Fianna Fail deputy Willie O'Dea
FIANNA Fail deputy Willie O’Dea will vote in favour of keeping the Dail prayer later today, saying he uses those moments to pray for “guidance and wisdom”.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will vote this Thursday to amend Standing Order 27 to keep the prayer, read in both English and Irish, before Dail business commences, alongside a new 30 second period for silent reflection.
However, Sinn Fein is proposing an amendment to the proposal urging that there should be no prayer in Dail chambers and simply a short period of reflection instead.
Sinn Fein deputy Maurice Quinlivan said prayer in parliament has long been associated with former colonies of the British Empire, and said as a Republic, the Government should “make the distinction between church and State.”
He said the amount of time devoted to this issue is “absolutely ridiculous.”
“Very few countries have a prayer in parliament and those that do have been subjects of the British Empire,” he said.
Twenty-four European parliaments have no prayers in the plenary, while Ireland remains one of six where prayer or reflection is observed in plenary, alongside the UK, Australia, South Africa, Canada and the US.
Prayer observed in Canada, in both the House of Commons and the Senate, includes in part, “We pray for our sovereign, Queen Elizabeth,” and has been part of the daily house proceedings since 1877.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous the amount of time being devoted to this debate, given the homeless crisis in the country, the crises in hospitals, and with the Brexit disaster coming down the line which will batter Ireland economically like we haven’t been before, through no fault of our own,” he told the Limerick Leader.
“This is the last thing we should be talking about at the moment. We live in a Republic. If people want to have a prayer, off they go and have a prayer but not in a public space,” he said.
When the reading of the prayer is concluded members would remain standing for the 30 seconds of reflection.
The proposal has been criticised by several deputies, with some saying they will refuse to stand during the prayer.
Deputy O’Dea said that the current proposal of prayer and a 30-second period of silent reflection at the start of business each day is “designed to include everybody”.
He said that the “Catholic section of the Dail is still in the vast majority”, and that this solution affords a “reasonable compromise” to all faiths.
He added, with a laugh, that he uses the time to “pray for wisdom and guidance” for the day ahead.
Fianna Fail deputy Niall Collins said he has had “zero communication from members of the public on this issue”.
“I wouldn’t like to see it removed, but there’s far more important business to discuss,” said deputy Collins.
Labour deputy Jan O’Sullivan said she personally feels that simply having just a moment of reflection is “more appropriate”, but Labour has proposed prayer and a moment of reflection.