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People are divided over whether the Dáil should begin each day with a prayer

Minister Katherine Zappone says it should be replaced with a moment of silence.

Members of the Dáil standing for the Dáil prayer.
Members of the Dáil standing for the Dáil prayer.

THE PUBLIC IS divided on whether the Dáil should continue to begin every session with a prayer.

According to a Claire Byrne Live/Amárach Research poll, 42% of people said each Dáil session should not begin with a prayer, while 42% said it should.

A total of 16% said they don’t know.

Ireland is not the only parliament to begin each day with a Christian prayer. Australia, Canada, South Africa, the UK and the US have similar procedures to ours.

Other countries have opted for silent reflections at the start of each day.

A number of politicians, and a government minister, believe a moment’s silence would be more appropriate.

Moment of silence 

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone told TheJournal.ie a moment silence would be “much fairer than spoken prayer”.

At a time of National, European and World challenges TDs need a moment to reflect on the actions they are about to take. This reflection should be open to politicians of all faiths, and those of none.
In the interest of equality I fully support a moment of silence where every deputy can reflect, pray or be still ahead of their work on behalf of the people of Ireland.
Such an act is much fairer than a spoken prayer which favours one religion over others and does not reflect an equal, diverse and inclusive Ireland.

AAA-PBP Paul Murphy who has raised the issue in the past, said there is no place for religious prayer in the Dáil.

He has also raised with the Dáil Reform committee. Murphy told TheJournal.ie it’s time for the practice to end.

“I think the prayer should go. We should have a complete separation of church and state. One part of this is not having a religious prayer in the Dáil, which is supposed to represent everybody in this country, of many different religions and of no religion. I am an atheist. In what other workplace would I be expected to rise for a prayer at the start of a meeting?”

One TD that who defended the prayer in the past is Independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath.

He said that while the question of the Dáil prayer is something that is occasionally brought up by some members of the Oireachtas, he is yet to encounter any kind of wide spread resistance to the practice among the majority of members.

It seems to be a niche preoccupation among those on ‘hard left.’ It has certainly found no traction among TDs in general.
There is ample evidence from other parliamentary democracies in both Europe and the US that having a prayer at the beginning of proceedings is a perfectly acceptable practice.
Respect for other cultural or religious views should not debar us from acknowledging the specific heritage of our own country and from finding a way of giving expression to that.

McGrath said he would have no problem if an equivalent time for silent prayer/reflection for those who would desire that.

But as for getting rid of it altogether? That would strike me as excessive and even slightly petty to be frank about it.

The Dáil prayer: We’re not the only parliament to have one>

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