Every person committed to upholding Constitutional freedoms and every person of faith should opposed the Goverment’s draconian and provocative Regulation ( SI 171 of 2021) as an assault on religious freedom. Archbishop Eamon Martin has done a great service not alone to his flock but to democracy in pushing back strongly against this disingenuous and repressive legislation
Our Constitution acknowledges the fundamental right to public worship . The importance of religious freedom for the Courts in many jurisdictions is reflected in recent affirmative decisions, from Scotland and France to the US. What is again striking is that the Government has not offered any scientific evidence to support their latest restrictions on Church services, which are unique in their severity across the EU.
The precautionary principle was understandable in Spring 2020 when there was little knowledge about Covid-19. There is greater knowledge now. It provides no basis for SI 171. The Church has been zealous in upholding compliance with public health protocols – even in empty Churches.
The recent combination of health guidance and the seemingly ad hoc nature of the policy expressed in statutory instruments and legislation has no clear empirical basis insofar as worship and church activities are concerned.
The effect of this lack of clarity will be to corrode respect for the rule of law and to further alienate people of faith already disenchanted and dismayed by this Government’s repressive policies. It may even be that SI 171 is a ‘cover your back’ manoeuvre by Government in advance of the pending Ganley judgement. But discriminatory it is. The manner in which it has been pushed through – more than a year after the onset of Covid-19 for Heavens sake – sends its own sorry signal.
This is a government that is indifferent to the anomaly of further discriminatory restrictions on religious practise at a time when restrictions on other activities are being lifted. They simply do not care.
But they should care. It’s bad faith and bad politics – its arrogance to the very brink of hubris – to show such disrespect for any community within what purports to be a representative democracy
That the Regulations have been introduced by a Fianna Fáil Minister under the auspices a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach is an egregious offence against their own foundational principles of Christian Democracy. Every Fianna Fáil TD is complicit in this draconian assault on religious practice – is there even a smidgen of courage among them ? It confirms Fianna Fáil as a tired and jaded relic: a party that does the bidding of any arrangement that will enables it to cling to power – surely an appendage to Sinn Fein, awaiting the coup de grace?
Outrage will avail nothing. They were deaf to their own members – they wont listen to the country. But there are likely some who believe there is a compelling case for a campaign of peaceful civil disobedience against this latest specious and repressive law. That’s what our history tells us.
They will not go gently again into that good night of an underground Church – because that’s what it has come to. They understand that religious freedom and political freedom are woven from the same cloth and they will have neither respect or regard for this unjust, and unjustified, regulation.