History of Naturism in Ireland: A summary

History of naturism in Ireland

Ireland was traditionally a very conservative society where the influence and power of the Catholic Church was very strong. The attitude of the Church towards sexual morality was extremely rigid. Censorship was very strict and any display of nudity was illegal. In this atmosphere naturism was regarded as immoral and indecent.

The INA was founded in 1963. Prior to this date the small number of naturists who lived in Ireland were members of what was then the Central Council for British Naturism. A few Irish people met while on a naturist holiday in Corsica and decided to set up the Irish Naturist Association. One of our founder members, John Conlon, is still an active member. For many years after its foundation the INA was a secretive organisation and meetings were held in members’ homes. Occasionally there were outings to a secluded beach in County Wicklow, south of Dublin, but members stayed hidden in the sand dunes and did not go onto the beach or swim in the sea.

In the late 1970s Paul Moynihan, who died in 2017, became President. He was much more open to change and began to publicise the naturist cause. Ireland was also beginning to become more liberal in its outlook and censorship began to ease. Paul displayed and sold naturist magazines and books in his shop in central Dublin. He was threatened many times with prosecution by the police for displaying indecent literature but he refused to back down. Paul gave many interviews to newspapers and radio, took part in a television documentary and even organised a naturist holiday fair when the organisers of a big holiday fair in Dublin refused to allow the INA to take part. As a result of all this publicity public attitudes towards naturism began to change. In the early 1980s Club Aquarius was set up in Dublin to cater for naturist couples and families and they succeeded in hiring a number of swimming pools, including one run by Dublin City Council, which was a breakthrough.

In the early 2000s Pat Gallagher became President. He believed that we as naturists should be proud of our lifestyle and he gave numerous media interviews which successfully portrayed us as ordinary normal people.  Pat also started a campaign to have the law changed so that local authorities could designate suitable beaches or bathing places as naturist or clothing optional.

In 2014 the INA hosted the International Naturist Congress in Ireland. It was a big success and generated a large amount of very positive publicity for us. In 2015 we heard that the Government was reviewing the law on sexual offences following a High Court decision that the old 1935 law on indecent exposure was unconstitutional. We made a detailed submission to the Government and were very pleased that the law was changed in 2017 so that an offence involving nudity was committed only if the person intended to cause offence or alarm or was engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct.

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