“Offensive” prayer under spotlight following announcement of Blasphemy Referendum
In recent weeks there has been an increase in debate over the calls for the Catholic prayer recited at the beginning of each Dáil session to be removed. Independent TD Clare Daly described the recital of a prayer as “offensive” and called for further “separation of church and State”.
These views were expressed in response to the sixth report of the constitutional convention on blasphemy. Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin confirmed that the Government has accepted the convention’s recommendation to hold a referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.
While it could be seen as an outdated piece of legislation, ed as no prosecutions for blasphemy have been processed since 1855, look a fine of up to €25,000 can still be issued for committing the offence. Other legislation now exists against the incitement of religious hatreds, making the offence of blasphemy in the constitution redundant. The offence of blasphemy itself is also a somewhat controversial term as it encourages and highlights the differences between different religious sects. In this way, Protestantism can be seen as a blasphemy of Catholicism.
However there are those who argue against the removal of the Dáil prayer. Independent TD Mattie McGrath argued that the removal would be “out of step with the modern practice”, citing the freedoms given to local government officials in the United States with regard to beginning meetings with a prayer. He also argued that any attempts to remove religious influences from the education and health services would be meet with strong resistance.