Identity Statement for Dr Derek Freedman

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P276
  • Title: Papers of Dr Derek Freedman
  • Dates: 1979–91
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 3 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use

Biographical History

The sale and importation of contraceptives was outlawed in the Republic of Ireland in 1935. In the 1970s, the law surrounding contraceptives came under increased scrutiny as loopholes allowed for their possession and use but not their sale. The legal position drew heavy criticism particularly as contraceptives were widely available in Northern Ireland at the time. Responding to the increasing pressure, Charles Haughey, then Minister for Health, introduced the Health (Family Planning) Bill which was enacted into law in 1979. The law was dubbed 'an Irish solution to an Irish problem' as contraceptives were only made available via medical prescription 'for the purpose of "bona fide" family planning' and could only be sold through physicians and pharmacies. Under this law, physicians and pharmacists were not obliged to supply members of the public with prescriptions or contraception if they held any moral objection.

Dr Derek Freedman, a genito-urinary physician, was involved in the establishment of Family Planning Services Limited. The company was established for the provision of information and family planning services to the public. Initially, this involved the use of "non-medical" methods of contraception but they were eventually able to provide medical contraceptives, family planning advice, psycho-sexual consultations and to offer surgical procedures, such as vasectomies and the insertion of I.U.D.s. The first Family Planning Services clinic was opened at 67 Pembroke Road, Dublin followed by the establishment of other medical centers at Bawn Og/Bawnogue, Clondalkin and at 78/79 George's Street, Dun Laoghaire in 1984.

Members of the Board of Family Planning Services, in cooperation with the Association of Irish Family Planning Clinics and the Irish Family Planning Association, were particularly critical of the restrictions of the Health (Family Planning) Act and were involved in lobbying the Minister for Health Barry Desmond, who succeeded Charles Haughey in 1982, for amendments to facilitate more open distribution of contraception in the Republic.

Under legal advice, the Board of Directors sought to establish a separate company, Family Planning Services Supplies, retitled Dearsley Limited, in 1980. The company was founded in order to purchase contraceptives from suppliers, primarily in the UK, for distribution in the Republic of Ireland through Family Planning clinics and chemists throughout the country. Dr Andrew Rynne, chairman of the Irish Family Planning Association, was the first person to be prosecuted for the violation of Section 4 of the Health (Family Planning) Act for supplying condoms to a patient in 1982. A letter sent by Michael Beirne, of Family Planning Services to a solicitor, 10 December 1982, indicates that the condoms were sold to Dr Andrew Rynne by Dearsley in violation of the Act.

Derek Freedman served as a director of Dearsley and Family Planning Services and occupied the position of chairman in Dearsley until his retirement from the Board of Directors in 1991. He continues to practice as a genito-urinary physician and currently operates from his private clinic in Ranelagh Village, Dublin. He has published extensively on the topic of STDs and sexual health, founded the Society for the Study of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Ireland, and is a founding member of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 

Archival History

This collection was transferred from Dr Freedman's surgery in Ranelagh, Dublin, and deposited in UCD Archives on 8 November 2013.


Scope and Content

Health (Family Planning) Act 1979, 1974–83

Opinions, questions and correspondence gathered by Derek Freedman relating to the Health (Family Planning) Bill, 1978 and the subsequent Act passed in 1979, their impact on the sale and distribution of contraceptives in Ireland and the implications for Family Planning Services.
File of correspondence between the office of the Minister for Health, Barry Desmond, and members of the Board of Directors of Family Planning Services; and memoranda relating to a meeting between Derek Freedman and Barry Desmond to discuss proposed changes to the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1983.

Family Planning Services Limited, 1982–89

Files of correspondence, both internal and external, reports of meetings of the Board of Directors and staff members of the company, financial reports, clinic statistics, advertising reports, legal correspondence newspaper cuttings and other documents relating to the operation and activities of the Family Planning Services company, 1982–9.

Dearsley Limited, 1980–91

Files of correspondence, primarily between Dearsley and their product suppliers, reports relating to the meetings of the Board of Directors and general staff members, sales reports, accounts, pricing and product reports, newspaper cuttings and other documents produced in the day-to-day running of the company, 1980–91.


  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in digital format.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue