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Here's what TDs think about being made to stand for a daily Christian prayer

It’s proposed the prayer will be followed by 30 seconds of silent reflection.

The Dáil prayer begins each day of business.
The Dáil prayer begins each day of business.
Image: Oireachtas.ie.

TDS WILL VOTE tomorrow on a plan to amend Dáil procedures to add 30 seconds of silent reflection after the daily prayer.

A Christian prayer is said at the beginning of each day’s business in the Dáil and some members have been campaigning to have it removed and replaced with something non-religious.

After the issue was debated by the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges, it was proposed that the prayer be kept but that a silent reflection period should be observed afterwards.

The proposals would see all those present the Dáil chamber stand while the following prayer is read out in Irish and English:

Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance; that every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee, and by Thee be happily ended; through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

When the reading of the prayer is concluded members would remain standing for the 30 seconds of reflection.

The proposal has been criticised by several members with some saying they will refuse to stand during the prayer.

Ahead of tomorrow’s vote on the amended Standing Order 27, members debated the ongoing controversy yesterday evening.

Here’s a flavour of what a number of them said.

Fine Gael’s Junior Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said that she is in favour of change and supports the recommendation of the committee:

Our religious beliefs have become more diverse and there has been a rapid growth in the number of people who do not hold any religious belief. As this Chamber reflects the population as a whole, it is not surprising that the prayer in Standing Orders has become the topic of discussion..

The Ceann Comhairle and the other members of the Committee on Procedure have clearly attempted to broaden the current procedure and reflect the beliefs or none of Members of this Chamber with this new wording for the Standing Order to provide for a prayer and time for silent reflection.

Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte is also in favour of the recommendation and is glad the prayer is being kept:

 I am personally glad to see that the prayer has been retained.  While it is retained, I am also glad to see that we are also reflective of other people and are allowing the opportunity of a reflection period of time…

I believe it is a part of our tradition.  It has been a part of the tradition down through the years.  Like all good things, we do not need to go abolishing all parts of the tradition.  We need to be respectful of the people that went before us, what they stood for and what they believed in as part of that tradition.

Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh thinks there should be 60 seconds of silent reflection so members could choose their own way to reflect, religious or otherwise:

I am not insulting those of a Christian faith or those who believe in God or a god.  What I am trying to say is that this is supposed to be a republic.  A republic is supposed to equally honour or respect all of those people.  It is also supposed to separate church and State, but that is not what is happening in this proposal.  This proposal is more insulting than it was before because Members are now expected to stand to attention to listen to a prayer and then reflect for a moment.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger takes particular issue with TDs being made to stand for a prayer they may not believe in:

The proposal is baffling.  A debate took place in the Dáil reform committee about a Dáil prayer in the national parliament and many people objected to it.  Now there will be a requirement – a compulsion and obligation – for all Deputies present to stand.  It takes away the voluntary nature of it.  There will be potential disciplinary action if a Deputy does not comply.

At a time when the rest of society is demanding an absolute separation of Church and State, the Dáil decides to embed an archaic practice by proposing this.  Religion is a private matter.

Independent TD Joan Collins simply stated that religious beliefs should not be part of parliamentary representation:

I find it incredible that we are debating this issue.  This is the twenty-first century.  We need to move on.

It (Standing Order 27) calls on a spiritual divinity to direct the words and actions of democratically elected representatives.  I have not been sent here by the votes of the people in Dublin South Central to have my words and actions directed by Jesus Christ. That is quite simply a fact.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath is in favour of the retention of the prayer and questions if it’s an issue worthy of discussion at all:

The Dáil prayer is not as unusual as its opponents claim.  In fact, a significant number of legislative bodies in Europe and further afield, including the UK, South Africa, Canada, the United States of America and Australia have either a period of prayer or silent reflection before the business of the day begins.

Although the question of the Dáil prayer is occasionally brought up by some Members of the Oireachtas – admittedly more often in recent times – I have yet to encounter any kind of widespread resistance to the practice among the majority of Members.  It seems to be a niche preoccupation of those on the hard left.  It has certainly found no traction among the majority of Deputies or the general public.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD suggested that the practice be rotated to include moments representing those of different faiths and no faith:

I like the moments of prayer or reflection because I like that different space that allows us to think in a different way, even if only briefly, each day.  My putting forward the suggestion was based on what the Scottish do, as I understand it, in that they vary it.

They have a whole range of different ways in which they use that moment at the start of every week. I quite like the idea of experimenting and trying different approaches by involving people of all faiths and none.  We need to think about how we might try to do it differently.

Poll: Are you glad the Dáil prayer has been kept? >

Read: Dáil to bring in 30-second moment of reflection after the daily prayer >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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