Atheists, oaths and declarations

Sir, – Michael Drury (October 4th) offers a non-believer the solution of adding a contradictory preamble to the undertaking required of a president by the Constitution in the hope that none of the required witnesses would object.

The same form of words is required by those being appointed to high judicial office. It is stretching credibility to believe that our legal hierarchy would pass up an opportunity to object on such an occasion.

Even if such a device were to pass muster, it is hard to see how any ethical humanist or religious citizen could be happy with such a double-speak solution.

Far better that a brief clause be inserted in the Constitution allowing, as in most of our courts, a right to affirm. Surely this would be the least contentious of the various referendums being proposed? – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Michael Drury deserves a clap on the back for his de Valerean solution to a de Valerean conundrum. When is an oath not an oath?

No amount of semantic logic can conceal the common understanding that an oath of office is a promissory declaration invoking a deity to witness the act. The legal consequence of a breach of that promise would amount to perjury. As far back as 1990 the Law Reform Commission recommended the removal of the practice of administering oaths in judicial proceedings. Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the privacy of one’s religious convictions.

For an elected representative to qualify his or her invocation to God while accepting the office of president, by explaining religious convictions or offering an excuse to a forgiving audience, is to discredit the office. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.