9 thoughts on “1970s British women’s liberation movement

  1. Archaic law provoked anger of women’s groups

    By Fergus Black

    Thursday December 31 2009

    AN archaic Irish law — that had been abolished in England for more than a century — landed Attorney General Declan Costello in hot water with women’s groups.

    The law on “criminal conversation” — described as barbaric and blatantly discriminatory by the Council for the Status of Women — gave a man a right of civil action against a person who had had sexual relations with his wife but could not be brought by women against men.

    Actions for criminal conversation were later abolished under the Family Law Act 1981.

    But reported remarks by the attorney general at a lecture in Trinity College in March 1976, drew the ire of the Council for the Status of Women and the Women’s Representative Committee.

    Hilda Tweedy, chairwoman of the Council for the Status of Women, told Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave how appalled and dismayed they were at the attorney general’s reported remarks.

    “That the attorney general could suggest that this law would be abolished ‘if it could be shown that public opinion supported their repeal’ is to ignore the repeated demands of women’s organisations over the years,” she wrote.

    They considered deplorable suggestions that the answer may be to change the outdated law to allow the wife to proceed similarly against the husband — thus compounding the affront to human rights and the dignity of the individual.

    Mr Costello, who replied by letter to both women’s groups, said a newspaper report of his remarks did not accurately convey his views.

    He explained that during his lecture he had been asked a specific question about reform of the law.

    The questioner had expressed the opinion that everybody was in favour of a repeal of this outdated law.

    “I began my answer by stating that I did not think it could be said that everybody was in favour of its repeal as the plaintiff who had received £14,000 damages the previous week probably favoured this particular law,” he wrote.

    “I would like to assure you that it would not be proper to imply that it is my view, or the Government’s view, that outdated laws should only be repealed when the majority of people in the country approves their appeal.”

    – Fergus Black

    Irish Independent

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