Irish Defense Minister Alan Shatter, who is Jewish, has been accused of being prejudiced against the Catholic Church this week over his alleged refusal to allow the state's army to provide a guard of honour for a religious procession during the recent International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.
According to the Irish Examiner, members of the Irish Defense Forces have regularly taken part in religious events throughout the State, but this is a tradition that may have finally changed in pursuit of a more secular society and in the wake of the abuse crisis.
A spokesperson for the Department of Defence told the Journal that a request had been submitted by the Eucharistic Congress seeking the Defense Forces’ participation in a religious procession.
Limerick Fianna Fail minister Willie O’Dea, a former Irish defense minister who resigned in the wake of findings during a controversial high court case, accused minister Shatter of 'blind prejudice' in blocking the army from taking part.
An army spokesperson reportedly told The Irish Catholic this week: 'The department was not in a position to approve such involvement as military participation (in the parade) was not considered appropriate.'
Criticizing Minister Shatters decision The Irish Catholic wrote: 'The unprecedented move has raised fears that religious events around the country, where members of the Defence Forces have traditionally played an important role, will become 'no-go' events for military personnel. It will also increase suspicion among people of faith that the Coalition is increasingly hostile towards Catholics.'
Minister O’Dea added that he believed the request from the organizers of the congress should have been granted.
'It demonstrates a strange petty-mindedness by Mr Shatter, which I must say does not surprise me. His response to the request seems like one of blind prejudice and his reaction is totally inappropriate. He should now give a proper explanation why this decision was taken. The army have participated in Church ceremonies since the foundation of the State, irrespective of what Church was involved.
'There has been this tradition, and now we are told that such participation by the Defence Forces on major occasions like the eucharistic congress is suddenly inappropriate if Mr Shatter says so,’ O’Dea said.