An Irish solution to an Irish problem: Catholicism, contraception and change, 1922–1979

Girvin, B. (2018) An Irish solution to an Irish problem: Catholicism, contraception and change, 1922–1979. Contemporary European History, 27(1), pp. 1-22. (doi: 10.1017/S0960777317000443)

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Abstract

When Ireland became independent in 1922 there was widespread support for the imposition of a moral order that reflected Catholic teaching. This was remarkably successful: divorce was outlawed while contraception was prohibited as part of this process. The consensus on moral issues was challenged for the first time during the 1970s. The legalisation of contraception became the main battlefield between conservatives and liberals. This article analyses successive attempts to change policy and discusses the impact of social and political change in a homogeneous Catholic state. Ireland remained a predominantly religious country and the Roman Catholic Church wielded considerable influence. The controversy over contraception challenged the Church's authority and the society's deeply embedded moral values. For the first time, Irish politics was divided on matters of church and state. Resolution came in 1979, however the legislation reflected the continuing influence of the bishops on policy making. It also highlighted the caution of politicians who remained reluctant to act. In contrast to elsewhere in Western Europe, the legislation was not a turning point but an example of conservative retrenchment. The legislation generated a conservative backlash that successfully imposed traditional Catholic values on Irish society during the 1980s. The main sources used are the archives of the Departments of Justice and Health.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Girvin, Professor Brian
Authors: Girvin, B.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Journal Name:Contemporary European History
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0960-7773
ISSN (Online):1469-2171
Published Online:14 December 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 Cambridge University Press
First Published:First published in Contemporary European History 27(1):1-22
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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