Michæl McFarland Campbell

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Minister for Defence confirms that Irish Defence Forces no longer have “gun salute to the Most Blessed Sacrament”

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As the United Kingdom was mourning the passing of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and many gun salutes were being fired to mark this occasion, I wondered what the Irish Defence Forces did regarding gun salutes. I looked online and found that in addition to the normal gun salutes of 21 rounds for visiting Heads of State, military funerals and the like, the Defence Forces would render a gun salute of 50 rounds for the Most Blessed Sacrament. (https://www.military.ie/en/public-information/defence-forces-ceremonial/about-ceremonials/ accessed 2021-04-10).

I was rather surprised to see this reference to the Most Blessed Sacrament on the website of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Defence Forces.. To my mind, this was most unusual. I sent a letter by email to the Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney TD.

… As I understand it, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1972, removed from the Constitution the special position of the Catholic Church and the recognitino of other name religious denominations. I thought that Ireland was now a secular country. Why then, is the “Most Blessed Sacrament” which is only of one denomination — the Roman Catholic Church — given a pre-eminence or any recognition by the State’s forces.

Email to Minister Coveney on 2021-04-10

Two days later, I received a response and was told that he would make enquiries of his officials and get back to me. Yesterday, I received a response from the Minister’s Private Secretary.

I have engaged with my Defence Forces colleagues in relation to your enquiry and I have been advised that in the past provision was made for gun salutes to the Most Blessed Sacrament. However, this practise is no longer provided for or reference in the current Defence Forces Regulations.

References to the Gun Salute to the Most Blessed Sacrament on the website, http://www.military.ie, have now been removed.

In addition, the Defence Forces would like to affirm that it is a diverse organisation which equally recognises all religious denominatons.

Email from Cliona O’Sullivan, Private Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Mr Simon Coveney TD, 2021-05-26

I am so pleased that the Defence Forces have confirmed that they no longer favour one religious denomination over another. I am proud to be an Irishman living in the State that has become so multicultural and religiously diverse. We still need to work to ensure that public services provided by public bodies are provided without fear or favour, without references to one religious body or faith over all others.

My next question, is when was the last “50 gun salute to the Most Blessed Sacrament” fired? My suspicions are that it may have been as far back as 1932 for the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. Does anybody know?

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

May 27th, 2021 at 4:45 pm