Councillors vote to keep prayer
An amendment on the adoption of new standing orders at Cork City Council took an unexpected turn into theology on Monday evening.
The amendment was tabled by Socialist Party councillor Mick Barry, and requested the deletion of the prayer before council meetings.
Currently councillors stand before meetings commence, with the prayer reading, “Direct, we beseech thee, O Lord, our actions by the 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.”
“As well as being an elected member of this body, I am also an atheist,” stated Cllr Barry.
“It is a deeply held belief of mine. At the moment I have a choice, do I stand outside the door or do I come into the Chamber and stand when the prayer is being said. I don’t see why I should have to make that choice. When I come into this Chamber I report for work. A bus driver in the bus station doesn’t have to make that choice, why should I?”
The amendment came as the council attempted to adopt new standing orders for the second time in as many meeting. The standing orders have been in draft preparations for the past 10 months.
Some councillors also pointed out the presence of the Cross in the Chamber, which Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy confirmed was place in the Chamber at the request of the people of Cork in 1933.
“I respect what the councillors against the prayer are saying but for me, I am for the retaining of the prayer and crucifix,” said Cllr McCarthy.
“I see the recitation and the crucifix as a symbol of Christianity, a symbol of the upholding of Christian values, values that are important to keep and do offer a positive way forward for society.”
Cllr Laura McGonigle, who seconded the amendment, argued against the presence of the prayer, outlining it had no place in the Chamber.
“Nobody comes into this council to practice their religion,” said Cllr McGonigle.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Kenneth O’Flynn dismissed the timing of the amendment to the standing orders, which had been circulated months in advance to members of the Council.
“We all had the opportunity to submit amendments before tonight,” said Cllr O’Flynn.
“If people are only opening their standing orders papers now then they should reconsider their position as an elected member. I accept that Cllr Barry is an atheist but I want him to respect that I am a Catholic. For all the faults in the Catholic Church, the teachings of the Bible are not bad teachings to be directed by.”
The amendment was defeated with 20 members voting against it and eight voting in favour, with one abstention. No comment was available from the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley, who is currently away in Lourdes, or from the Church of Ireland Bishop, Rev Paul Colton.