How Frank Crummey smuggled 40,000 condoms into Ireland when contraception was illegal
A brilliant story.
Activist Frank Crummey was this week's guest on Ireland Unfiltered with Dion Fanning with Crummey speaking at length about his truly fascinating and inspiring life.
He held a succession of diverse and unlikely occupational posts down through the years bouncing from soldier to bus driver then – postman, social worker, builder and private investigator – before becoming a legal executive, but his active campaigning life could be considered his real career choice.
One of the founding members of the Irish Family Planning Association, Frank Crummey recalled one particular moment in the 1970s on a journey back from Northern Ireland with 40,000 condoms in his car.
As he said himself, he'd gotten quite adept at getting past the border but he couldn't have planned for being pulled over by Gardaí in Balbriggan.
Now, keep in mind, this was when contraceptives were illegal in Ireland.
"When the campaign started, there was no way you could import contraceptives into Ireland," Crummey said. "So I would buy them in bulk from London Rubber into Portadown in the north of Ireland.
"And every second Saturday, it was my job to bring them over the border. One day I was on the line and I noticed they were checking every third car.
Crummey realised he was the third car in the convoy and had to think fast to manoeuvre his way out of the situation.
"I opened up the bonnet and let the guy behind me go past. But anyways, I was always successful. One of the Saturdays I got through no problem, driving up to Balbriggan there’s a Garda checkpoint looking for the IRA.
"They weren’t looking for me. But the Garda opened up the back of the thing and he said 'Jesus'.
"He said: “You’re not supposed to have them are you?”
"I said: 'Excuse me Garda, they are in my possession. They’re for my own personal use. And I’ll have a go at you if you touch me.'"
After the Garda consulted with his superior, it was decided that he'd be let go, no questions asked.
"I’d 40,000 condoms in the boot and I made the American papers and the Canadian papers," Crummey laughed.
"The little Irish man, eight stone in weight, with 40,000 condoms for the weekend. That was some going. No wonder I have Parkinsons."