Daly says Dáil prayer ‘offensive’
Independent says prayer has no place in modern Ireland
Clare Daly: said the law purported to protect religions from blasphemy but it was actually encouraging division
Independent TD Clare Daly described the recital of a prayer at the beginning of Dáil business as “offensive’’.
She said she did not think it had a place in modern Ireland. “We, therefore, need to go a lot further with the separation of church and State which is still there in a religious context in our education system and health service.’’
Ms Daly was speaking during a debate on the Government’s response to the sixth report of the constitutional convention on blasphemy.
Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin confirmed to the House that the Government accepted the convention’s main recommendation that a referendum should be held to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.
He said the referendum would take place at an “appropriate date’’ after the necessary further consultations had been completed and the required legislation prepared.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said if a legislative provision was retained, the convention favoured replacing the existing offence with detailed legislative provisions against incitement to religious hatred.
Ms Daly said the law purported to protect religions from blasphemy, but it was actually encouraging division between different religions and sects within a religion.
Seán Ó Fearghaíl (FF) said his party supported the convention’s recommendation to remove the constitutional provision and its replacement with a new provision covering incitement to religious hatred, backed up by fresh legislation.
“The current provision has, effectively proved to be unworkable, with the result that its role in protecting the distinctive sensibilities of religious groups has not really materialised.’’
Michael Colreavy (SF) said an Oireachtas committee on the Constitution recommended as long ago as 1996 that the provision should be removed and this view was endorsed by the Law Reform Commission. He added that blasphemy laws were first introduced to protect churches from public criticism and were used to suppress voices of dissent.
Mr Colreavy said in 1938 Cardinal Joseph McRory of Armagh had called for a conference on atheism to be banned. In 1929 the dean of Tuam called on vigilantes to deal with newsagents selling “blasphemous’’ literature “as they thought best’’.