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Drop the Angelus and axe anthem

A PACKAGE of constitutional and political changes to remove obstacles to North-South reconciliation are proposed in an unfinished report from the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation.

The report, dealing with changes needed in the Republic, reached a final drafting stage but was never formally approved or published.

The Forum, chaired by Judge Catherine McGuinness, ceased work after the IRA ended its first ceasefire with the Canary Wharf bombing.

Now there is pressure for the report to be published. It will pose some awkward choices for the Government.

Changes it recommends include:

* A new national anthem that is not ``excessively militaristic'';

* The Angelus on RTE to be dropped in favour of a non-denominational ``time for prayer'';

* Removal of references to the `most Holy Trinity' and `our Divine Lord Jesus Christ' from the Preamble of the Constitution to be replaced by `God';

* Parity of esteem for the Irish and English languages, rather than the present pre-eminence for Irish as the first official language;

* Deletion of Article 41.2.2 of the Constitution saying mothers should not be obliged by economic necessity to work ``to the neglect of their duties in the home'';

The draft report was finalised in December 1995. In recent weeks Democratic Left leader Prionsias De Rossa, has called for it to be published to set an agenda for the government to implement pledges in the Good Friday Agreement to tackle obstacles to reconciliation in legal, political and social areas.

The final draft, prepared by a Forum sub-committee, said there was support for more constitutional changes and the development of policy initiatives to help ease unionist fears and mistrust, particularly about the influence of the Catholic Church.

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One of the main recommendations for a referendum on divorce has already been implemented as have changes in Articles 2 and 3 under the Good Friday settlement.

The report favoured the retention of the tricolour as the national flag but said that in a changing situation this could be examined if it facilitated moves towards reconciliation.

The report encourages more intense and widespread co-operation in education on a North-South basis including the setting up of a ``one stop shop'' to assist all North-South project and proposals on education as this could play a crucial role in developing reconciliation .

It examined the development of health services in the Republic and particularly the progress made on family planning and said that with proper funding and accessibility this would remove any suggestion that these services were restricted because of the teaching or influence of any particular Church.

There was no firm recommendation on abortion with the committee noting the varying views on this issue, North and South.

However it does endorse the views of the National Women's Council that the churches should be ``contributors not controllers of the health sector.''

But it noted that the committee's views on these issues were formed from the perspective of reconciliation and not on the basis of an ethical or medical/scientific approach.

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