Religious oaths and the Constitution
Sir, – I’m glad to see that two TDs, Róisín Shortall and John Brady, and Senator David Norris have initiated a challenge in the European Court of Human Rights to the requirement that president and members of the judiciary swear an oath to God upon taking office. This challenge has been formally endorsed by both Prof David McConnell and Fergus Finlay.
I recall attending a meeting on May 19th, 2011, with members of the Government along with religious and non-religious representatives (this was part of the “structured dialogue” set up under the Lisbon Treaty). At the time we were in the midst of a presidential election campaign, and I felt it reasonable to pose a question to the assembled company: “How embarrassing would it be for our country if we elected a president who was unable to take up office because of the requirement for a religious oath?”
After a short, uneasy silence in the room full of government ministers, senior civil servants and religious leaders, the then-taoiseach Enda Kenny stood up, leaned over to his minister for justice Alan Shatter and said, “You’d better take a note of that, Alan”.
In a modern democratic republic with an increasingly secular population, it is high time that this archaic and discriminatory inclusion in our Constitution was revisited and revised. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Your article on applicants for Irish citizenship (“Ireland’s citizens in waiting”, Weekend Review, October 5th) says that “new citizens swear an oath of fidelity to Ireland”. In fact, they affirm their fidelity to Ireland. This is one of the few areas of Irish public life where affirmation is the norm. The Constitution requires the president and judges to swear a Christian oath on taking office. It is time that the anachronism of superstitious oaths was removed from our Constitution and at least the option of affirmation was available to all. – Yours, etc,