Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Dáil prayers have no place in an inclusive Ireland

If we want migrants to feel at home, we should end a tradition that implies State endorsement of Christianity

Last week, the Dáil deferred until after Easter a vote on changing the House rules to allow for 30 seconds of “silent reflection” after the traditional prayer is said at the opening of daily business. The period of reflection is intended as a compromise to those who wanted to abolish the prayer.
This debate highlights important issues about the form of religion-state relations in Ireland and in Europe more generally.
Ireland is a long way from being a theocracy. Even in the pious 1930s, politicians resisted demands that the Catholic faith become the official State religion although the State did use the law to enforce religious teachings on matters such as contraception, homosexuality and divorce.
With the secularisation of Irish society since the 1960s the enforcement of religious morality has gradually been abandoned by the State.
Indeed, in recent times political leaders from both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have stated repeatedly that, as politicians in a republic, they recognise that they must leave their religious convictions out of lawmaking. Religious arguments are not a major part of political debate and, although 78 per cent of the population remains Catholic, the church’s teaching does not dominate voting behaviour, as the referendum on marriage equality showed.
And yet, the State is clearly not strictly religiously neutral. In addition to official prayer in the Oireachtas, our national holiday is that of a Christian saint, the Garda badge is cruciform in nature, and Christmas and Easter are public holidays.
Cultural traditions
This is inconsistent with strict religious neutrality to some degree but also reflects the reality that Ireland is not a society that is at year zero but sees itself as a continuation of a mix of particular cultural traditions that go back centuries.
Sustainable societies require some kind of links to an imagined shared past, and in the Irish case that shared past was shaped for many centuries by Christianity. Symbols and festivals that have historical resonance will inevitably reflect the fact that Christianity has been a huge part of Irish culture for 1,500 years. Many national symbols, such as Celtic monastic art, have a national cultural significance independent of their religious nature.
Such Christian-influenced national symbols are not strictly neutral and it is certainly possible that the Christian churches get some kind of benefit from the celebration of St Patrick’s Day as a national holiday. But imposing a strict standard of neutrality in these matters would involve a major degree of loss. A religiously neutral alternative to St Patrick’s Day, for instance, is unlikely to have the cultural resonance needed for a meaningful shared national festival.
Ireland is far from unique in this regard. Most European states have a heavy majority of one faith and that faith has moulded national culture to a great degree. Indeed, strict institutional separation of religion and state is relatively rare in Europe. A 2003 survey by academics John Madeley and Zsolt Enyedi showed that not a single European state met the standard of institutional separation of religion and state required by the US supreme court.
At the same time, in political terms European societies are notably secular. Religion is not central to political life the way it is in many countries in Africa and Asia. The weakness of religious influence over law and politics is shown by the degree to which religiously controversial ideas such as gender equality, the right to ridicule religion and gay rights have achieved much wider acceptance in EU member states than in Africa and the Middle East where religion is a huge part of political life.
The problem with the European arrangements is that they rely to a large degree on insider knowledge that allows people to distinguish between the situation on paper and the actual situation. Denmark may have a state church and Dáil sittings may begin with prayers but people are at the same time expected to know that, in both countries, politics and religion are to be kept somewhat apart. If one comes from a society where politics and religion are deeply intertwined, prayers in parliament may appear to be much more than a cultural symbol.
This divide between symbolic religiosity and substantive secular politics leaves European societies open to allegations of hypocrisy when they ask migrants from areas of the world with more muscular religion to accept that religion and politics are separate and that religiously controversial ideas such as free speech on religion and gay rights must be accepted.
‘‘ This divide between symbolic religiosity and substantive secular politics leaves European societies open to allegations of hypocrisy when they ask migrants to accept that religion and politics are separate
Historical resonance
Given the enormous cultural influence of religion over the centuries, an entirely religiously neutral society is unattainable. Symbols and festivals that have historical resonance will inevitably reflect the fact that Christianity has been a huge part of Irish culture for 1,500 years.
However, we should also have an open mind as to which arrangements or symbols go beyond recognition of Christianity’s historic role in Ireland and shade into an appearance of State endorsement of a particular religion. Christian prayers in the Dáil seem to fall on the endorsement side.
It is hard to see a prayer that involves a wish that “Christ Our Lord” will guide parliamentarians’ work as a mere cultural symbol. If we wish migrants to this country to feel at home and to accept a division between religion and politics that may be challenging for them, it is important that the majority appear to honour those commitments too.


Ireland needs to be a modern, secular and pluralist modern democracy.

In such a democracy all religions that are peaceful should be free to prosper but no one religion, even the religio  of the majority, hould be favoured by the state.

Prayers and religious ornaments should not adorn the walls of state institutions.

Politicians should not be trapsing off to religious services - except in their personal capacity.

The Catholic Republic and the Protestant North have been part of the problem and not part of the solution.

All schools should be state schools.

If religions want their own schools then let them pay for them themselves.

The Dail prayer should go.

The Angelus on tv and radio should go too.

Religion is for the home, the church.

As a catholic I need no state to bolster me up - not even the Vatican State 


  1. I think only a fool would see the Government of the Irish Republic as being free of filthy Roman domination.

    1. Maggie,do you contribute to the well-being of society or humanity in general whatsoever? When were you booted from maynooth?

    2. MournemanMichael19 April 2017 at 12:38

      Since you asked MC:

      Stands the church. Behold its steeple.
      Draw its drug, .....opium people.
      Seeking hope, the searching masses
      grasping straws while life's race passes.
      Your clergy cling with limpet's grasp,
      to bleed you dry. ....deadly asp.
      Better gone you hollow frame
      of famished faith and vanished flame.
      Your errant hope, oblique belief,
      just ebb, and go.I feel no grief.

    3. 10:21, do you suffer with Attention Deficit Disorder? Because your questions to me are on totally unrelated topics. Or are you just stupid?

    4. MMM, you have an obvious talent for whimsical free verse.

      Ever thought of having your compositions published? You should.

    5. Magna always bears her teeth when her time spent in Maynooth is mentioned, it's a touchy subject for the poor girl. She was just as nasty then as she is now, it explains why they deemed her unsuitable for Priesthood. You can see why she has a huge chip on her shoulder regarding the Church.

    6. 'Priesthood (sic)' should have lower-case 'P'.

    7. MourneManMichael20 April 2017 at 00:49

      For Anon @ 20:33.(On bearing and baring!)

      Magna bares a deep disdain, for those that bear him ill.
      Intemperate words a bit absurd will never make him still.
      Oblique critique may make him weak, with howls of mirthful glee,
      for 'off the mark' misguided 'sarc' is plain for all to see.

  2. Pat, Here in the south Catholics do pay for the schools themselves as all Catholics are tax payers and are the overwhelming majority. We are happy to provide places for Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Hindus and others all of whom can be found in Catholic schools.

  3. This blog has surprised and saddened me a lot and I have prayed and turned it over restlessly in my mind (It is now 2.05)

    When a Christian visits a as Muslim country we are completely accepting of the fact that the native people are proud to exhibit their faith and rightly expect us to accept and respect that. Five times daily, you can hear through loudspeakers the call to prayer(adhan) Yet here we are and what are we concerned about? We want to smother and obliterate all signs of our faith, of all the things that we profess to hold dear, that give real meaning to our lives. We think we will get more respect from migrants if we present ourselves and our environment as atheistic. God forbid if we allow our sign or reference to our Maker! The education of our children is a sacred Trust and the child is a whole being, formed of body and soul. Each of those is worthy of care, formation and nurture and task of education is to do that ("educare"-to draw out) and not to impoverish the child by regarding education as merely filling him with secular facts. That is a small part of the responsibility of preparing that child for his life ahead and for his eternal destiny. (Please do not retaliate with the full onslaught of how many Catholic schools,nuns, brothers and priests have discharged that sacred duty badly and a hundred times worse. I know. Do you think I approve? They have their God to face and His task to judge)I know,Pat that your call to support a secular society will receive plenty of fulsome support from many of your regular posters. You will find that people will seize upon different aspects of it with alacrity and perhaps that won't be surprising with respect to those who normally profess themselves as having no belief in God. All I can do is appeal to the others who treasure and value their faith (as I do)to reflect their views faithfully also. Their responses will be a telling litmus test as to where they really stand. What message do we give to the world if we are happy to behave as if all references and reminders of our God was abhorrent to us? (Kindest regards to you, Pat and to all) Cecily.

    1. Cecily I am sorry if I caused you distress.

      I want total religious freedom including the freedom to express your religion publicly.

      I just dont like the idea of the state involved in religion.

      Your reference to Islam is unfortunate with its state religion, wars, terrorism etc. Pat.

    2. Pat, I personally don't understand why European countries should give up their cultural heritage so a liberal elite can feel pleased with itself while looking down on the unwashed hoi polloi who oppose such actions with reaffirming self righteousness. If you get rid of one set of symbols, what do you replace them by? Year 0, Pol Pot or Robespierre style? Capitalism's Coca Cola Santa Claus and Cadbury's chocolate bunnies replacing Christ and the old gods? I agree that both statelets on this island and their colonial masters abuse/abused religion dreadfully in order to maintain control over the people. However, to start pandering to certain absurd middle class liberal ideas which emasculate identity will only result in far right victories up the line and a complete realignment of the state on those principles. I believe the state should be secular but to talk of replacing certain symbols, in order to 'accommodate' new arrivals is absurd. Take the case of Turkish Germans who only a few days ago voted overwhelmingly for an Islamist dictator in a country most don't even live in. What sort of integration is that? And that is after two, three generations.

    3. Title: 'If we want migrants to feel at home, we should end a tradition that implies State endorsement of Christianity'. Surely there would be a simpler way for migrants to 'feel at home'?

    4. I don't like prayer and gave it up years ago and feel my life is really really good without it. It is a fact that people get sick and get better and some die. Nothing can change that. Praying for somebody to get better is just asking God to send healing to somebody and let somebody else get no healing. That is the reality and it is why I see prayer as offensive. On ethical grounds it needs to be kept out of state life.

    5. To poster @ 12.52
      My dear, you're in the palm of God's hand and he knows every thought in your head and every precious breath you take.
      One little thing... we don't just speak to someone who loves us in order to beg them to give us stuff!
      We talk and listen in order to get to know the person and to deepen our relationship. It's exactly the same with God. Whenever you feel ready.. and He'll wait... talk to Him in your own words about the things that matter to you, especially if you should feel low or misunderstood. Thank Him for all the things which are going well and ask about decisions if you should be undecided. He of course already knows what you need but it's your friendship He wants.
      He is there for you and the welcome will be particularly warm if it's been a while... Wishing you all the best.

    6. @ 12.52.
      Thank you for sharing these thoughts. You come across as a moral and ethical person and I admire you for that.

      You are writing from a sense of justice when you criticize prayer as asking God to heal A while B and all the others are not prayer for, or are not healed.

      What you are rejecting isn't in fact prayer. I also reject the scenario you paint. That's a travesty of prayer to think that God is showing favouritism. God loves us all equally. Sickness and death are both evil, though natural. It's God's will that we all flourish. That why God created us - for happiness here and hereafter.

      I pray you will re-discover the healing of prayer - maybe not prayer of petition, but prayer of praise and intimacy. St Luke puts it beautifully when he say 'We ought always to pray and never lose heart.' (18.1)before telling the parable of the two different types who went to pray.

      Best wishes!

    7. 19:40, are you a born idiot? Or a self-made one?

      Of course relationship with God is about asking for 'stuff'! Otherwise what the hell is the point of God?

      Don't you know that Jesus said if you who are evil know how to give good things to your children, then how much more so your heavenly Father?

      Spend your time a little more wisely from now on: actually READ the Gospels.

    8. That disgusting little twerp again! (Ignore him, poster!)

    9. MC You are extremely crude and ignorant and I much prefer what poster at 19 40 had to say anyway. (You never take time to really read what people say and then blunder in and completely misrepresent what they said. So nasty ugh!)

    10. You don't like me, then? (Just a guess.)

  4. Diarmuid Martin ordained 3 guys Deacons for Clogher in Rome on Monday. Was that Michael Byrne - Georgeous officiating as a Deacon with AB Martin ? Saw pic on Facebook under Arch of Dublin.

  5. The Archbishop should sit Georgeous down and make him read and understand the homily he gave at this ordination in Rome. If Ab Martin ordains byrne in june then the homily he gave was just mere words and not sincere. Hopefully Ab Martin will practice what he preaches. Homily on Archdiocese of Dublin website.

  6. I firmly believe that one the main reasons of Islamist radicalisation, along with the stupidity and greed of the old and new Colonial powers, is the sheer decadence and its main cause, Secularness, of the new and declining West.

    Is it any wonder that many young Muslims cling more to their Tradition on witnessing the meaninglessness, chaos and ‘anything goes’ mentality of the Western countries they were born in or have newly arrived to?

    The West became great because of Christianity, and not despite it. The Jurisprudence and Laws of the West were elevated and refined from their Graeco-Roman origins by Christian ideals and the Decalogue. Unfortunately, those wise and safeguarding Laws are being slowly dismantled and shredded by the short-termism and populism of opportunistic, venal politicians who have no idea of history, and don’t seem to care about the consequences of their actions.

    Nature abhors a vacuum; and if you get rid of all remnants of the Christian God, something such as ‘Allah’ or some hypnotising Hitler-like orator, who will promise ‘freedom’ and ‘prosperity’ for all, will rush in and take His place. The end result will be a cruel Dictatorship or Islamic Caliphate, i.e. the rule of the strong over the weak.

    Based on statistical evidence, because of the anti-life laws and mentality of Europe, many formerly great Christian nations such as France and Germany will in future have Muslim majorities. We will see then where Secularism has brought us and what atrocities will be visited on us as a consequence and logical ending to its ‘Weltanschauung’.

    Religion comes from the Latin ‘Religare’ (which means, among other things, to bind to). Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Humanist, Agnostic, Communist, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. you bind yourself to your ideals. So for some people to say that they are not ‘religious’ is incorrect. And all politicians, Secular, Atheistic, or not, try to impose their particular ‘religion’ on everyone, whether they believe it or not.

    What is happening at the moment in Ireland, as well as rest of the West, is that a small but vociferous group of ‘intelligent’ and ‘enlightened’ elite are trying to impose their particular brand of vacuous and meaningless religion on everyone else. And unfortunately, the populace at large are falling for their propaganda hook, line and sinker.

    1. @poster 10.20
      Your contribution is very insightful, particularly your last paragraph
      Spot on, I'd say.

  7. Jesus was not a Roman Catholic. Like it or not Christianity is part of our heritage warts and all England is a multi cultural country and it does not prevent the Queen being head of state and church. The Angelus on RTE has been mutated to a general call to prayer. This is better than no prayer at all. We would not dare tell a Muslim nation not to have a public call to prayer so why take away the few bits of godliness Ireland has left. Let a chaplain from various religious groups lead the prayer in the daily. Even Alcoholics Anonymous acknowledge a higher power and the 12 steps programme offends nobody to the best of my knowledge

    1. Appreciated your post. (To Sean Page)

    2. Well said Sean

  8. OMG this blog is so boring today. Rather than give a shitbwho prays where or when. Arecwe not concerned who is been ordained and compromized Bishops. Really people.

    1. Maybe though, Harry, it was important and valuable to some people that today's posters got their chance to speak. Things sometimes happen for a reason.. When things are boring, bear with us and the wheel will keep turning to where you want it..!

    2. Yeah -I thought today was a good day. Some lovely people were on posting..

    3. Agreed - except for that MC ignoramus.

  9. 15 35 daily should have been dail. My phone doesn't speak Irish

  10. There is no such thing as 'religious neutrality'.
    Don't be taken in by the cunning of the secular humanists who suggest that there is. In reality, all you end up with is the secular humanist religion dominating as all other world views are excluded. They insist that as a Christian, I have to ignore the very heart of my understanding of life whilst insisting that I have to accept everything they stand for. They might be a small minority but they rule the roost and even get the nation described as secular, in spite of the fact that the majority of its inhabitants are Christian. Christianity has always been inclusive, in principal at least, if not always in practice... if God allows us to dissent, then who are we to ban dissenters. Sadly, the secularists are exclusive... try mentioning God, the creator, in a science lesson!

    1. Your in a glass house, so stop chucking stones.

      Both Christianity and Islam have such a history of intolerance that secular humanists seem latter-day Christs.

    2. MournemanMichael20 April 2017 at 16:13

      Hard to tell how much you both know and understand about humanist thinking Robert. But simply based on your post, I suspect relatively little.
      A humanist perspective questions much and rather than dependently relying on handed down faith based beliefs (for which there are no proofs other than inculcated faith) seeks understanding of humanity's origins, development and destiny through observation and reason.
      It's a fact that we humanists ask difficult questions for a deist to answer and our refusal to be sidetracked with faith based 'red herrings ' can be misinterpreted.
      I think you may be a newcomer to the site, so welcome and I wish you well in pursuing truth and understanding.

    3. Is that blasted grammarian about? I typed 'your' in place of 'you're' at 15:05.

      Can I ever be forgiven?!

    4. To poster at 15.05
      The correct version is "You're in a glasshouse" in this case. (Sorry MC, but I'm afraid the blog "you're" police strike without fear or favour. Take it on the chin,man!)

    5. How shall I ever live this down? The world now knows the truth: M-A-G-N-A I-S F-L-A-W-E-D.

      Magna off for a lie-down.

    6. To poster at 11.47
      I suggest ".. in principle at least." as the form of the word needed.

  11. Too many school teachers on here