| The Republic of Ireland
Poblacht na hÉireann
The current extent of circumcision in Ireland
We have been unable to find any recent reports on how many Irish males are circumcised, but a recent publication on the situation in Northern Ireland may be indicative. It shows a two-thirds decline in circumcisions performed on boys under 14 between the years 1991-1992 and 2001-2002, from 5.7% to 1.9%. It must be said that caution is required in interpreting these findings since the authors quote approvingly the publications of A.M. Rickwood. Rickwood is a passionate and eccentric anti-circumcision campaigner, and in his view a tight foreskin which prevents a man from consummating his marriage is not "real" phimosis and does not justify circumcision!
Such information as we have suggests that the circumcision rate in the Republic of Ireland is currently similar, at around 2%. The website of HSE, the Irish health service is positively anti-circumcision even though it admits that circumcision hugely reduces the rish of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases. Dogma, it seems, overrides the best health outcome. This is perhaps understandable on a personal basis, but for a national health body seems hard to justify.
An infant death and the right to religious circumcision
In 2005 a Nigerian man was cleared of a charge of reckless endangerment over the death of a 29-day old baby boy from haemorrhage and shock. The defendant had circumcised the child in the Republic of Ireland in August 2003. The judge directed the jury not to bring what he called their “white western values” to bear when they were deciding this case and after deliberating for an hour and a half they found the defendant not guilty. [Source: Radio Telefis Éireann news reports, Tuesday, 04 and Friday, 07 October 2005.] The law was changed to make religious circumcision, purportedly, available to all in Irish hospitals, and religious circumcision by non-medical practioners became closely regulated. See our legal page for more details.
In practice this general availability didn't happen, and the international chain of Gentle Procedures clinics stepped in to fill the breach, opening a clinic in Limerick in 2020. For some reason they only offer circumcision to babies under 1 year or adults over 16. Their clinics in other countries offer childhood circumcisions as well. However the clinic seems to be filling a gap. In a video on YouTube "Why I chose to circumcise him in Ireland" a Nigerian woman explains why she chose to have her baby circumcised in the Gentle Procedures clinic rather than taking him overseas. Thanks to reader EW for the link.
I was 35 when I had my foreskin removed. I was born in Ireland and raised there. To this day I do not know if my brothers are circumcised; I think my father was; I know I was not. To me this speaks volumes about the level of repression back then - anything below the belt was evil and not to be mentioned. It also speaks volumes about family situations never changing - I could not ask my brothers now about their circumcision status! For those of you who think mothers are the prime deciders in whether the boy is cut or not, here is some information: my mother’s sisters did not have their sons circumcised and neither did her sister-in-law. I either played with those dicks, or saw them at bath-time or at diaper-changing.
I was always able, as far back as I can remember, to retract my foreskin (maybe because my father was a doctor and he taught my mother what should be done with a child’s foreskin). I do not know when I first became interested in circumcision. As a Catholic I was aware of Jesus’ circumcision (we had to go to Mass that day to celebrate it, though, ironically, the sermons always stressed the un-necessity for circumcision since we were Catholics!) I was sent to a boarding school, run by nuns, when I was about seven and I do recall asking one of the nuns what circumcision was. She told me it was a circular incision made on the underside of the wrist. What did I know!!!! It wasn't until I was about eleven that I realised what it really was, when two schoolmates and I compared dicks; one of them had been cut as an infant, the other had just recently been cut (because of phimosis?), and then there was me: uncut.
In Secondary School I began to be aware of cut and uncut penises, because we were all showering together every morning and after rugby - it was another all-male boarding school. It seemed to me that circumcised dicks were bigger than those which were uncut (though there were uncut twins who were HUGE); they certainly looked neater and cleaner and better. I didn’t have a huge overhang of skin, but I knew I didn’t like having it, and I wasn’t sure how to go about getting rid of it. I suppose about 30% of the guys at school in Ireland were circumcised, though I have no idea whether they were done at birth or had developed some problems that necessitated circumcision. And, of course, no-one talked about it.
I was a terrific masturbator - the thought of big dicks, and big CUT dicks, excited me terribly. Of course, masturbation was a major sin for Catholics. (Somehow the fantasies of penises didn’t seem so bad - such was Jesuitical frame of mind). So I went to my father, explained, very nervously, my problem, and said that if I were circumcised masturbation would be more difficult to accomplish. We exchanged a few letters from school and he agreed that next vacation I would see a surgeon. Next vacation, nothing happened. I think he thought I would have forgotten - that it was a "phase" I was going through.
The years passed. I still had my foreskin. I was denying my homosexuality - the "Catholic" thing is very strong. I had some sexual experiences with guys and realised that I liked it more when the guy had been circumcised. One guy I met told me my penis looked like a baby’s, because it still had its foreskin.
He had had himself circumcised recently because he felt that foreskins were only for babies! Still denying my homosexuality, I got married. I was the first uncut guy she had been with. She was a little curious about my foreskin - she knew that males were born with one, but assumed that they were all removed at birth. The sex we had was great, but it bothered me that if the urge hit us during the day I had to go to the bathroom to check for smegma. I got into the habit of pulling the skin all the way back every time I peed, just to make sure I was smegma-free. It seemed I was producing more and more of the stuff.
After a few years I got a job in a hospital and soon it paid full benefits. What a perfect opportunity. I read everything in the Library on circumcision, checked out the urologists and finally got up enough courage to call the one who seemed to me to be the best. I set up an appointment for a consultation. I told him I wanted to be circumcised; he told me to take down my pants so he could examine me; I did and he took hold of my penis and slid the skin back and forth over the glans a few times. I was terrified I would get hard - after all, the only time a man had done that to me was before he started to give me a blow job! Luckily, my brain remembered where I was and my dick stayed soft. The doctor said the Insurance would cover the cost of the operation and we made an appointment for the next week at Ambulatory Surgery. There was no discussion of how he would circumcise me, nor did he ask me how much skin I wanted removed, and so on. Not that I would have been able to answer those questions then. Besides, all I really wanted was to get rid of my foreskin, and however that could be accomplished was fine by me.
The doctor performed my circumcision using the freehand circumcision technique, with the help of a local anesthetic and a female assistant. The results were good, although the frenulum remained and I would like to be rid of it. I am now considering a second procedure to remove the frenulum and to tighten my circumcision somewhat.
More information from readers in Éire is needed. Anyone who can help please contact us.
Personal testimony of our correspondents.
Websites of the Irish government’s Health Service Executive, the state-run public service broadcaster Radio Telefís Éireann and the Irish Independent newspaper.
Maps courtesy of www.youreuropemap.com and Mountain High Maps.