Tuesday 16 January 2018

30 seconds of silence as senators keep their daily prayer

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

SENATORS are keeping their daily prayer at the start of the day -- but adding "30 seconds of silence" for non-Christian members.

The new move means that the "period of reflection" will be held at the start of every Seanad sitting, followed by the traditional prayer, which calls on senators to be inspired and assisted by God in their actions.

The new arrangement will be debated today and could be introduced as soon as next week.

It came after complaints by two Labour politicians that the identical prayer said at the start of Dail and Seanad proceedings was inappropriate.

But many senators insisted that the prayer dating back to 1932 had to be retained -- and the compromise arrangement is to have a 30-second period of reflection and then the daily prayer.

The Seanad's imminent move represents a break with the Dail -- where a proposal last year by Labour TD Aodhan O'Riordain to abolish the Dail prayer was rejected by its procedural committee.

Senator Ivana Bacik, who also had been calling for the abolition of the prayer, welcomed the compromise that she and Senator Ronan Mullen had reached at the Seanad's Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

"It is an important change that marks a spirit of inclusivity in our procedures," she said.

Mr Mullen said it was about finding a way in which all traditions were valued.

Fianna Fail senator Terry Leyden said the prayer in the Seanad was staying intact "thanks be to God".

Fine Gael senator Tom Sheahan said it would be wonderful if Senator Leyden could be kept silent "even for 30 seconds".

A Seanad source said that it has more lapsed Catholics than Jews, Muslims, Sikhs or Buddhists -- and expressed the hope that the period of reflection would be used so that people "might actually think about what they were going to say".

Prayers are said in other legislatures, such as the House of Commons, the House of Representatives in the US and the Australian Parliament.

But there is a "time for reflection" of up to four minutes at the start of proceedings each week in the Scottish Parliament.

Irish Independent

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