Falangism in Ireland

Behold, the entanglement of church and state in Ireland. The very police forces brandish bibles at their graduation ceremony. The Irish Times has the photographic record:

Garda Reserve Xiao Du from Finglas  at the Reserve Graduation ceremony at the Garda College, Templemore. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

That’s a truly frightening picture. These are police officers, agents of state power. They’re not supposed to work for any church.


  1. exi5tentialist says

    You think the Irish are bad. Here in england the police promise to serve some bloody silly queen. Appointed by some character called god, no less. It’s Alice in Wonderland over here. So trippy, it’s terrifying.

  2. sarah00 says

    I moved to Dublin from the UK just over a year ago. Recently I had to go to hospital (breathing difficulties). The first thing they did was take my details. They asked the usual: name, date of birth, address, then religion. I was completely nonplussed. I said “atheist” and there was a pause before continuing with the rest of the questions. I’ve never been asked my religion in a health setting before and I hope I never will be again. If I’d been thinking more clearly I’d probably have gone with some equivocal “not really religious” but I was struggling to breath and in some distress so I said pretty much the first thing which came into my mind (as the truth often does). The weird thing was that knowing I’d said atheist I couldn’t help but wonder if it would affect the way I was treated. I’m pretty sure it didn’t but it was pretty weird sitting there scared, not knowing what was wrong with me and on top of it all having to worry about whether not being Catholic was going to affect how they looked after me.

  3. sarah00 says

    Yeah, it wasn’t a great day. The religion part was only a very small thing and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t really matter and I had so much else to worry about. It was just such a strange question that even with everything else going on it was a really memorable moment.

  4. naturalcynic says

    Sarah – not too uncommon inAmerica. At least for the few times I went into the hospital. It’s a question about whether you want a chaplain to visit you, and if so, what flavor. Anything outside of that could be considered malpractice.

  5. exi5tentialist says

    Well, it could just be an equal opps / diversity question, so the public service can demonstrate in reports with graphs that they don’t just help the favoured belief system

  6. says

    katzenklavier, I love your comment so much (minus Seneca’s distinction between the common people and the wise).


    They asked the usual: name, date of birth, address, then religion. I was completely nonplussed. I said “atheist” and there was a pause before continuing with the rest of the questions.

    I confess that I thought you were setting up the joke: “Catholic atheist or Protestant atheist?”

  7. says

    I did wonder if the question was just for purposes of knowing if the patient wants religious services or not…But really the way to find that out would be just to ask that.

  8. RJW says

    “Behold, the entanglement of church and state in Ireland.”

    There’s possibly an historical political dimension to this ‘entanglement’ as well. During the long dark days of British rule, the Catholic Church was probably the only functioning independent “Irish” institution left to the Irish, all others had either been destroyed or subverted by the British. The Catholic Church in Poland played a similar role as a focus for resistance to the regime during the period of Communist totalitarian oppression. Of course the Church is well past its ‘use by date’.

  9. Richard Smith says

    Call me old-fashioned, but aren’t those little books supposed to have red covers?

  10. Jane Donnelly says

    Here is the relevant Section of the Act. You can leave out the word ‘god’ and there is no requirement to hold up a bible. I’ve really no idea why they do that given that it identifies Christians and obviously puts minorities in a very difficult position.

    Garda Síochána Act 2005 is available at:


    Section 16 refers to the Solemn Declaration:

    16.— (1) On being appointed, each member of the Garda Síochána shall make before a Peace Commissioner a declaration in the following form:
    “I hereby solemnly and sincerely declare before God that—
    • I will faithfully discharge the duties of a member of the Garda Síochána with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality, upholding the Constitution and the laws and according equal respect to all people,
    • while I continue to be a member, I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all my duties according to law, and
    • I do not belong to, and will not while I remain a member form, belong to or subscribe to, any political party or secret society whatsoever.”.
    (2) The words “before God” may be omitted from the declaration at the request of the declarant.

  11. sarah00 says

    @ 6 naturalcynic
    I’ve been to hospital (for minor things) in New Zealand and the UK and have never been asked religious affiliation questions which is why it really stuck in my mind.

    @ 9 Ophelia
    If I was being admitted I could see that they might want to offer these services, but this was in A&E while I was waiting to see a doctor to decide what was wrong with me. As it was they did a few tests and sent me home with a prescription. My mum thought it might be to check I wasn’t JW or something and would refuse blood transfusions but there’s other ways of asking that (like ‘are there any medical procedures you would refuse?’).

  12. says

    Ah, thanks for that, Jane.

    It would be nice if the “God” part were opt-in instead of opt-out, wouldn’t it. The same with oaths in court. The normal is secular and if you want to add god you can. But nooooooooooooooo.

  13. Jane Donnelly says

    I was also asked what religion I was when I attended a Dublin hospital. I was again asked the same question when I was admitted to one of the wards. I was then informed that they had no section for atheists (I’m not joking). The worst was to come though as the day before surgery a nurse leaned over me and said “pray to Jesus for your operation tomorrow”. When I told her that I did not have a religion she informed me “that I would need Jesus for my operation”. The rest is history but I did get a formal apology from the hospital. I discovered that she said this to many patients but she obviously was not expecting one pissed off atheist to challenge her.

    In addition to this every day people wandered into the wards asking “do you want to receive”. I had to say out loud that I was not a catholic and one woman actually told me that “that was ok”. Thanks a lot, I’m happy to know that it is ok not to be a catholic in a democratic republic.

  14. karellen says

    “These are police officers, agents of state power. They’re not supposed to work for any church.”

    Uh, separation of church and state is a brilliant idea, but it was a break from How Things Are Done when the US came up with it. Most other countries in the world do still have an official state religion, or one that has been closely interwined with all levels of government for centuries.

    Other countries are not bound by the US constitution – no matter how much it might benefit them if they were.

  15. RJW says


    “Other countries are not bound by the US constitution – no matter how much it might benefit them if they were.”

    It’s probably not a good idea to be too smug about the effectiveness of anti-establishment clauses in constitutions. I’ve noticed many reports from the US where state legislators have used law enforcement institutions in attempts to create a de facto ‘establishment’ of Christianity. The UK has an established state religion, but I can’t see how that has maintained the supreme position of the Church of England in practical terms.

    BTW I’m a citizen of a nation that has an anti-establishment clause in its constitution, however I’m not sure if such clauses have any practical effect whatsoever in liberal democracies.

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