The Language Of Irish Politics Is Becoming More Secular

A bill that would remove the Good Friday alcohol ban, recently passed in the Seanad by a large majority. The debate on this issue was notable for how pervasive the core arguments of secularism, and the freedom of religion and belief, have now become within the language of Irish politics.

The Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927, bans sales of alcohol in pubs and restaurants on Good Friday. Billy Lawless is the independent senator who introduced the new bill to amend this Act, and he said that the change would help position Ireland as “a pluralist, globalist, forward-thinking country”. When Atheist Ireland was formed, we very often had to explain to elected representatives that a secular State is the only way to accommodate an increasingly pluralist country, without infringing on the rights of any person to practice their own religion.

Before the formation of Atheist Ireland, the word “atheism” was most often used in the Dáil as a pejorative. After years of lobbying, it can not only be seen that this word is now used much more often in the Dáil, but it is now most frequently used in a positive context. Where our elected representatives refer to “atheism” today, they are most likely to be arguing for secular measures that will protect the rights of both atheists and all religious groups equally.

Donall O’Keeffe, the chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Associated, described the Good Friday alcohol ban as ridiculous. He argued as follows:


“All we’re looking for is the option to trade. If people don’t want to drink for religious reasons that’s their choice.”


It is encouraging to see the language of secularism become so pervasive, such that it is normal and expected that new legislation should protect the rights of atheists and the religious equally. The observance of religious practices should be a choice and not imposed through legislation. There is much more to do in this regard, both in terms of a legacy of religiosity within existing legislation and also some persistent attitudes that would like to see the continued privileging of the religious within the statute book. Atheist Ireland will continue to campaign for an ethical and secular State, which can accommodate an increasingly pluralist country.


“Beer goggles” by afagen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

John Hamill


  1. Avatar
    dave kiernan July 23, 2017

    Atheism has arrived.

    Featured in ‘Ross O’Carroll-Kelly’ column in this week-ends Irish Times magazine.

    “You don’t need an appointment. Doctor Boden is one of my dad’s – oh my god – best friends. He was actually nearly my godfather, except he’s an atheist who thinks that religion was created to control the masses by keeping them mired in ignorance and superstition”.

    Arrived big time. Ross O’Carroll-Kelly with his doctor (an old rugby injury of which he is very proud. He asks after Sorchas old pair (Sorcha is Ross’s wife), He’s like “still going to Mass, are they?” and he says it with a little chuckle. Sorcha gets all defensive then ? She’s like, “Yes, their faith is still super-, super-important to them, even though they don’t go as often as they used to.”

    • Avatar
      John Hamill July 23, 2017

      Atheism can be found in the most unlikely of places, even where rugby is a religion! 🙂