Six TDs refuse to stand for Dáil prayer and reflection

Ceann Comhairle ignores protest by TDs calling for separation of church and State

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl ignored the protest against the retention of the prayer which is said in both Irish and English by a group of six TDs

 

Six TDs broke protocol in the Dáil on Tuesday by remaining seated during the prayer and the new additional 30 seconds of silent reflection.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl ignored the protest against the retention of the prayer – which is said in both Irish and English – by Solidarity TDs Mick Barry and Ruth Coppinger and by People Before Profit TDs Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny, Bríd Smith and Independents4Change TD Joan Collins.

Mr Barry and Ms Coppinger held aloft posters stating “Separate Church and State” during the silent reflection period.

It has been protocol to stand for the duration of the prayer, normally read by the Ceann Comhairle.

The prayer states: “Direct we beseech thee O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspiration, and carry them on so that every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee and by Thee be happily ended.”

The start of Dáil proceedings on Tuesday was the first occasion for the new arrangements, which retained the prayer and added the silent reflection for those with different or no religious beliefs.

About 40 TDs were in the House for the start of business including a number of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Independent TDs as well as the protesting Solidarity-People Before Profit members and Ms Collins.

Absent

No Labour party members were present during the prayer, and no members of the Independent Alliance attended.

Last week Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and Ministers of State Finian McGrath and John Halligan broke ranks by voting against the Government and for the ending of the prayer when the issue was voted on, following a 40-minute debate on the issue.

Three amendments were proposed during the vote, but each was defeated and the majority voted in favour of adding the 30 seconds of silence to the prayer.

The Dáil order stated that TDs should remain standing for the silence, but Ms Smith said: “I’m not standing, no matter what I’m told to do, because my religion is my business and is not up for public scrutiny.”

Ms Collins pointed out that Ireland and the UK were the only two European countries to say a prayer before the start of parliamentary proceedings. However, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand include a prayer.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said he had argued the prayer should be replaced with a moment’s reflection.

He said he was not insulting those of a Christian faith or those who believed in a god. Ireland, he said, was supposed to be a republic.

A moment’s silence, he added, would allow members to reflect on whatever a religion or none they stood for individually.

Respect

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said respect for cultural or religious views should not debar TDs from acknowledging the specific heritage of their own country and giving it an expression which the vast majority of people did not find offensive.

During the debate Ms Coppinger described the proposal to add 30 seconds as “baffling” and that now there would be a requirement for all TDs present to stand.

“It takes away any voluntary nature of it and potential disciplinary action if a TD doesn’t comply,” Ms Coppinger believed, but the Ceann Comhairle ignored the protest and immediately moved to the start of normal business.