Do Not Stand for This – It is Time to Separate Church and State

The Dail yesterday voted to force all TDs to stand for a Christian prayer every day, asking Christ Our Lord to direct every word and action of theirs, and to force the Ceann Comhairle to read the prayer aloud.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party all supported this vote, which breaches the human right to freedom of conscience of our TDs, and creates an unconstitutional religious test for the position of Ceann Comhairle.

Solidarity, People Before Profit, Independents 4 Change, the Social Democrats, the Green Party, and some Independents voted against. Sinn Fein abstained.

Our TDs should literally refuse to stand for this prayer, and we should all refuse to stand for the integration of Church and State that has allowed it to happen.

Why we need Separation of Church and State

This vote, like the daily Angelus on RTE, is a symptom and a symbol of the wider corruption of our public life by our lack of separation of Church and State.

  • The Catholic Church controls most of our State-funded schools and hospitals.
  • The Catholic Church has exemptions from our equality laws in providing public services.
  • Conscientious atheists cannot become President, a Judge or Taoiseach.
  • The Eighth Amendment prevents pregnant women from accessing healthcare.
  • The Government is giving the Church a new €300 million National Maternity Hospital.
  • A modern law against blasphemy endorsed by Islamic States at the UN.
  • Marriage Registration laws that discriminate against atheists.
  • The Magdalene Laundries, Industrial Homes, symphysiotomy and more.

The public mood is changing

But the public mood is changing. Even in recent months, we have seen the liberal outcome of the Citizens Assembly on abortion, and the public reaction to the National Maternity Hospital and Dail Prayer fiascos.

Atheist Ireland is stepping up our campaign for an ethical secular State that respects equally everybody’s human right to freedom of religion and belief. We are currently training Constituency Coordinators throughout the country for this task.

Please join us in this important work. You can find details here.

Who voted to separate Church and State?

The political parties and groupings who voted to delete the daily prayer, and who also voted against the main motion to force TDs to stand for prayer, were Solidarity, People Before Profit, Independents 4 Change, the Social Democrats, and some Independents.

The Green Party voted for some of the amendments, and against the original motion to force TDs to stand for prayer. Sinn Fein voted for one of the amendments, and abstained on the original motion.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, the Labour Party, and some Independents voted against all of the amendments, and voted for the original motion to force TDs to stand for prayer.

Details of the votes that took place

There were three proposed amendments yesterday. All were defeated. The original proposal was then passed. Here are the details of those votes:

Amendment No. 1

  • Delete the Prayer from Standing Orders
  • Proposed by Solidarity
  • 15 For, 96 TDs Against, 20 Abstained

Amendment No. 2

  • No Prayer, 60 Seconds of Silent Reflection
  • Proposed by Sinn Fein
  • 41 For, 94 TDs Against, 0 Abstained

Amendment No. 3

  • No Prayer, 30 Seconds of Silent Reflection
  • Proposed by Independents 4 Change
  • 15 For, 96 TDs Against, 20 Abstained

The Unamended Original Motion

  • Obliged to Stand for Prayer & Reflection
  • 97 For, 18 Against, 18 Abstained

Voted For all 3 Amendments, and Against Original Motion

  • Solidarity
  • People Before Profit
  • Independents 4 Change
  • Social Democrats
  • Some Independents

The TDs who voted this way:

  • Mick Barry (S)
  • Richard Boyd Barrett (PBP)
  • Tommy Broughan (Ind)
  • Joan Collins (I4C)
  • Ruth Coppinger (S)
  • Clare Daly (I4C)
  • John Halligan (Ind – in Govt)
  • Seamus Healy (Ind)
  • Gino Kenny (S)
  • Finian McGrath (Ind – in Govt)
  • Catherine Murphy (SD)
  • Róisín Shortall (SD)
  • Bríd Smith (PBP)
  • Mick Wallace (I4C)

Abstained on Amendment 1, For 2 & 3, and Against Original Motion

  • Catherine Connolly (I4C)

Against Amendment 1, For 2 & 3, and Against Original Motion

  • Catherine Martin (GP)
  • Eamon Ryan (GP)
  • Katherine Zappone (Ind – in Govt)

For Amendment 2, Abstained on everything else

  • Sinn Fein

For all 3 Amendments, But then For Original Motion

  • Thomas Pringle (Ind)

Against all 3 Amendments, and For Original Motion

  • Fine Gael
  • Fianna Fail
  • Labour Party
  • Some Independents


Atheist Ireland


  1. Avatar
    Brian May 06, 2017

    I have read elsewhere that Ruth Coppinger and the other protesters may be escorted from the Dail if they refuse to stand during the superstitious ritual of incantation to an invisible Big Giant Head. Make it so Mr Spock – and let us make sure the international news media will be on hand to record the spectacle and carry it on front pages and plasma screens throughout the educated world as an example of the virus strangling our nation’s progress to intelligent self assertion, free of myth and magic.

  2. Avatar
    Sue May 07, 2017

    Hang in there. Atheists in the US are with you.