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holy words

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

It is a requirement under the Dáil rules that a sitting cannot begin without the prayer being read.


AS TDS RETURN to the Dáil after the Christmas period on Tuesday, the first thing they will hear as they take their seats is the Dáil prayer.

FullSizeRender (4) Oireachtas Library and Research Service Oireachtas Library and Research Service

There have been many debates about whether it is appropriate in a modern parliament, with many suggesting that it should be scrapped or perhaps replaced with a moment of silence.

In 2012, a 30 second period of reflection was included in the Seanad before the prayer.


What many might not be aware of is it is actually a requirement under the Dáil rules that a sitting cannot begin without the prayer being read. Only in November the Ceann Comhairle was in panic mode when he couldn’t find the prayer ahead of a Dáil sitting.

So, are we the only country to say a prayer in a parliament?

The Oireachtas Library and Research Service (L&RS) finds that there is a real division between practices in continental European parliaments, which do not have prayers, other European parliaments, including Ireland, which do.

Only eight of the 24 European parliaments with no prayers in the plenary have some religious services, while 14 have neither prayers in the plenary or religious services.

Six countries say it in the plenary, including Ireland.

FullSizeRender (3) Oireachtas Library and Research Service Oireachtas Library and Research Service

In Australia in 2014, a proposal to remove the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of the Senate proceedings was defeated. The Standing Orders require the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate to read the prayer at the beginning of each sitting of parliament.

The prayer in the Senate and the House of Representatives acknowledges Australian’s indigenous people stating:

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples who are the traditional custodians of the Canberra area an pay respect to the elders, past and present of all Australia’s indigenous peoples.

There is also a prayer said in Canada in both the House of Commons and the Senate, which mentions Queen Elizabeth, while in South Africa there is a moment of silent prayer at the beginning of their sitting.

In the UK, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in Westminster read prayers, however, there are no specific prayers at the beginning of plenary sessions in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament or the National Assembly in Wales.

Northern Ireland does have two minutes of silent prayer or reflection, while in Scotland has a ‘time for reflection’ at the beginning of each week. There are no prayers or silent moments of reflection in the Welsh parliament.

Across the pond, the daily order of business for both Houses begins with Christian prayer.

The L&RS finds 19 parliaments have no religious services, but some do have chapels and prayer rooms in the parliaments.

The Swedish Riksdag has a chapel and a prayer room, as does Westminster.

Israels parliament has a synagogue and prayer room and Turkey has a mosque.

Mini-poll: Do you think the Dáil prayer should be scrapped?

Poll Results:

No (1766)
Yes (1753)
Yes, but replace it with a silent reflection (730)
I don't know (99)

Read: Removal of the Dáil prayer would be “out of step with modern practice”>

Read: Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil spent thousands of euro targeting voters with Facebook ads>

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