Independent Patrick Noonan’s responses to General Election questions from Atheist Ireland
Atheist Ireland has asked political parties running in the General Election on 8th February to answer ten questions regarding secular issues. We have also got this response from Patrick Noonan, an independent candidate in Dublin Rathdown.
1. One Oath For All
Will you support amending the Constitution to enable the President, Judges, and members of the Council of State (which includes Taoiseach and Tanaiste) to swear an oath of loyalty to the state and the Constitution, that has no references to either religious or nonreligious beliefs?
Patrick Noonan: Yes, I am proposing a referendum to update the constitution to remove any mention of god or higher beings, this would include updating any oaths. If this can be done through legislation then even better but if it requires a referendum I would push for that too.
2. Secular Education
Will you support amending relevant laws to ensure that publicly-funded schools cannot discriminate on the ground of religion against students in access, and against teachers in employment, and by privileging one religion when appointing publicly-funded chaplains?
Patrick Noonan: Yes, I am for full secularisation of all public institutions. If public money is involved then religion shouldn’t be.
3. Alternative Classes to Religion
Parents and students have the right, under the Constitution and Education Act, to attend any publicly-funded school without attending religious teaching. Will you support their right to do this without discrimination, and that they be given an alternative timetabled subject?
Patrick Noonan: I would support this as an interim but I think the better solution is to replace any religious education in public schools with some form of philosophy/ethics. If parents want to educate their children on their religion then this should be done in their own private time not by a publicly paid school teacher.
4. Data Protection in Schools
Will you support the right of parents and students, under the data protection law, to not have to reveal their religious or philosophical convictions, directly or indirectly, when exercising their right to not attend religious teaching or worship in publicly-funded schools?
Patrick Noonan: Similar to Q3, I would support this as an interim step but would rather no religious teaching occur in a publicly-funded school to begin with.
5. Objective Sex Education
Will you support amending the Education Act to ensure that students, in all publicly-funded schools, can exercise their right under the European Social Charter to objective sex education that is delivered objectively and not through a religious ethos?
Patrick Noonan: Absolutely 100%
6. Secular Healthcare
Will you support a publicly-funded healthcare system where decisions are based on human rights and the medical needs of patients, and not on religious ethics, in particular with regard to operation of the new National Maternity Hospital?
Patrick Noonan: If public money is involved then religion should be in no way involved. That’s why I am calling for full secularisation of Ireland. This would naturally be extended to healthcare too.
7. Assisted Dying
Will you support the right of seriously ill people to get the best medical resources if they want to stay alive for as long as they can, and the right of terminally or seriously ill people to have the right to die peacefully when they choose if they want to?
Patrick Noonan: Yes and Yes. An individual has full autonomy of their body. I also support the legalisation of euthanasia, with regulations. Doctors would not be compelled to perform the procedure if they are personally against it though.
8. Solemnising of Marriages
Will you support amending the Civil Registration Act, so that bodies that can nominate solemnisers for marriages are treated equally under the law, instead of having different legal conditions for religious and secular bodies, and for different secular bodies?
Patrick Noonan: Yes, there should be no legal distinction. Either you are a solemnisers for marriages or you aren’t. However, I still think a religious institution should get to choose if a particular solemniser is appropriate for their institution.
9. Prejudice-Motivated Crime
Will you support legislation that tackles prejudice against groups through education, and tackles prejudice-motivated crime through the law, while protecting the right to freedom of expression, including about religion, based on human rights principles and standards?
Patrick Noonan: This one sounds a little a vague, I would need further clarifications before giving an opinion on it. For example, how are you proving ‘prejudice’ in each context?
10. Political Funding and Spending
Will you support stronger regulation of political funding and spending, so that religious bodies have to comply on the same basis as secular bodies, and protect the democratic process from online disinformation and the undue influence of wealthy donors?
Patrick Noonan: Yes, I am also calling for the removal of any tax exemptions from religious institutions. Any charitable work done by a religion should have to go through the standard charity regulations. Anything a religious institution does that’s not officially charity would be taxed as normal e.g. income tax, property tax. You can see my full secularisation plan here.