PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins's office is insisting that it is "inappropriate" to ask if he is an atheist -- even though he had to swear a religious oath upon taking office.
He has been at the centre of controversy after his Christmas address contained no mention of Christ or Christianity for the third year in a row.
The president has previously described himself as "spiritual", rather than religious, and his office has said it would be "inappropriate" to ask if he was an atheist.
When asked about the President's spiritual views, a spokesman for the Aras refused to engage in the issue.
When he was inaugurated in St Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle in 2011, he took a religious oath containing references to "Almighty God" as required under the Irish Constitution.
"In the presence of Almighty God, I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me," he said then.
"Are you questioning the sincerity of the president taking the oath?" the Aras spokesman asked.
He was told that the Irish Independent was not questioning the sincerity of the president taking the oath.
Mr Higgins did state this year that the message of Christmas "shared by many faiths, invites us to care for one another and to be, in an ethical sense, one another's keepers".
But Defence Forces head chaplain Monsignor Eoin Thynne commented on the absence of any specific reference to the Christian faith.
This led to heated discussion on RTE Radio's 'Liveline', and Defence Forces chief of staff Lieut Gen Conor O'Boyle later conveyed his regret for any embarrassment caused to Mr Higgins.