Members of Kerry County Council, which is set to move into its newly renovated chamber after Easter, are engaged in a heated debate over a proposal to erect a crucifix in their new facilities.
The council’s headquarters do not currently contain any religious symbols.
The Irish Times reports that at a meeting this week, councilors in favor of the crucifix said they were “tired of apologizing for their religion,” with one councilor suggesting the presence of a crucifix could even “encourage truth telling.”
Those opposed maintain that because the council chambers are in service of the public and a place of work, including any religious symbols on the premises would be in violation of Ireland’s equality legislation, particularly the Equal Status and Employment Equality acts.
Councilor John Joe Culloty of the Fianna Fáil party brought the motion before the council on Monday. The council has been temporarily meeting in a hotel conference room while their permanent chamber undergoes renovations.
The motion read, “In light of our Christian Faith and the strong Christian values contained within our Constitution, that Kerry County Council erect a Crucifix on the wall of the new Council Chamber.”
Nine of the council’s 27 elected members were present – a small number but enough for a vote to be taken. Six voted in favor.
Though it passed, the motion still hangs balance until a thorough review of relevant legislation is completed. “We are obliged to carry out motions passed by councilors – but only in so far as other legislation is not breached,” a council spokesman told the Irish Times.
Councilor Gillian Wharton-Slattery, who voted against the motion, urged that if a crucifix is hung in the council chamber, symbols from other religions must also be present.
“Christianity is not actually everyone’s religion and heritage. We are here to represent the wider community. There’s not a place on any wall for politics and religion mixed,” she said.
Councilor Culloty argued that “the vast majority of the people in this country are of the Christian faith.”
Councilor Toireasa Ferris, who said she was a Christian, objected on the grounds that the council’s business has nothing to do with religion.
“Where does religion come into pothole filling?” she asked.