1970s Galway, condoms, and the Advertiser

The Galway Advertiser was one of the sources quoted and consulted in an article featured in the latest edition of History Ireland magazine.

The article, Spreading VD all over Connacht: Reproductive rights and wrongs in 1970s Galway, is by Dr John Cunningham of the NUI, Galway history department.

Dr Cunningham’s article examines the campaign by both the pro and anti-birth control campaigns in Galway between 1974 and 1977.

The article notes the foundation of the Galway Family Planning Association in 1975/76 and the UCG Students’ Union nominating it as a beneficiary for the 1976 Rag Week. A total of €1,000 was raised leading to the establishment of a family planning clinic.

There was outrage at this and the then mayor, the late Mary Byrne, wrote a letter to the SU accusing students of being “ruled by sensuality without responsibility”.

The reaction in the local press is also detailed by Dr Cunningham and he notes a Galway Advertiser article, entitled ‘Sex and The Single Student’, which accused certain members of the UCGSU of having “a fixation on what they define as ‘family planning’” and of having links with Official Sinn Féin.

The Advertiser’s report on the first GFPA’s first public event, is also quoted and the report says that opponents of contraception at the meeting were “”subdued by laughter and, from some quarters by rudeness”.

Spreading VD all over Connacht, which gives a fascinating insight into Galway in the 1970s, also notes how Labour’s Michael D Higgins, then a UCG lecturer, supported Mary Robinson’s 1974 Family Planning Bill, only to see his political opponents on the Galway Corporation pass a resolution condemning contraception.

This in turn led to the student group Irishwomen United to picket the corporation, causing Fine Gael Galway West TD Fintan Coogan to say: “It’s disgraceful - women without a ring on their fingers asking for contraceptives to be handed out!”

 

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