The Taoiseach attending the blessing of a new runway at Knock Airport reminded me of my favourite Irish blessing. In the 1950s Irish Mods queued up before a Catholic priest for the Annual Blessing of the Scooters.
It’s my favourite example of quirky Catholic Church influence on the early decades of the Irish State. Here are four more:
The first Irish film censor, James Montgomery, was appointed in the 1920s. His philosophy about films was: “I know nothing about films, but I do know the Ten Commandments.” He banned ten times as many films as his British counterpart, in his quest to protect Ireland from “monkey house morality.”
Also in the 1920s, the new Irish Free State established the wonderfully-titled Committee on Evil Literature. The Christian brothers objected to several publications, including Dainty Novels, Girl’s Companion, Eve’s Own Stories, Woman’s Weekly, and Woman’s World.
My favourites of many Catholic-influenced bans and condemnations: In the 1920s students in Cork were banned from dancing ragtime; in the 1930s the Gaelic League asked Dublin Council to oppose jazz music; and in the 1960s the Bishop of Kerry stopped a Jane Mansfield show in Tralee.
Finally, also in the 1960s, novelist John McGahern lost his job as a teacher in a Catholic school for writing The Dark. When he asked the Parish Priest for a letter officially explaining why he had been sacked, the letter read: “Mr McGahern is well aware of the reason of his dismissal.”
He went to his Teacher’s Union, who refused to help him because, not only had he written the banned novel, but he had married a woman from Finland when so many Irish women were “going around with their tongues out for a husband.”