Colm Toibin writes about a day at Naas District Court. 


The first man owned a factory. He had been at the races the day he was charged and the previous night had been at a function to raise money for the mentally handicapped. His licence had been withdrawn and he needed it back. He had to hire a driver and when he moved about the country he had to book his driver into hotels.


Then there was the unemployed man who owed money to a bank; his income was £66.28 per week. The judge felt that he hadn't enough money to payoff the loan.

Then there was the student from Maynooth who drove without insurance and the bloke who drove along the dual carriageway the wrong way. The next man had been caught driving at 85 miles per hour. "Yes", said his solicitor, "but he was only doing 40 when he was stopped". The court laughed uproariously.

It was an ordinary morning in Naas District Court. Petty theft, driving offences, insurance. There was, however, a well-dressed man in his forties sitting behind the witness box. He was following the proceedings with a certain amount of impatience. Sometimes, though, he would find something amusing. Sometimes small twists of irony in the evidence would make him laugh.


Andrew Rynne, a doctor from Clane, was having the time of his life. By forcing the authorities to charge him for selling condoms to a neighbour, he was underlining and publicising the fact that the law on contraceptives is absurd and intolerable. And by alerting the authorities to his own crime and by wanting to be found guilty, he was turning reality upside down. This seemed to amuse him as much as the absurdity of the law seemed to appal him.

He had to make sure that he lost the case. He had to sit there, and when his turn came, plead not guilty and then give evidence against himself. He was fined £500 or 28 days in jail if he didn't pay the fine in 28 days. He was going to appeal but first he was going to make sure that he had no chance of winning the appeal. "I am going to continue to treat this law with the contempt it deserves", he said. He thought that there would be strong opposition to any change in the law which Barry Desmond would propose. He invited the press back to his house for sandwiches.


The ham in the sandwiches was flavoured with a mixture of mayonnaise and chutney. The house in Clane was huge. The furniture was old and well-polished. There were paintings on the walls. A sense of opulence was everywhere. This was how the other half lived.


Robert Stephens, the man who bought the condoms on that fateful day, September 27, 1982, stood about Rynne's house after the court case. He had bought ten Forget-Me-Nots from Rynne for £2. He had told the court that he needed them so as not to produce an unwanted child and to avoid contracting VD. Some members of the press, this writer included, were interested in asking Robert Stephens about his activities later on that evening, who he was with, name names, etcetera. No one, however, had the courage.