Ask Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to not swear the religious oath next Monday

by Michael Nugent on July 25, 2013

Atheist Ireland has today written to Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, to remind him that next Monday, as a member of the Council of State, he will become be the first Irish person to be asked to swear a Constitutional oath in the presence of a god that he is publicly on record as not believing in. It is an oath that a conscientious agnostic cannot honestly make.

Whatever he does will create a precedent. Either he will be seen as a politician of principle who will literally go down in the history books of Irish Constitutional law on the issue of freedom of belief and conscience in Irish politics, or else he will perpetuate the idea that swearing an oath means nothing in Ireland as you can do it with a metaphorical wink, and nobody really cares.

If you agree that Eamon Gilmore should not swear this religious oath next Monday, please contact him today and let him know.

eamon.gilmore@tanaiste.gov.ie
minister@dfa.ie
eamon.gilmore@oireachtas.ie

Dept of Foreign Affairs 01 4780822
Labour Party Leader’s Office 01 618 3566

An Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore TD
Iveagh House,
 80 St. Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2

The following is the text of the letter that Atheist Ireland sent today to the Tanaiste:

Dear Eamon,

Next Monday, as a member of the Council of State, you will be the first Irish person to be asked to swear a Constitutional oath in the presence of a god that you are publicly on record as not believing in. It is an oath that a conscientious agnostic cannot honestly make.

In 1995 when Hot Press asked you do you believe in God, you said “No. But then it’s a bit like hedging your bets in that I probably hope there’s a God. Yet I’m not religious, no.” When asked would you describe yourself as an atheist, an agnostic or what, you said “An agnostic.” In 2007 when Hot Press asked do you believe in God, you said “I’m agnostic. I doubt rather than I believe, let me put it that way.”

All reasonable people will acknowledge that it defeats the very purpose of an oath, and casts doubt on the entirety of the oath, to require somebody to swear it “in the presence of” something that they do not believe to be true. An analogy would be if a religious person was asked to swear an oath that began “In the absence of Almighty God…”. No reasonable person would support such a requirement, and no reasonable person should support the same thing being required in reverse of an agnostic who does not believe in this God.

Ironically, you will be asked to swear this religious oath, in order to be allowed to discuss the regulating of abortion, an issue made so problematic because of the influence of the Catholic church on Irish politics. Indeed, on this particular Bill, the Catholic Cardinal Sean Brady has explicitly told you that, while acting as our legislators, you should remember that the right to life is conferred on us by ‘the creator’. Please think about the enormity of that claim, the lack of evidence to support it, and how the swearing of this religious oath encourages it.

Because you are the first Irish person to be publicly placed in this dilemma, whatever you do will create a precedent. Either you will be seen as a politician of principle who will literally go down in the history books of Irish Constitutional law on the issue of freedom of belief and conscience in Irish politics, or else you will perpetuate the idea that swearing an oath means nothing in Ireland as you can do it with a metaphorical wink, and nobody really cares. In effect, whatever you do will be taking a stand on one side or the other of this important issue.

We first wrote to you in July 2011, on your appointment as Tanaiste, to alert you to this potential problem that has now become a real problem. But it is also a real opportunity for you to make Constitutional history. Please take that opportunity.

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Paddy Crean July 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm

De Valera and Fianna Fail overcame their objections to the oath of allegiance to the King of England by simply signing a book containing the oath, which they declared an “Empty Formula”.

The Saorstat Oath was much more specific than that of the present Constitution. It ran:
`I,……………… do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established, and that I will be faithful to H.M. King George V., his heirs and successors by law in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to the membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.’

“Such Oath shall be taken and subscribed by every member of the Parliament/Oireachtas before taking his seat therein before the Representative of the Crown or some person authorised by him.”

Our Constitution does not mention the word “oath” but, strangely, requires members of the Council of State to “take and subscribe a declaration in the following form. “In the presence of Almighty God I, , do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties as a member of the Council of State.”.”

The question is: How does one “TAKE a declaration”? Clearly this falls short of TAKING an oath; or indeed of MAKING a declaration.

Therefore the form of declaration specified in (De Valera’s) Constitution is no more than another Empty Formula.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: