Discord erupted in Leinster House last weekend when members of the Dáil Éireann (Ireland’s House of Representatives) took sides on the appropriateness of reciting a prayer to begin legislative meetings.
Independent TD (Dáil member) Clare Daly is offended by the ritual, saying that a prayer recital each day “does not have a place in modern Ireland.” During a Dáil debate on new blasphemy laws, she said that legislators should keep church and state separate.
Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath answered Daly saying that any attempts to remove the prayer from the Dáil’s schedule will be “strongly resisted,” dismissing Daly’s remarks as “baseless” and “ill-judged,” the Irish Examiner reported.
“The idea that prayer has no place in a modern parliamentary system is, quite frankly, absurd,” McGrath said.
The prayer, recited by Ceann Comhairle (the speaker of the house) Sean Barrett, calls on the TDs to be inspired and assisted by Christ. It reads: “every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee, and by Thee be happily ended; through Christ our Lord. Amen,” and is recited in Irish and in English at the start of each meeting.
The prayer was introduced to the Dáil’s schedule in 1932; it only became a source of controversy with the start of the present Dáil in 2011, after the publication of the Cloyne report, which investigated clerical child abuse. TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin called for an end to the recital in 2011, saying that it made certain TDs uncomfortable. He also called attention to the concept of ‘separation of church and state.’
After deliberation, the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges decided the prayer would remain in place. The only way it can change is if the committee reconsiders, or if someone puts forward a motion to be voted on in the house.