Nostalgia: Visit of censorial former Communications Minister and Observer editor Conor Cruise O’Brien prompts republican protest (August 1992)

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Freedom of speech

The great writer, Voltaire, said: “I abhor what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.’

That was the classic definition of what freedom of speech means.

Dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien is one of the most controversial Irishmen of the twentieth century.

His views on many subjects, and particularly his political opinions, have often enraged the majority of Irish people.

His introduction of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, when he was Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in 1979, which banned members of Sinn Féin being interviewed by RTÉ, was both autocratic and a denial of free speech.

Protests by Sinn Féin against Dr. O’Brien are a natural outcome of the position the former Minister created.

But the manner in which members of Sinn Féin staged a protest at the Social Study Conference in Derry reflected little credit on them or their party.

Survey indicates ‘conservativism’

A survey of 400 young people carried out by the Derry Diocesan Youth Council at the end of last year, revealed a high level of religious belief and attitudes that could be described as ‘conservative’. The survey, which was carried out under the chairmanship of Diocesan Youth Director, Fr. Eddie McGuinness, and involved mainly young people attending a Church organised weekend, also revealed that young people firmly rejected violence but were also unhappy with the behaviour of the security forces.

The survey showed that while percentages of those practicing religion remained high, there appeared to be notable difference between attitudes in the town and the country and there was criticism of some areas of Church practices. The areas that raised the most difficulties were those of sexual morality, contraception and divorce.