Rescue from indecency for Cartland and Old Moore

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The Independent Online

Arts Reporter

The only country in the world to ban the heady literary cocktail of Barbara Cartland, Old Moore's Almanac and Detective Monthly may finally be forced to review its censorship laws.

The move to embarrass Nora Owen, Ireland's Minister of Justice, into re-examining legislation which allows health encyclopaedias and marriage guides to be banned forever comes from Eric Byrne, one of seven Democratic Left MPs.

He and four fellow MPs, who read the Censorship Board's 100-page list of outlawed publications with increasing disbelief, have put together a list of books they want unbanned to be presented to the Appeals Board next month.

The target of their ire is the Register of Prohibited Publications where, amid the hard-core porn titles lurking in its pages, there are respectable names of authors such as Dame Barbara - notoriously in favour of virgin brides - Collins Family Medical Encyclopaedia and Married Life and Motherhood by the editor of the Lady's Companion.

The books share the dubious distinction of having been censored either for indecency or mentioning the `A' word (abortion) or the `C' one (contraception).

But, apparently, in several cases the censorship board was content to judge them by their titles - the only possible explanation for the 1935 censorship of Upton Sinclair's novel The Book of Love.

The Register operates in two parts. Part I is for those books which need only be banned for 12 years. Part II is for books, such as Dame Barbara's 1950s guide to married life, which are banned for ever even though contraception is now legal in Ireland.

A member of Mr Byrne's staff claimed yesterday that the 100-page list had proved so hilarious it had sent everyone in the office into gales of laughter. "I would read it out to you, but I can't find it," she added. "People keep stealing it because it's so funny."

Mr Byrne, MP for Dublin South Central, was less amused. "Ireland has moved into the 21st century politically but its censorship is still in a time warp," he said.

Dame Barbara, 93, could not remember her offending guide very clearly but explained: "I was very young at the time."