Occasion of Sin
Diarmaid Ferriter was born in Dublin 1972, and is one of Ireland’s prominent historians. Ferriter is a ‘professor of modern Irish history at University City Dublin’ and a “broadcaster with RTÉ radio and television.” The book ‘Occasions of Sin’ covers a range of subjects including: abortion, pregnancy, celibacy, contraception, censorship, infanticide, homosexuality, prostitution, marriage, popular culture, and social life. He also explores various ‘hidden Ireland’s’ associated with sexual abuse, all in the context of a ‘conservative official morality’ backed by the Catholic Church and by legislation during mid 19th and 20th century Ireland.
Ferriter consults numerous sources for the publication of this book for instance the National Archives of Ireland, Bureau of Military History, Film Censor’s Office, the Department of Health, the Department of Justice, Department of Local Government and Public Health, state books at Central Criminal Court, Public Record Office in Northern Ireland, official publications, newspapers including; the Examiner, Guardian and Irish Times in addition to periodicals, magazines and academic journals. References have also been made from books, academic and newspaper articles, chapters and theses all of which have been compiled by other historians. It is evident that the book is well sourced and researched making it a reliable informative source for the reader. All the relevant chapters are easily accessible and apparent in the context of the book.
The book explores changes of sexuality throughout history, a detailed analysis of sexual relationships, local formations and discontinuities. Sex is a pertinent issue that is explored in Ferriter’s book focuses and highlights the complexity in interpreting different definitions of sex and the ability to understand sex. Sexual intercourse involves two individuals having sex with no boundaries or restrictions, whether it is forced or optional. To have a sexual secure relationship with two individuals, can be a symbol of a love that is compassionate, patient and kind. This book discusses the history of sex in Ireland; it deals with the way in which society did discriminate against other sexualities (gays, lesbians, single mothers and co-habiting outside marriage). The government forced legislation against these categories of people, thus were put into jail for two years. Ferriter explains on further and uses Oscar Wilde as a pertinent example of this is. His punishment was a jail sentence for up two years of hard labour. This was prohibited by the Church of Ireland and more so it was viewed as social suicide to become pregnant outside wedlock in the late 1900s and early twentieth century. The author uses reliable sources to explain and support his argument with examples of court cases or news articles published at that period. He includes more cases which have not proceeded in court due to the fear of the stigma that come with such cases or to be labelled as a “filthy whore” or prostitution.
This book was undoubtedly a compelling read and the style of language set out by the author was easy to understand for his intended audience. It is written in a very coherent manner. He is explicit with the ordeal treatment of the Magdalene Asylum (laundries) and laborers of the workhouse which has come into light by a remorse Irish government. People working in the Laundries were suppressed at that time however; the church and state portrayed a different image of society at the time, depicting a harmonious image for life in Ireland. Marriage was morally right and therefore the only acceptable option for women. This period experienced a policing of pleasure on behalf of the government in fear of catastrophic spread of infection of sexually transmitted diseases thus were forced ‘The Contagious Diseases Act’ which affected “women more than ever as men did not face the same opprobrium as women were deemed to be already so degraded...
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