Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore seems likely to swear religious oath to god he does not believe in

by Michael Nugent on July 27, 2013

In response to a letter from Atheist Ireland, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has told today’s Irish Times through a spokesman that he “respected the Constitution and would comply with his constitutional obligations” after receiving legal advice on the religious oath for Council of State members.

This ambiguous statement seems to imply that he will swear the required religious oath when the Council meets this Monday to discuss the proposed abortion legislation.

If he does this, he will become be the first Irish person to swear a Constitutional oath in the presence of a god that he is publicly on record as not believing in.

If he does this, 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.

He still has time to decide not to swear the oath, and to 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.

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

Here is today’s Irish Times article on the issue.

Here is the letter Atheist Ireland wrote to the Tanaiste raising the issue.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan July 27, 2013 at 1:08 am

Let’s face it, he simply doesn’t have the balls to do otherwise.

2 Anna July 27, 2013 at 11:15 am

Actually I think he should swear the oath. It is not like the oath means nothing just because he swears on a god in it.
Do you remember, as kids, when we had to keep a secret for our friends, and we sworde like “I swear on my dead xyz”, it means nothing to swear on a belief, a person or whatever. Either you swear the oath because you want to serve the people, or you do not swear it at all.
Would you like to have a non religious person in service and start making a difference (religion in school, abortion laws,…) or would you rather have a promising politician not go into serivice because god is mentioned in the oath?
Think about it.

3 Gerard Crotty July 27, 2013 at 11:19 am

Or maybe it’s a metaphysical wink!

4 Michael Nugent July 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Actually, Anna, it is the case that the oath means nothing if it includes a reference to the presence of a god that the person swearing it does not believe in.

Because, if a person can swear one part of the oath (the god part) without meaning it, then why can they not also swear the rest of the oath (about doing their duties) without meaning it?

5 Frank Maguire July 27, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I think he should swear the oath and get on with the job. We all have to do a lot of meaningless things in our lives. Living in Ireland means that one must tell/live lots of lies because of the way that “The Big Lie, Religion” has permeated the whole country for centuries. The country is built on lies of one sort or another and we have learned to live with that.

6 Anna July 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I see your point Michael but see that the oath is a symbol that is supposed to show that he is going to serve the people, it is a ritual to “get in the club”. The oath is not a statement of belief.

I’d rather have him in service and I agree with Frank, there is a lot of meaningless stuff we have to say and do for our jobs on a daily basis. Doesn’t mean that we are not taking the job itself serious, right?

Plus, how can he make a difference without being in service. For example taking the god part out of the oath, you need people in service who think about that and can vote it out. If you say, don’t swear it because there is a god in the oath, then you will not get these “inside men” who can vote on the issue.

If he does not swear it, he will surely not go into history for not saying the oath. He will not go into history at all because he will not have made a change. If he gets in and can make a change, that’s when he has a change to go down in history (implying that he will be doing a good job of course).

7 Luke Byrne July 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm

That sounds a lot like giving up Frank.

8 Helen Magee July 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I Left Ireland in 1983 because no jobs were available and taxes were through the roof. Then Ireland embraced Europe in desperation and flourished and with each successive Government since then they are now back in the same situation because those Governments were NOT doing their job. Politicians LIE, we know this, and if done as blatantly as this and is accepted so easily by fellow Irishmen and women then you deserve every tax increase you get and Big brother will nail you. By not being appalled at this you must accept your future path. How many Tanaistes in recent years were corrupt and fraudulent and swore the oath!!!! Is it not time to stand up and be counted and a small but extremely significant issue. On the most basic level this shows Eamon Gilmore is putting the finger up to the IRISH CONSTITUTION!! What’s wrong with you people!!?

9 Paddy Crean July 28, 2013 at 11:41 am

Hey, Michael; what happened to my three-ha’pence-worth submitted yesterday (27th) afternoon?

10 Paddy Crean July 28, 2013 at 11:45 am

Here’s my three-ha’pence-worth again.

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.

11 Michael Nugent July 28, 2013 at 11:58 am

Paddy, you posted it yesterday under a different article on the same topic :)

I’ll try to reply to all of the comments later today.

12 Michael Nugent August 2, 2013 at 1:17 am

So the meeting is over and Eamon Gilmore has sworn the oath.

He said that his legal advice was that he had constitutional obligations that he would fulfill. Atheist Ireland is now asking him to clarify one important aspect of this legal advice.

The advice could include one or both of two obligations.

He could merely have a constitutional obligation to swear the oath in order to take his place on the Council of State, in which case his options would be to swear the oath or not be on the Council of State;

Or he could also have a constitutional obligation to take his place on the Council of State as part of his constitutional duties as Tanaiste, in which case his options would be to swear the oath or not be Tanaiste.

The second obligation would be far more onerous than the first.

Not attending one meeting would presumably not breach either obligation, but refusing to swear the oath presumably would.

When we get a reply to this question, we will decide how best to continue to highlight the issue, which involves an obligation that is contrary to the human right of freedom of conscience, religion and belief and which has featured in various forms in two cases at the European Court of Human Rights.

13 Turtle Soup August 16, 2013 at 11:58 pm

“In the presence of Almighty God I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties.”

I agree that its pretty damn stupid to swear and oath in the presence of a non-existent deity.

Here’s another interesting example:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America”

And how even more fucking stupid it is to swear and oath *to* an inanimate piece of painted cloth!

14 Turtle Soup August 17, 2013 at 12:00 am

I meant ‘an’ not ‘and’

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