accordance with the resolution of that body.”

Somebody should say “hear, hear”, to that because that is an exact [85] account of what Deputy Dillon's committee is for. The chairman says:—

“I think we must adhere to that strictly.”

Now this is the next sentence:—

“I ventured to ask whether he is satisfied that the money appropriated by Dáil Eireann was intended to be employed for the purpose of preventing the circulation in Ireland of a book on the ground that it was generally indecent....”

Now I am calling attention to this and I hope it will not escape the Senator, but I am afraid he is asleep.

Sir John Keane: No, no. It is the modified form of coma.

Professor Magennis: The gratuitous comment by Deputy Dillon was that the book was banned on the grounds that it was generally indecent. That was not “the ground.” The book was not. I say this with advertence to the meaning of words. The book was not banned on the ground that it was generally indecent and I hope with the permission of the House to show that that was so to the satisfaction of everyone here except perhaps Senator Sir John Keane. The chairman asked whether the money

“was intended to be employed for the purpose of preventing the circulation in Ireland of a book, on the grounds that it was generally indecent, which carried the imprimatur of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster.”

Again, I repeat that neither the book submitted to us on complaint nor any other edition since produced bears the imprimatur of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. When a book bears an imprimatur it bears the pronouncement of the censor who is censoring the book at the instance of the Bishop in question. And so you read Nihil Obstat, Censor Deputatus. This is followed by the imprimatur, “let it be printed”. Now, this book was in circulation, a whole edition sold like not cakes, before it was submitted to [86] the Diocesan Council of Westminster. It would be untrue to say that the council had examined it before it was printed, and, therefore, to give it the imprimatur, “let it be printed”, when it was already printed would be absurd. So he gets the permissu superiorum. I wonder does Senator Sir John Keane understand the difference between “imprimatur” and permissu superiorum?

Sir John Keane: I asked about the difference, and I was told that the difference between the first and the second is the difference between a first and second-class ticket.

Professor Magennis: Here is the next part of this extraordinary conversation forced upon the Secretary of the Department of Justice by Deputy Dillon, who must have known a great deal already without asking questions, because in the action of Marie Stopes against the author of the book for libel, in the appeal to the House of Lords one of his counsel was no less than Mr. Theobald Matthew, presumably an uncle or first cousin of Deputy Dillon.

Cathaoirleach: If the Senator would allow me. I am sorry to interrupt him at this point, but Motion No. 3, I understand, is urgent and the Minister for Education is present in the House, having concluded his business in the Dáil. If the Seanad would agree to take Motion No. 3 now, perhaps the Senator would move the adjournment of the debate.

Professor Magennis: Certainly. Shall I do that now?

Cathaoirleach: Yes, please.

Professor Magennis: I move the adjournment of the debate until the next sitting of the Seanad.

Debate adjourned until the next sitting day.