Joan Collins, TD, finds "it incredible that we are debating this issue. This is the twenty-first century. We need to move on." Any suggestion for a compulsory daily prayer in the Dail should be laughed out of the chamber. Ireland aspires to be a democracy not a theocracy, yet people could be forgiven for feeling confused.
The recommendation by the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges, to keep the prayer is risible. The latest proposals, to be debated tomorrow, would require TDs to stand for the following prayer:
Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance; that every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee, and by Thee be happily ended; through Christ Our Lord. Amen
Perhaps they should end with Omen rather than Amen, if it is a sign of what is to come in the Dail. Joan Collins called it right with her comment that "I have not been sent here by the votes of the people in Dublin South Central to have my words and actions directed by Jesus Christ."
Prayers should have no more place in a supposedly modern parliament than a rain dance, even though one works no better than the other. Hopefully, the republican value of secularism will come to prevail and the proposal shall be rejected.
Ruth Coppinger drew attention to the coercive aspect of the proposal:
There will be potential disciplinary action if a Deputy does not comply. At a time when the rest of society is demanding an absolute separation of Church and State, the Dáil decides to embed an archaic practice by proposing this.
It is ludicrous to compel TDs to stand for a prayer any more than they should have to stand for a reading from Richard Dawkins. As an act of secular dissent TDs should simply sit down, tweet, scratch their pits or whatever. The two TDs who insist they will not stand for it deserve support.
Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh who argued that the prayer was a "legacy from the British parliament" was spot on in his argument for 60 seconds of silent reflection as an alternative to prayers so members could reflect in their own personal way. If they want to think about Heaven, Hell, soccer or a brothel, it's up to them.
I am not insulting those of a Christian faith or those who believe in God or a god. What I am trying to say is that this is supposed to be a republic. A republic is supposed to equally honour or respect all of those people. It is also supposed to separate church and State, but that is not what is happening in this proposal. This proposal is more insulting than it was before because Members are now expected to stand to attention to listen to a prayer and then reflect for a moment.
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter was of the Jewish Faith. Were he still a TD he would be compelled to observe a Christian prayer by standing rather than ignoring it through remaining seated, There are currently members of the Dail who while not Jewish are certainly not of the Christian faith
Fianna Fail's Anne Rabbitte thinks a moments reflection after the prayer solves everything when it fact it solves nothing. It still leaves us with a situation where TDs will have religion practiced on them in the Dail. As Wafa Sultan once suggested they can worship stones if the like but don’t throw them at the rest of us.
A minute’s reflection on its own sans any prayer would be much more inclusive and imposes nothing on anybody. If Mattie McGrath wants to pray he can do so in private.
If all else fails, they can always sacrifice a goat.