Separate church and State, says Bacik

Senator’s call leads to sharp exchanges in Seanad

Senator Ivana Bacik call for Seanad debate on separation of church and State. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Senator Ivana Bacik call for Seanad debate on separation of church and State. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 01:00


A call by Labour Senator Ivana Bacik for a Seanad debate on the separation of church and State led to sharp exchanges.

Ms Bacik said she looked forward to the debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, adding that she welcomed the fact that after 21 years legislators were facing up to their responsibilities.

“I call on the leader, in the aftermath of the Bill, perhaps in the autumn, to arrange a debate on the separation of church and State, given the rather robust interventions by the bishops, essentially seeking to tell legislators what to do, which, I believe, is not appropriate in a republic.’’

Darragh O’Brien (FF) asked if Ms Bacik wanted to gag the bishops.

Paul Coghlan (FG) said he also welcomed the debate on the Bill, but unlike Ms Bacik he did not see the church as interfering or dictating but merely having its say like everyone else, to which it was entitled.

“Everyone deserves to be heard,’’ Mr Coghlan added. “I know that some people on both sides of the argument are an annoyance and a total bloody nuisance.’’

He said the legislation, if it was passed, was likely to be challenged, and for that reason he hoped President Higgins, “in his sanguinity and wisdom’’, would call in the Council of State to refer the matter to the Supreme Court so the Bill could be put beyond doubt.

Ronán Mullen (Ind) said it was contemptible for any member of the House, or anybody else, to seek to exclude the voices of the church members or leaders from debates on the Bill. “We should be wary about where such people would take our politics when they seek not to focus on the issues but rather to denigrate those who make arguments with sincerity.’’