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Removal of the Dáil prayer would be "out of step with modern practice"

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has defended the practice after criticism from Deputy Clare Daly that it is “offensive”.

Image: prayer via shutterstock

INDEPENDENT TD MATTIE McGrath has defended the Dáil prayer against criticism that it is “offensive”.

This has come in response to remarks made by Deputy Clare Daly during a debate in the Dáil yesterday on the removal of the article about blasphemy from the Irish Constitution.

The Dáil prayer is said at the start of each day’s business in the chamber by the Ceann Comhairle.

She said that she did not believe the prayer had “a place in modern Ireland” and that “we need to go a lot further with the separation of church and State”.

In response to this McGrath said that the removal of the Dáil prayer would be “out of step with modern practice”. He went on to say:

I… think that this time she is way out of step with the practice of prayer in modern parliamentary systems… in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court gave local government officials across the United States more freedom, not less, to begin meetings with a prayer.

In her address Daly also said that more should be done to remove the “religious context in our education system and health service”.

On this Deputy McGrath said:

That agenda is a road former Education Minister Quinn tried to go down and he was met with strong resistance; a resistance that I think will also reveal itself if any move is made to eliminate the opening prayer.

During the debate Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin confirmed that the Government accepted the proposal from the Constitutional Convention and that a referendum on the removal of the article relating to blasphemy from the Constitution will take place next year.

In his address Ó Ríordáin pointed out that there had been no prosecutions for blasphemy since 1855.

Blasphemy is currently legislated for under the Defamation Act of 2009 and is defined as something “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.”

Speaking during the debate Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on constitutional reform Seán Ó Fearghaíl said his party supported a referendum on the removal of the blasphemy provision from the Constitution.

A fine of up to €25,000 can still be applied for committing the offence.

Read: It’s official: We’ll have a referendum to remove blasphemy from the Constitution

Also: What is it like to be an atheist in Ireland?

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