Sunday 21 January 2018

TDs escape action for 'no way, we won't pray' protest

Ruth Coppinger and five other TDs will repeat their protest
Ruth Coppinger and five other TDs will repeat their protest
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Six left-wing TDs who staged a protest in the Dáil chamber over the retention of a Christian prayer are to escape disciplinary action.

The deputies yesterday refused to stand during the reading of the prayer, a move that is technically in breach of Dáil rules.

Two of the TDs who engaged in the protest, Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry, held placards which read "Separate Church and State".

Their Solidarity/People Before Profit (PBP) colleagues Gino Kenny, Richard Boyd Barrett and Bríd Smith, as well as United Left Alliance TD Joan Collins, all remained seated as the prayer was read at the start of Leaders' Questions.

The protest in the chamber was staged just days after the Dáil overwhelming voted to retain the prayer as well as the introduction of a 30-second period of silent reflection.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who is tasked with reading the prayer, ignored the protest.

Despite flouting the new rules, sources said last night that no complaint had been lodged with the Oireachtas authorities and therefore the TDs will escape without sanction.

However, the Solidarity/PBP members vowed to repeat their protest during all Dáil sittings.

"The national parliament is no place to be saying prayers," Ms Coppinger told reporters.

The Dublin West TD said the public are "moving in one direction", citing abortion and the row over the ownership of the National Maternity Hospital as signifying a change in mood.

She also said the public were "outraged" at the prospect of comedian Stephen Fry being taken to court over alleged blasphemy. Gardaí have since confirmed that their investigation has been dropped.

Ms Coppinger likened the retention of the prayer to an "episode of 'Father Ted'".

Ms Smith said the group will now encourage its councillors to put forward motions to scrap the prayer. Such a move was adopted by Galway City Council on Monday night.

"We are making a point in saying 'No way, we won't pray'," she said.

"It's unbelievable they are imposing this compulsion of 'you must stand up'."

Her colleague Mr Barry said there needs to be a "complete and total separation between Church and State".

Irish Independent

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