Yesterday the Seanad passed a motion introducing 30 seconds of silent reflection time before the Christian prayer that’s said at the beginning of every day.
The change means that Standing Order 18 will now read ‘all Senators present will stand for 30 seconds of silent reflection and then [pray]’ instead of the current ‘all Senators present will stand and [pray]’.
Senator Ivana Bacik (Lab) had originally proposed, to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges last year, that a period of reflective silence replace the daily prayer altogether but in the end a compromise was reached following suggestions from Senator Ronan Mullen (Ind).
When I read about the proposal my first thought was surely there’s no need for both. Could the silent reflection time not be used for praying by those who wish to do so?
My second thought was to go a step further and wonder if even the 30 seconds silence was necessary. Should reflection and prayer not be done privately, in their own time and before heading to work?
With everything else that’s going on in the country it’s easy to dismiss this measure as time wasting and wonder why our Senators haven’t got better things to be doing with their time.
But since they’ve brought it up, adding the reflective time certainly acknowledges the pluralist society we live in but it doesn’t go far enough because the prayer is still being said. It’s like saying you’re entitled to believe in whatever religion you like, including no religion, as long as you keep your prayers and reflections quiet whereas Christian prayer should be spoken out loud. Either cover all religious beliefs with a spoken prayer or non at all!
Senator Bacik has said that she’ll continue to argue for reflective time on its own and while this is better than silence and then prayer, again I’ll make the point that the silence can be used to say a prayer, I personally don’t think there should be anything said or done at the start of the day in the Seanad.
Look at it this way, how many other work places in Ireland start the day with a shared moment of reflective silence or a prayer?