I have had a somewhat stormy relationship with the Catholic Church and its teachings on sexuality. While Student Union President at Galway University (NUIG) in 1981, I was patron of the newly formed Gay club (Gaysoc). On their behalf, I applied to the university Governing Body for offical sanction. The college authorities at the time went ballistic. They were adamant that the 4 bishops on the Governing Body should not have to see such attempts to legitimise homosexuality on campus. Homosexual acts were still crimes in Ireland at the time.
In spite of the support of a few Governors such as the present NUIG President (Iggy O'Muircheartaigh), my motion failed to get through the necessary sub-committees. Still I set up the society anyway with funding from the students
As student president, I also introduced the sale of condoms onto the Galway campus on St Valentines Day 1982. In spite of this being illegal, I got great support from the student population. However 2 Nigerian nuns that used to be great fans of mine, lost all faith in me as a result of my action. They came into my office one day crying, despairing that such a 'nice guy' as me do such an evil thing & pleading with me to reverse my decision!
Eleven years later, I was a pub & nighclub owner in Galway. On St. Valentine's Day 1992, I installed condom dispensing machines in the toilets of my premises as part of a nationwide campaign called 'Condomsense'. I pointed out to the public that this was a positive social move to protect against the current Aids epidemic as well as to offer added protection to females; after all, a man can have one night sex encounters and take no responsibility whatsover for any consequential pregnancy. Selling these pieces of rubber was still illegal. No other publican supported me and I was left on my own. The police raided my place every few nights & confiscated the condoms; groups of individuals said prayers outside on the street; hate mail started to arrive promising me 'hell, fire and damnation'. I was eventually prosecuted by the courts and facing a jail sentence.
Actually the police were very nice. They told me that they had no choice but to uphold the law & pleaded with me to stop selling the banned material. I refused of course.
Then Bishop of Galway Eamon Casey had all churches in the diocese condemn me for corrupting the morality of Irish youth. A priest friend of my brother came over to me one night in the pub to apologise for his sermon the previous week- he had no choice by to read out the 'bishop's encyclical on the issue!
My wife Cepta told me not to attend Sunday mass at her family's church during these turbulent times as neighbours would start pointing me out and giving the impression that our marriage was 'on the rocks'. For, in the warped logic of some petty people, some reasoned that I was only advocating condoms as I was probably using them myself for extramarital affairs!!
With my court case looming, Charles Haughey, Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) suddenly changed the law and allowed the sale of condoms over the bar counter. So I was saved from prison. Which was just as well for me as there were a few people in jail that I had previously had arrested for drunk & disorderly behaviour!!
Extramartial Affair becomes Public
Soon after, I was interviewed by BBC television in the hope that I would condemn him. This I refused to do as I had great respect for the man. Eamon was a progressive church leader who had campaigned on many issues of human rights including the Irish homeless in Britain & against US policy in Central America.
Degree Conferring Ceremony in Galway
Finally, during the Condomsense campaign, one of my business partners took exception to my views. Very seldom to my face but often behind my back. An arch-conservative, he use to refer to women as 'dogs' but felt condoms were wrong; that divorce would undermine the financial position of the male; that I was too liberal, too pro-women... Years later I found out from an ex-female member of staff that he kept condoms in his car after (& possibly before) they were legalised. A girlfriend of one of his sisters told me of an incident when he got her very drunk one night and offered to bring her home. But instead, he drove her to a hotel where he had a room booked in the expectation that he would have a night of sex with a semi-conscious woman . Irish hypocrisy at its worst.
I sincerely hope that Justice comes to him some day.