Sunday, February 26, 2012

‘Reflective silence’ replaces Seanad prayer

The Seanad is to hold a 30-second "reflective silence" every morning to represent members who do not want to take part in the daily prayer.

It will mark a change in the 90-year-old tradition where members of both Houses of the Oireachtas are asked to rise at the start of each day’s proceedings for a prayer.

The Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil and the clerk of the Seanad read, in both languages: "Direct, we beseech thee, O Lord, our actions by thy holy inspirations and carry them on by thy gracious assistance; that every word and work of ours may always begin from thee, and by thee be happily ended; through Christ our Lord. Amen."

The committee on procedure and privileges has recommended that the words of the Seanad rulebook change from: "All Senators present shall stand, and [pray]" to: "all Senators present shall stand for 30 seconds of silent reflection and then [pray]".

The recommendation will be debated following calls from Independent senator Fiach Mac Conghail, who said there should be "respectful" and "healthy" discussion on the recommendation which would reflect the "divergent views" of members.

Labour senator Ivana Bacik said there would be "a much more inclusive start to business every day with a few moments for silent reflection as well as a prayer".

She said the change, which is likely to be accepted by senators without a vote, would show the Seanad is "responsive" and will mark "a spirit of inclusivity in our procedures".

Independent senator Ronan Mullen welcomed the changes and said "the people who see themselves as representing the new Ireland must not trample on those who they see as representing the old Ireland".

While all faiths must be tolerated, he said: "It is Christians who are the most persecuted minority in the world."

Fine Gael senator Paul Coghlan said the Seanad did not need to "make a fuss" about the planned new procedures.

"The proposed change retains the prayer, which everyone seems to love, and adds to it a reflective silence that is all embracing and all inclusive," he said.