Prudes Porn Pig Out

cop2In September the sex shops of South inner city Dublin were raided by An Gardai Siochana. Officers confiscated an estimated 8,000 pornographic DVD’s from adult shops situated within the jurisdiction of Pearse Street Garda station. Police were acting in the ill-defined area of censorship of pornography in Ireland.
Under Irish law pornography is theoretically legal, so long as such films do not depict acts which are illegal in the state. It is illegal to possess a DVD, film, photograph or “make use” of a website which depicts such acts. However, while most European countries license sex-shops to sell adult movies,
Ireland does not.

According to the Video Recordings Act 1989, DVD’s and videos are not legitimate until they have been rated by the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO), formerly known as the Irish Film Censor’s Office. The IFCO’s role is to view films before release in the state, and award them an appropriate certificate.
The Video Recordings Act empowers the film censor to prohibit a video if, in his opinion, it contains ‘obscene or indecent matter’ which would tend to ‘deprave or corrupt’ persons viewing it.

However the IFCO charge a rate to certify films which is beyond the capacity of porn distributors to pay. Thus, in a tortuous legal twist, films sold in ‘adult stores’ are deemed illegal by the Irish state not because of their content, but because they have not been passed through the censor. According to the Garda Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit, cited in a 2006 report, “The laws pertaining to Adult Pornography are viewed by An Garda Siochana as seriously out of date and inadequate in the present climate and need to be reviewed.”

Many see the porn business as a reality of the modern world, and one that should be outside the scope of film censors. Shop owners are forced to bypass the censor’s office because of the prohibitive cost of certification . Pornographic movies are filmed on tight budgets, targeting fleeting popular taste, and
have a much shorter shelf life than conventional films. Distributors must constantly refresh their wares in order to ensure continued sales. New charges introduced in 2004 have meant the cost of getting a film classified cannot realistically be recouped on the profits from its sale. This state of affairs allows An
Gardai Siochana to make a great show of seizing ‘illegal’ pornographic films on an annual basis.

Confusion over the place of pornography in contemporary Ireland, and the authorities’ aggressive exploitation of this situation for political ends, are symptomatic of a country that is still timidly emerging from a long history of sexual oppression and censorship. The bullying and harassment heaped on these small businesses evokes the suppression and control practised by the traditional Catholic hegemony over the Irish people, and before them the British yolk. Part of the problem seems to be a lack of debate on the issue. A climate needs to emerge in which the sex industry can be discussed and reviewed openly. A climate in which sexuality moves from a shameful topic, whispered about in confessionals or bayed by half mad gingers from religious megaphones on O’Connell street, to a casually
and honestly discussed part of mainstream Irish life. The sex shops are taking advice on a joint legal pursuit, although the legal costs of fighting the raids might amount to 10,000 euro. Raids on the sex shops on the North side circuit are expected to occur soon.

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