Prayer in Dáil ‘anachronistic’ in secular society, says Paul Murphy

Eamon Ryan suggests a minute’s silence could be observed instead of prayer

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: suggested a minute’s silence could be observed instead of the Dáil prayer and that a bell should be rung for a short break to cool things down when debates became too intense and heated. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: suggested a minute’s silence could be observed instead of the Dáil prayer and that a bell should be rung for a short break to cool things down when debates became too intense and heated. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The prayer said at the start of each day the Dáil sits is “anachronistic” and should go, according to Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy.

Mr Murphy said Ireland was now a secular society and this should be reflected in the Dáil, he said of the prayer, which is read by the ceann comhairle every sitting day.

“We think the prayer should go. We think it’s anachronistic,” he said, during the debate on Dáil reform.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the Dáil should look to what happened in other jurisdictions such as the Northern Ireland or Scottish Assemblies.

He suggested a minute’s silence could be observed instead of the prayer and he also believed that a bell should be rung for a short break to cool things down when debates became too intense and heated.

Independent TD and former senator Katherine Zappone said the Seanad had already reached a solution. Senators compromised with a Christian prayer followed by a minute’s silence.

Planned reforms

He said proposals from the Dáil committee on reform included allowing TDs to formally abstain from a vote, establishing a business committee to set Dáil agendas on the basis of consensus, splitting Oireachtas committee and plenary time, allowing more than one technical group, and providing a fixed time for the taking of votes.

The ceann comhairle would also be given powers to question the adequacy of ministerial replies, he added.

“I welcome this interim report – that is all it is – and I look forward to hearing the views of the committee members and the other members of the House,’’ he added.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he welcomed the progress towards a substantive package of Dáil reforms. He said he hoped it would be possible to have agreement.

Mr Martin said the starting point for Dáil reform would have to be the Dáil becoming a parliament where every member could make a contribution and accepted their responsibility to propose credible, long- term solutions.

He said the banking inquiry had shown many core failings leading to the worst financial and fiscal crisis in history were ignored by the Oireachtas before the recession. “We need to break the idea that government must be the driving force behind all policy and all that is left for others is to oversee and challenge their work.’’