Defence Minister, Alan Shatter (pictured), denied permission to members of the Defence Forces to act as an honour guard for a procession during the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Dublin last month, the Irish Catholic has learned.
The move comes despite the fact that the Defence Forces have traditionally taken part in processions around the country, and raised concerns that military personnel will be forbidden from taking part in such events again.
The last time that the Eucharistic Congress was held in Dublin, in 1932, members of the then Free State army were central to the event. Since then, members of the Defence Forces have provided honour guards at numerous religious events.
A spokesman for the Department of Defence told the Irish Catholic that permission for members of the Defence Forces to participate in the Eucharistic procession through Ballsbridge on the Wednesday evening of the Congress was refused.
The spokesman said that the request had been submitted by the organisers of the IEC “seeking Defence Forces participation in a street procession.
She said that “the Department was not in a position to approve such involvement as military participation was not considered appropriate”.
The spokesperson did not elaborate on why participation at the procession had not been considered appropriate since participation in such events had taken place regularly in the past.
During the visit of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux to Ireland in 2001, members of the Defence Forces provided full military honours on a number of ceremonial occasions.
Army personnel, including the Army Band, also frequently participate in diocesan and local parish events.
But Mr Shatter's stance on this issue may suggest that such participation may be prohibited in the future.