Censorship of films
The Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO), formerly called the Irish Film
Censor's Office is responsible for examining all films, videos and
DVDs intended for public distribution in Ireland. In addition, IFCO is
responsible for certifying that they are fit to be viewed by members of the
public. IFCO may prohibit a film, video or DVD or, more usually, classify it
according to its suitability for different age groups.
Banning a film
A film can be certified as unfit for viewing (in other words, banned) because IFCO is of the opinion that the film is likly to cause harm to children, or is indecent, obscene or blasphemous, or that viewing it might be contrary to, or undermine public morality. IFCO may also rule that certain parts of a film must be removed before it can be certified for viewing. The Director of Film Classification must also view and approve the advertising material connected to the film to ensure it is appropriate. A copy of the Certificate must be shown for at least 10 seconds immediately before the film is shown.
Censorship and private film clubs
Private film clubs (for example, the Irish Film Institute) are not obliged to seek classification for films that are shown only to their club members.
Film classifications currently in use
Irish film classifications are broadly similar to those in use in other countries. Film trailers are also classified and may only be shown with a film of a similarly suitable classification.
An overview of the current system of film classification for Ireland is as follows:
- G (General): The film is suitable for everyone, including young children
- PG (Parental Guidance): While the film may be watched by unaccompanied children, parental guidance is recommended as to its suitability for children under 12 years of age. The film may contain adult themes or concepts that parents may wish to be aware of. If it has a romantic theme, it might have some sexual scenes or very brief nudity. It might also have some violence or mild bad language.
- 12A: While the film is, in the opinion of IFCO, suitable only for people over 12 years of age, a person under that age may be admitted to see this film if he or she is accompanied by a parent or guardian.
- 15A: While the film is, in the opinion of IFCO, suitable only for people over 15 years of age, a person under that age may be admitted to see this film if he or she is accompanied by a parent or guardian.
- 16: Films classified in this category are considered to be suitable for persons of sixteen or over. Children under this age cannot be admitted to screenings. Violent content and depicition of violence may be stronger than in films designated 15A.
- Over 18: Only people over the age of 18 may attend a screening of this film. There will be adult themes and there may be explicit scenes of sex or violence. There may also be bad language, including strong sexual swear words.
Making a complaint
You can make a complaint about IFCO decisions on classification. If you are not satisfied with IFCO’s decision on your complaint you can escalate your complaint to the relevant Ombudsman. For complaints regarding children contact the Office of the Ombudsman for Children, for all other complaints contact the Office of the Ombudsman.
Censorship of Films Appeal Board
The Classification of Films Appeal Board has 9 members who are appointed by the Minister for Justice and Equality. The decision of the Appeal Board is final, but the film may be re-submitted to IFCO after seven years.
Offences and Penalties under the Censorship of Films Acts
There are a number of offences under the Censorship of Films Acts, including exhibiting a film without a certificate, failing to comply with the terms of a restricted certificate and displaying publicity material that has not been approved by IFCO.
It is also an offence in Ireland for a cinema to allow entry to a film by someone below the classified age. (In other words, if someone under 18 is allowed view a film for over 18's). If you see this happening, you should report the offence to your local Gardai and they will initiate proceedings under the Censorship of Films Acts.
The fines for breaches of the Acts are under review at present.
Records held by IFCO
Various registers, not all of which are computerised, are held by IFCO. The Register of Films gives basic information for each film and trailer examined, including the certification. The Cuts Register records details of cuts made in particular films and the Rejects Register gives details of prohibited films. The Appeal Board Register records details of appeals and decisions made by the Classification of Films Appeal Board. There is also an Accounts and Payments Register.
The above information may be examined at IFCO's Office. At present, no fee is charged for this service.
There is no fee for making a complaint to an Ombudsman.
IFCO, (which is self-financing), charges fees to film distributors to offset the costs of certification and classification.
A distributor is not charged a fee if the film, in the opinion of IFCO, is an educational film.
The fee for receiving a copy of IFCO's decisions under Section 8(2) of the Censorship of Films Act 1923 is €20.
The fee for appealing to the Classification of Films Appeals Board is €1,000. The fee is refunded if the appeal is successful.