Cllr Pádraig Rice. Photo: Emmet Curtin

Prayer before council meeting 'should be stopped'

City councillors will this evening debate a motion which, if passed, could signal the end of the prayer at the start of Cork City Council meetings and the removal of the crucifix from the chamber.

The motion was put forward by one of the new faces on Cork City Council, Social Democrats Cllr Pádraig Rice who called for a separation of church and State while adding that it feels “like 1930s Ireland in there”.

Cllr Rice said: “There is a time and place for religious worship, and I don’t think it is at Cork City Council meetings. This is a democracy, not a theocracy. The people who elected us come from all faiths and none. Therefore, it is deeply inappropriate to open our meetings with a prayer. There is no need for it, and it should be stopped.”

He added: “There is currently a large crucifix in the council chamber. I think it should be removed. Symbols are important. Having symbols of one faith and none from all the others sends out a signal. Our city should be about inclusion and not exclusion. We need to create a modern, pluralist republic of equals with a clear separation of church and State.”

Cllr Rice said that in 1972, the people voted to remove the special position of the Catholic church from the 1937 Constitution.

“That seems to have been ignored by Cork City Council. With the prayer and the crucifix, it still feels like 1930s Ireland in there,” he said.

His motion asks: “That Cork City Council believes in the separation of church and State. To that end, the council agrees to end the practice of saying prayers at the start of council meetings, to remove the crucifix from the council chamber, and commits that when religious leaders are invited to council meetings that the invitation will be extended to the leaders of all faiths in the city.”

Cllr Rice said: “In Census 2022, the number of people in Ireland who reported having no religion increased to 736,210, over 14% of the population. This was an increase of 63% since the 2016 census. There were a further 3,823 people who reported that they were agnostic or atheists. As a new councillor and as the first Social Democrat on the city council, I feel a sense of duty to pursue a modernisation agenda. This is just one part of that.”