Ah, the irony. Only yesterday over at the Cedar Lounge a contributor drew a rather smug distinction between the US and this country on the basis of the public role of religious extremists – over there, we were told, they are “political movers and shakers” while here they are confined merely to “prayer crusades”. My immediate reaction, as noted on the linked page, was to point out the flaw in that argument from a non-partitionist perspective. And then I went to have a look at today’s papers and found these news items from well below the border: 750 pornographic DVDs seized in Dublin and Labour calls for laws to fight sex shops.
Let’s look at these one at a time. The first article tells us that the DVDs were seized “as a result of an ongoing Community Policing Unit investigation into breaches of the Video Recording Act of 1989”. Yes, you read that correctly. A Community Policing Unit investigation into porn videos. In Dublin 2. Honestly, have the community police there no better use of their time? Maybe going after the tourist-muggers in Temple Bar? The gangs that hang round ATMs on Grafton Street waiting to distract you and grab your cash? The bicycle thieves on George’s Street? If the residential areas in that part of the city are anything like mine, I’d guess there are a few social housing estates whose residents have all but given up phoning the police when there are problems because the response is so thoroughly inadequate it isn’t even worth the effort. Well, now we know why. Maybe instead of reporting break-ins, drug dealing and cars on fire, they should tell the Gardaí there’s a porno outside.
The second article tells us that those champions of progressive, liberal values the Labour Party are shocked – shocked! – to find that not only do such DVDs exist, but the shops that sell them are subject to the same rules as any other shop. Not good enough apparently; they should have to apply for a specific change of use so that the wishes of those residents who would patronise such a shop can be vetoed by those residents who think they shouldn’t.
Labour’s Joe Costello is particularly outraged that two adult shops were able to open across from churches in his constituency. That’s my constituency too, and I know at least one of the shops he’s referring to, and frankly the fact that anyone could get exercised about it suggests to me that they are either stuck in de Valeraland or have far too much time on their hands. The part of the shop that is visible to anyone outside it is very discreetly-designed; there is no merchandise in view or any images whatsoever. If you couldn’t read enough English to know what “adult shop” meant, you wouldn’t even know what it was. Apart from the extraneous apostrophe in “DVD’s”, in fact, I’m hard pressed to find anything offensive about it. And so the fuck what if it’s across from a church? What gives people coming to or going from church the right not to encounter any reminders of how the human race reproduces?
There’s an argument to be made, from a community perspective, against having a whole conglomerate of these shops in one neighbourhood. An area that has come to be known as a red light district can be fairly unpleasant to live in, in some cases even unsafe. But that’s not the argument Labour are making. Effectively, they want local authorities to be able to prevent any sex shop from opening anywhere if enough people (and how many is “enough”?) complain that it’s unsuitable. The Council’s attempt less than ten years ago to close the Ann Summers on O’Connell Street – O’Connell Street, for fuck’s sake – suggests that such a power is likely to be interpreted broadly, making adult shops all but impossible to open in the State. Would it be the end of the world if that happened? Of course not, but it would further undermine any claim of Ireland (south) to be somehow more secularly advanced than the US.
We may not put people like Sarah Palin in high office here, but it doesn't look to me like we need them.