Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister has taken legal advice on swearing a religious oath when the controversial abortion legislation goes before the country’s Council of State on Monday.
Labor Party leader Eamon Gilmore is a self-confessed agnostic and has confirmed he sought legal advice over the religious oath.
The Irish Times reports that the constitution requires Council of State members at their first meeting to say: “In the presence of Almighty God I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties.”
Campaigners from the Atheist Ireland organisation had written to Gilmore describing the oath as one ‘that a conscientious agnostic cannot honestly make’.
A spokesman for Gilmore told the paper that he respected the Constitution and would comply with his constitutional obligations.
Gilmore’s spokesman said: “The wording of the oath is set out in the Constitution and cannot be changed without a referendum.
“The Tánaiste (deputy PM) believes that the oaths and affirmations required as a matter of law should be as inclusive as possible. That said, it is not proposed to hold a referendum on the matter.”
Atheist Ireland chairman Michael Nugent had called on Gilmore to make ‘constitutional history’ by refusing to make the declaration required under Article 31.4.
Nugent told the Deputy PM: “Eamon Gilmore would be the first Irish person to be asked to swear a constitutional oath in the presence of a god that you are publicly on record as not believing in.
“The Tánaiste would create a precedent by whether he chose to take the oath or not. Either you will be seen as a politician of principle who will literally go down in the history books of Irish constitutional law on the issue of freedom of belief and conscience in Irish politics.
“Or else you will perpetuate the idea that swearing an oath means nothing in Ireland as you can do it with a metaphorical wink, and nobody really cares.”
The Council of State meeting will take place at President Michael D Higgins’ residence on Monday afternoon.