1. Due to the influence of the Catholic Church until 1997, it was illegal to get divorced. In 1986, there was an attempt to allow divorce, but it failed. In a referendum in 1995, it was finally voted to introduce divorce into the legal system, in strict opposition to the Catholic Church. Divorce can be the happiest moment in person’s life; just saying. 😉
2. Even today, more than 200 magazines and books are banned in Ireland. Playboy was decriminalized in 1996 and quickly became a best-selling magazine for men. Playgirl is still banned, as well as Hustler, and many detective novels. One of the world’s most famous writers, James Joyce who was born in Dublin on February 02, 1882, was not banned in Ireland, but only because the first 500 copies of his book ‘Ulysses’ were burned. Aware that it would never pass strict censorship, publishers no longer bothered to send copies of the book to Ireland.
3. Although divorce is allowed, you will need to wait a good five years to get it finalized. Apparently, it’s quite an expensive procedure. No one really thinks about divorce when getting married, but they should. You never know.
4. Until 1985, it was illegal to sell contraceptives, and only since 1992 had it become easier to find and buy them. Some Irish people told me about the illegal sale of condoms in pharmacies “under the counter”. Why? Well, naturally the Catholic Church did not approve.
5. Abortion is illegal in Ireland, even in cases when a woman or girl is raped or a victim of incest. It was not until 2013, when Ireland introduced the law where abortion is legal if the life of a pregnant woman is at risk. Even then, the rules are strict and rigorous. It is not illegal to travel outside Ireland to have an abortion, and after returning, women have the right to seek medical attention post abortion. It is illegal for an Irish doctor to organize an abortion abroad for an pregnant woman, or to advise a pregnant woman to have an abortion. Maybe priests should start working in hospitals, instead of doctors?!
6. If you live in a civil partnership (not married) and have a child, only the mother is considered the legal guardian of the child, and the father has no rights. Mothers can give up paternal rights if she wants to, or father may seek them in court. Otherwise, legally, the father is not the father. Make sense???
7. Until 1993 it was illegal to be homosexual in Ireland. Since 2010, persons of the same sex can enter a civil partnership. Same sex marriage was legalized in 2015, when the majority of Irish people voted “Yes” in a referendum. They’ve come a long way, don’t you think?
8. Terrible things happened in the mid-twentieth century. Unmarried mothers were forced to work in the church laundries, forcing them to be separated from their children most of the time. Nuns supposedly took care of the children, but the later discovery of mass graves revealed the ugly and sad truth: these children often died of hunger or diseases due to negligence. There are testimonies stating that various drugs and vaccines tests were administered to those children. Some had a happier destiny and were adopted, mostly by American couples who have had to commit to raising children in the Catholic faith. These adopted kids had their names changed, and didn’t have a birth certificate.
One evening, we happened to meet an Irish woman who told us the sad story of her mother in law. The mother in law died without ever telling her children and her husband that she was pregnant at a young age, and that her baby was taken away from her because she was unmarried. They learned the truth last year, in their late fifties, when an adopted American woman managed to find her roots in Ireland. Unfortunately, it was too late to meet her mother. Another dear Irishman I know was one of the children from the orphanage who fortunately survived and was adopted by kind and loving people.
No state has a wonderful past. Ireland is a great example of how much can be achieved and how drastically we can change things if we really want to. They were one of the poorest countries, but are now at the helm of the EU on economic growth. Today in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, you can feel a cosmopolitan, multicultural, and liberal spirit all around.
Many foreigners describe Dublin with the same words: “Dublin has such a good vibe! ”