Dan Boyle: Divinity, Definity And Doctrine


From top: Bishop of Cork & Ross John Buckley (holding cross), taking part in the Eucharistic Procession in Cork city last Summer; Dan Boyle

One of the more pleasurable aspects of being back in City Hall is being asked, occasionally, to deputise for the Lord Mayor. It’s always an honour to be asked.

The last time l had the opportunity was to celebrate the last day of Hanukkah while presiding at an art installation at Shalom Park, then inviting those attending, members of Cork’s Jewish community, back for refreshments.

At City Hall, as well as the lighting menorahs, two musicians armed with a fiddle and an accordion played Yiddish folk tunes.

The uber liberal in me fleetingly wondered if religion should be civicly endorsed like this. Of course it should, answering my own question. This is a celebration of community not doctrine.
Cork City Council organises similar events for other religious events like Eid and Diwali.

The Christian churches also get included. Our national holiday is a celebration of a Christian saint. In Cork members of the Council start the day by attending services at the Church of Ireland and Catholic cathedrals. Truth to tell I prefer the service at Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral It has a less going though the motions feel.

Less acceptable has been the tradition of City Council participation in the annual Eucharistic Procession. Historically this was once a massively attended event with tens of thousands participating. Then it might have seemed politic for city councillors to take part.

These days the crowds are much reduced, as are the number of councillors who turn up. Time perhaps to delink the civic presence with this event.

Because the events of religious communities occur at different times of year, it is important that the State takes time to acknowledge these events as occasions of importance for the communities concerned. As celebrations of diversity they give hope that what is different can also be good.

It isn’t religious events that threaten secularism, the bigger threat is found with religious symbols, or more particularly their permanence.

Lighting menorahs in City Hall is a fleeting thing. Even cribs in public buildings over the Christmas period should cause no offence.

However our council chamber, like the chambers of many local authorities throughout Ireland, permanently displays a crucifix. While it is an important and evocative symbol of christendom, it should not be on permanent display in a civic building.

I have no intention of seeking its removal. There are many issues that are far more important to me. What I hope might happen is that other council members would begin to realise that this doesn’t fit and that we should end this practice.

It’s a fine line but it is one we are addressing better than we have been. More appropriate relations between faith and State are still to be determined. We need at least to believe they can be different.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic via EchoLive

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26 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Divinity, Definity And Doctrine

  1. newsjustin

    That the numbers attending the Eucharistic Procession have decreased and it has become an event attended by a niche minority, with similarly reduced voting power, makes it more appropriate that councillors attend (If they are happy to do so) not less. As per your support for the Hanukkah celebration.

      1. scottser

        the way they fly by the seat of their pants most times, i’d say the odd invocation is inevitable..

  2. gringo

    Have courage, Dan. Take down the cross yourself and replace it with a large EURO sign. Much more appropriate plus you will be lauded as a real modern right-on type of guy.

  3. Cian

    However our council chamber, […] permanently displays a crucifix.[…], it should not be on permanent display in a civic building.

    I have no intention of seeking its removal. There are many issues that are far more important to me. What I hope might happen is that other council members would begin to realise that this doesn’t fit and that we should end this practice.

    You are a councillor. If you have more important things to do surely the other councillors have more important things to do. You can’t dodge the responsibility.

  4. White Dove

    Interesting and thoughtful piece.

    I think that symbols are very powerful and that their presence in public places needs to be very carefully considered.

    The relationship between Church and State also needs to be reconsidered (though we have many other pressing things first!)

    What also needs to be taken into account, however, is the entitlement of individuals to have their religious views respected. Separation of Church and State must be accompanied by protection of individual religious freedom.

    Personally, I have an issue with the level of religious display in hospitals although I feel that the religious freedom of individual medical staff and patients needs to be protected within the system.

    1. Cian

      The difference is that the council chambers (and the Dail) are owned and controlled by the State.

      Half (?) of the hospitals are owned and controlled by (various different) religious orders and supply a service to the State.

  5. max

    And while their at it they should probably remove all them bricks are they are a symbol of the stone masons….

  6. Dan FitzGerald

    Classic semantic Mental Reservation. Weaseling Words. The word Community has a it’s own meaning, broadly speaking, inclusive. Religions are specifically exclusive. A few popular Religions are endorsed by City Hall, but what of Jehovahs, Mormons, Scientologists, Frisbeetarians? I note Douglas COMMUNITY School is used for Sunday RELIGIOUS Service and Events by the Baptists. COMMUNITY, RELIGIOUS, different words, different meanings. Government Tolerance of the misbehaviour of Religions has been disastrous for our Republic, particularly Children and Women. The real meaning of Tolerance, was in effect, Complicit. Stop it Dan, just Stop it. A point of information. Last year’s Eucharistic Procession in Cork was planned to cater for 10,000. About 500 attended.

      1. Dan FitzGerald

        Quite Deliberate. I use it for Colour and Emphasis. Thanks for noticing, but your attempt too needs some work. Random Capitals are pretty much meaningless. Perhaps that was your intent.

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