Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said the description of the practice of prayer at the opening of Oireachtas business as offensive is a baseless and ill-informed judgement. Deputy McGrath was speaking in reaction to the sentiments expressed by Deputy Clare Daly during the Dáil debate on the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution: “I think that while it is pretty clear that Deputy Daly holds very strong views on these matters, I also think that this time she is way of step with the practice of prayer in modern parliamentary systems. In 2008 The U.S. Supreme Court gave local government officials across the United States more freedom, not less, to begin meetings with a prayer. It also ruled that prayers from a specific faith or tradition do not automatically violate the U.S. Constitution. I think the same logic can apply here in this State. The Supreme Court also found that in these circumstances, that such prayer was not an ‘establishment’ of religion or a step toward establishment; it is simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country. I repeat that point: It is a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country. We also see that in Australia daily prayer has been a standard practice among Australian institutions since 1901. In 2009, the Australian Senate rejected the Green Party’s push to remove the Lord’s Prayer from the daily opening of Federal Parliament. Indeed no sooner was the motion raised than it was voted down, overwhelmingly rejected by the majority of Senators both Liberal, Labour and members of the Nationals Party. So the idea that prayer has no place in a modern parliamentary system is quite frankly absurd. I would also make the point that Deputy Daly while making her comments went on to talk about how we need to go a lot further with the separation of church and State which is still there in a religious context in our education system and health service. These are comments which point to the underlying agenda here. That agenda is a road former Education Minister Quinn tried to go down and he was met with strong resistance; a resistance that I think will also reveal itself if any move is made to eliminate the opening prayer,” concluded Deputy McGrath.