Four of the seven Irish Presidential candidates have committed to recognising equally the rights of atheist and agnostic citizens if elected President, in replies to questions from Atheist Ireland. Currently an atheist or agnostic cannot become President as there is a constitutional requirement for the President to swear a religious oath asking God to direct and sustain them.
Michael D Higgins has said: “There is to be a constitutional convention in the new year – which I fully support – and it is at this forum that matters such as the (religious) oath (for becoming President) ought to be examined. It is of great importance that the Presidency and all surrounding it ought to be fit for purpose for a modern state with a population comprising a large number of different religious beliefs as well as none.”
Mary Davis has said: “As President, I would recognise the rights of all Irish people, including atheists and agnostics… I believe that Article 44 (the religion clause) of the Constitution should be amended to reflect and recognise the right of non-belief. I believe that the best way in which this can be achieved is via constitutional referendum.”
Gay Mitchell has said: “I believe that all citizens should have the right to run for president. A constitutional convention is due to review the constitutional text next year. I would suggest you lobby it on the issue. As president, I could not possibly intervene to advocate a specific constitutional change. But I would be comfortable with a change that recognises the rights of believers and non-believers equally by making declarations to God optional.”
David Norris has said: “During my life and political career I have always treated all citizens as equal… While I believe in God, I believe in a total separation between the State and church, and therefore would consider myself secular in this regard… Look at my record and what I said about the prayer on the order of business on the Senate.”
The Martin McGuinness campaign sent an interim reply, and Sean Gallagher and Dana Rosemary Scallon have yet to reply, to the questions asked by Atheist Ireland three weeks ago.
Here is a link to the full replies by Mary Davis, Michael D Higgins, Gay Mitchell and David Norris:
Presidential candidates reply to questions on secular issues