Playwright Tom Murphy says "indifference is the worst thing to fear".

'The Sanctuary Lamp' by Tom Murphy was first performed on 7 October 1975 at the Abbey Theatre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. The play about three down-and-outs who seek shelter in a church proved controversial. Des Hickey asks the playwright if he had meant to outrage audiences in this radio interview broadcast two weeks later on 'The Arts: Appraisal'.

Murphy says he expected a very strong reaction, but "indifference is the worst thing to fear". He doesn't set out to be sensational, and considers this a very religious play, though it is anti-institutional. When asked about the germination of it, he thinks that he was probably feeling a mood of isolation and wanted to write about it. Then the unlikely combination of hearing interviews with Fr Peyton and boxer Jack Doyle gave him an idea about the sanctuary lamp and what it meant to him.

He also notes that a large proportion of those who walked out of the Abbey were Americans on holiday in Ireland, who had spent the day "locked up in a coach". 'The Sanctuary Lamp' "isn't quite the fare" for them.