Early moves - called 'an Irish solution to an Irish problem' by the then health minister Charles Haughey - required people to be married and to obtain a doctor's prescription to use condoms. Later, the contraceptives went on sale to anyone over the age of 17, but in chemist shops only.
The restrictions were largely ignored, but the steady spread of Aids finally persuaded the most traditionalist politicians in all parties to drop their objections.
Last night's vote removes the age limit and paves the way for condom vending machines. It will become law within weeks after passing through the Senate.
Catholic bishops had warned that widespread availability of condoms would give the appearance of approving abuse of 'God's gift of sexuality', and questioned assertions about combating the spread of Aids.
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