For younger readers and those who are not familiar with Irish law, it may seem unbelievable that the sale of contraception was illegal in The Republic of Ireland until 1985.

This week, LetsGetChecked is discussing contraception in Ireland, through the ages.

The Irish people grew frustrated with the restrictions placed on them, and over the next several years, a movement began to make contraceptives more easily available, causing bitter divisions inside and outside of the Dail, Ireland’s main house of Parliament.

The Criminal Law Amendment Actback of 1935 put a ban on the import, sale and distribution of contraceptives. Fast-forward 38 years, the McGee case of 1973 established a right to import contraceptives for personal use, but did not allow them to be sold.

While having and using contraceptives was technically legal, laws restricting their sale meant the majority of the population effectively had no family planning options. The result was that many Irish people travelled across the border into Northern Ireland to bring back contraband contraceptives for themselves or others.


1979


  • an infamous “Irish solution to an Irish problem“, an act was passed to allow doctors to prescribe contraceptives to married couples only.

1980s


  • saw the dawning of a new sexual age and for the first time HIV and AIDS entered Ireland’s collective consciousness and reality. Media campaigns began promoting the value of condom use along with plenty of fear-mongering adverts, some may remember tombstone imagery of the advertising campaigns of the time.

Irrespective of any negative impacts resulting from the media campaigns at the time, the arrival of HIV and AIDS made sex and condom use a necessary and potentially lifesaving topic of discussion in schools, workplaces and homes. Non-medical contraception such as condoms and spermicides were made legal in 1985.


1985


  • government defies the Catholic Church and approves the sale of contraceptives in Ireland.

As the government debated changes, the Catholic Church rallied against them, warning that greater access to condoms would encourage the moral decay of Ireland resulting in more children born out of wedlock, increased rates of abortion and widespread disease. Some politicians were even threatened with violence if they voted for the legislation.


February 20, 1985


  • a coalition of the Fine Gael and Labour parties led by Dr. Garret FitzGerald defeated the opposition of the conservative Fianna Fail party by an 83-80 vote. The new legislation made non-medical contraceptives available without prescriptions to people over 18 in pharmacies. It also permitted the distribution of these contraceptives at doctors’ offices, hospitals and family planning clinics.

Though it was still illegal to advertise contraceptives and use of the birth control pill remained restricted, the vote marked a major turning point in Irish history the first-ever defeat of the Catholic Church in a head-to-head battle with the government on social legislation.


1993


  • the IFPA were convicted and fined for selling condoms in Virgin Megastore in 1990. Later that year, the sale of Irish contraceptives became liberalised.

Who We Are


LetsGetChecked empowers you in tracking and improving your health from the comfort of your own home. We are a patient-led, medical technology platform that is giving men and women the power to self-test for a range of health conditions.

From your heart to your hormones and your vitamins to your vitality, LetsGetChecked offers convenient and confidential health tests to everybody, for every body. Using your personalized online profile, you can monitor every aspect of your well-being.

Simply order your test online. Self-collect your sample at home. Return your sample to our accredited laboratories in a pre-paid self-addressed envelope. Receive your results in 2-5 days. LetsGetChecked will support you, every step of the way. In the event that your results are positive or outside a normal range, a fully certified doctor or nurse from the LetsGetChecked medical team will guide you through a personalized treatment program.

It’s good to know.


Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley