Sexual crime in the Irish Free State 1922–33: its nature, extent and reporting

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Abstract

This paper explores sexual crime in the Irish Free State through the utilisation of hitherto unexamined files held in the National Archives in Dublin. An exploration of these files has provided a deepening understanding of the realities of sexual crime, societal attitudes towards it and the views of those charged with protecting the public. The files also provide valuable insights into attitudes towards female sexuality, the nation's youth and the rights of children. Additionally, the files have facilitated the widest study, to date, of the reporting of sexual offences trials by local and national newspapers – a study that shows that the overwhelming majority of sexual crime prosecutions were never reported in the nation's press and that those that were, were reported in ways that obscured the actual nature of the offence or portrayed them as alien, non-Irish crimes committed by outsiders. The article demonstrates that sexual crime in the Free State was an ideological as well as a law enforcement issue in a newly emerging state sensitive to the views of its enemies and the outside world and insecure about its place in it, a nation that legitimised itself, in no small part, as a beacon of Celtic Catholic purity in a world otherwise sullied by sin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-155
JournalIrish Studies Review
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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