Press release, 31 May 2013

European Humanist Federation

Irish Council Presidency shows clear bias in favor of churches

 Under  Article  17  of  the  Treaty  on  the  Functioning  of  the  European  Union,  European institutions must maintain an “open,  transparent and  regular”  dialogue with  churches and non-confessional organisations.

Long before the Lisbon Treaty, rotating presidencies of the EU Council have been accustomed to meet with churches representatives. It was only since the Belgian presidency in 2010 that the European Humanist Federation was invited separately to share its views with successive presidencies (with the exception of the Danish Presidency which decided to receive neither churches nor the EHF) ensuring thereby that Article 17 be implemented in a non-discriminatory way.

On 21 November 2012, the EHF wrote to the Irish Prime Minister in view of the coming Irish Presidency to draw his attention on the need to implement Article 17 in a fair and equal way, i.e. to receive the  EHF if they planned to receive churches’ representatives. In a reply dated “December 2012”, his Office said that there was “no meeting planned” with religious groups but ensured that, in the event of a change on this position, EHF views “have been noted”.


On 8 March 2013, a churches delegation led by COMECE General Secretary Fr. Patrick Daly was received by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in Dublin, on behalf of the Irish Council Presidency. On 14 March, the EHF wrote again to the Irish Prime Minister to organize a meeting on the same footing. The Taoiseach Office eventually answered on 16 May 2013 that  it  was  too  late  to  meet  the  Irish  Prime  Minister  in  the  framework  of  the  Council Presidency and  offered to meet  a “senior official level” 

Despite EHF repeated requests, the Irish EU presidency did not meet our wish to organize a joint meeting. EHF would have been happy to share its views on the rise of populism in Europe,  European  plans  to  fund  research  (Horizon  2020),  EU  new  anti-discrimination directive but also on domestic issues such as the new Irish abortion law and blasphemy law.

The Irish EU Presidency has clearly implemented Article 17 in a biased way in favor of churches. Doing so, it has chosen to ignore the voice of those millions of European non-believers, which goes against European value of equality and non-discrimination.

Brussels, 29 May 2013.

Contact: Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty, EHF Executive Director, + 32 (0)4 84 18 35 35