That, in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee on Procedure under Standing Order 107(1)(a), and with effect from 9 May 2017, the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann relative to Public Business be amended by the adoption of the following in substitution for Standing Order 27:
27. (1) Upon taking the Chair each day, and before any business is entered upon, the Ceann Comhairle shall read the following prayer in the Irish and English 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.
(2) All Members present shall stand while the prayer is being read, and when it is concluded, Members shall remain standing for 30 seconds of silent reflection.’.”
I welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter and the proposed motion to amend Standing Order 27 and to hear the opinions of Members from across the Chamber on the issue of the prayer. The current Standing Order 27 provides that on the commencement of business each day, the Ceann Comhairle shall read a short prayer. The process of starting proceedings with a prayer has been a topic of discussion for some time.
The profile of the population of our country has continued to change over the years and nowhere can this be more clearly seen than in the religious beliefs of the people. Our religious beliefs have become more diverse and there has been a rapid growth in the number of people who do not hold any religious belief. As this Chamber reflects the population as a whole, it is not surprising that the prayer in Standing Orders has become the topic of discussion.
The Committee on Procedure, chaired by the Ceann Comhairle and reflective of the membership of this House, discussed this matter at its meeting in March and has recommended amending Standing Order 27 to provide for a prayer and a 30-second period of silent reflection at the start of business each day. This motion has also been discussed by the members of the Business Committee.
I appreciate that Members across this House have different perspectives on this matter. In this State, religious belief does not dictate political party loyalty and I assume that opinions may well differ within parties and groups. The Ceann Comhairle and the other members of the Committee on Procedure have clearly attempted to broaden the current procedure and reflect the beliefs or none of Members of this Chamber with this new wording for the Standing Order to provide for a prayer and time for silent reflection.