21 SEPTEMBER 1991, Page 28


Sir: From the disadvantage point of the Irish Republic, one read with wry amuse- ment William Cash (Thermometers and what-not', 7 September) on your relatively small Roman Catholic community's mind- wrestling with contraception.

The Irish Republic is a land drenched in the Catholic ethos. Since the establishment of the State in 1922 there is a history of Church-State collisions, almost invariably won by the Church. In the modern Repub- lic there is no divorce, to give information about the availability of abortion outside the State is a criminal offence (in some cir- cumstances it could be a crime to distribute a British telephone directory here). Up to a few years ago, condoms were forbidden. Now there is a limited availability to over 18-year-olds. The legal marriage age is 16, so within the southern part of Ireland it is possible for two 16-year-olds to wed but if either were to purchase a condom within the following two years it would be a crime. Moves afoot to reduce the age to 16, while still strictly controlling access, could bring down the Haughey government.

So what is reality in this demi-paradise? There are as many broken marriages pro- rata as elsewhere in Europe, the stream of Irish women to Britain for abortion is a ris- ing graph, and the incredible demand for condoms since they came to the market proves the 98 per cent Roman Catholic population has welcomed them with the zeal of born-again honeymooners.

You may conclude there is some advan- tage in a society where the political power of the bishops is less than that of the politi- cians.

Leslie Craven 86 Moyne Road, Rathmines,

Dublin 6