In The Name Of The Most Holy Trinity: Religious Anachronisms And The Need For A Secular Constitution

Author:Brian O'Reilly
Position:First Year BCL (Law and German) student in University College Cork
Pages:47-60
[2010] COLR
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY: RELIGIOUS ANACHRONISMS
AND THE NEED FOR A SECULAR CONSTITUTION
Brian O‟Reilly *
ABSTRACT
This ar ticle critically analyses the religious r eferences of the Irish Constitution, with
particular focus on the effect these references have in relation to equality. It briefly examines
the background to their inclusion in the text and, while conceding that this inclusion was both
understandable and inevitable in 1937, argues that a secular Constitution would be more
appropriate in the increasingly diverse Ir eland of today. The article looks at various leading
opinions and commentaries on the topic, as well as adding the author’s own views, proposing
that amendment or deletion of these religious references would be beneficial in the interest of
equality.
A INTRODUCTION
They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them
yourself.
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol1
We live in an increasingly secular society. In the 25 years from 1981 to 2006, the entire
population of the Republic of Ireland has increased by 23%, whereas the number of people
within that population professing “no religion” has increased by an astonishing 371%.2
While still leaving the religious in the majority, this growing trend cannot be ignored. As
well as this change in demographic, the majority, those professing a Catholic faith, have
become much less publicly active in recent years. According to a „Red C poll conducted
between October 19th and 21st [2009], for the Catholic Iona Institute ... weekly church
attendance is now 46 per cent.3 As low as this figure is, it is in fact, unusually high when
compared with previous years and is likely to be related to the recent economic downturn.4
There is a growing demand for more secular schooling in the State and this too illustrates the
change in public opinion, with even the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin,
saying that „[t]he current almost monopoly is a historical hangover that doesn‟t reflect the
realities of the times.5 However, does our legislation, and in particular our Constitution,
reflect these modern views? And does it afford due equality to those who choose to express
them?
*Brian O‟ Reilly is a First Year BCL (Law and German) student in University College Co rk.
1 A Warhol The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich New
York 1975).
2 Calculated from the 2006 census figures, Census 2006 Volume 13 Religion; Table 1
(10 November 2009 ).
3 P McGarry „Mass Attendance in Ir eland is Up‟ The I rish Times (Dublin Ireland 2 November 2009)
(10 November 2009 ). Based
on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and over.
4 ibid.
5G Carbery „Catholic Control of Schooling not Tenable, says Archbishop The Irish Times (Dublin Ireland 17
June 2009) spaper/ireland/2009/0617/1224248982529.html> (29 November
2009).
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