HAI e-Newsletter April 2014

e-Newsletter April 2014
In this issue:

Next First Sunday Meeting – May 4th
The next First Sunday Meeting is on May 4th from 4 – 6 pm in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. All are welcome.
Proinsias De Rossa is our speaker and his topic is The European Commission is not God – Why the Next European Commission President needs to be a Humanist.
He will examine the nature of EU consultations with ‘philosophical’ societies, such as religious and  humanist organisations.
Proinsias De Rossa, is a longstanding member of HAI. He retired from the European Parliament two years ago, having served for 15 years. He was a member of the European Constitutional Convention (2002- 2003) which produced the Lisbon Treaty.
Article 17(TFEU) of the Treaty provides for EU consultations with Humanists, Atheists and Churches. He will speak on the background to and the importance of this Treaty article. He will also look at how it has been used to date, and what its potential is in Ireland and Europe.
In addition he will look at, from a HAI perspective, the process and the importance of who will be selected later this year as the new Commission President, whose office leads this consultation process at European level. For the first time ever the European Elections (on 23rd of May in Ireland) will have some influence on that choice, and how Humanist votes and lobbying can be influential in that regard.
From Alan Tuffery

First Sunday Meeting Report – March 2nd
Rebecca O’Neill, founder of Dublin Skeptics In The Pub, was our speaker and gave a talk entitled What is a skeptic and what does it take to make someone one?
A designer by training, during her undergraduate years she worked part time for a health food chain. The hours and pay were good and she liked it. She had always suffered from migraines and asthma and during her time there exhausted all available products seeking a cure. She calls this period ‘Rebecca The Believer’.
Staff were encouraged to use anecdotal evidence., e.g., ‘this worked on my friend’ , and push follow-on buying to boost sales. She noticed customers became vulnerable to using non-medical solutions such as chakra centering, holistics and spirituality. After three and a half years she had gone from cynicism to scepticism and had become angry.
Rebecca now works for the Natural History Museum and is studying for a Ph.D. A colleague there introduced her to skepticism and as her job was repetitive, she was able to listen to podcasts of skeptic groups and individuals. She observed they all applied science based thinking to everyday work.
One such group is TAM, based in the USA. It is white male dominated having one token female. It does most of its work online and puts out a Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast weekly.   TAM states ‘in order for an argument to be sound all of its premises must be true’.
The most famous skeptic is James Randi. Stating that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’, in 1964 his group offered $1 million to anyone who would, under supervision, prove evidence of a paranormal event. So far this has never been claimed.
The USA had the biggest number of skeptics groups followed by the UK. The Merseyside Skeptics Society (MSS) is famous for organising the ‘10.23 Campaign’ where 400 skeptics took a homoeopathic overdose simultaneously outside Boots at 10.23 am to raise public awareness that these products were ineffective. The Edinburgh Skeptics is another excellent UK group and is very involved in mental health and anti-psychiatry issues.
In 2009 a friend suggested that Rebecca should set up Irish Skeptics in the Pub (now Dublin Skeptics). They meet once a month in a pub as they find this is a safe place for discussions with the advantage of no room hire cost. The Lord Edward or The Black Sheep are the usual venues but at the request of some members, they also have alcohol-free meetings.
Their activities have included hosting famous skeptics such as Richard Wiseman and George Harb. Rebecca has held a walking tour and gallery visit with the Dublin group and they have a book swap scheme. There are now skeptics branches in Belfast, Galway, Letterkenny, Waterford and Cork. Rebecca also speaks to skeptics groups overseas.
The Skeprechauns is the official podcast of the Dublin Skeptics and is one of the few all female led groups. They talk mainly about female issues such as the Savita Halappanavar case.
A Q & A session followed
Report by Maeve Cooling

Dialogue Meeting
Chairperson Siobhán Walls, and Director of Ceremonies, Brian Whiteside attended a meeting in the Department of the Taoiseach on March 31st as part of the Structured Dialogue Process with Government.
This process had started a few years ago, but had come to something of a standstill in 2011. We met with Philip Hamell, Deputy Secretary to Government, Ray Henry, Head of Protocol and General Division and Mary Murphy, Secretariat to the Dialogue Process.
The meeting was very good and there was a strong feeling that this process is under way again with a commitment to keep it going. We gave an overview of the HAI, our aims and the history of our involvement with the Dialogue Process.
We said how pleased we were to have had success with the amendment to the Civil Registration Bill. We quoted the census figures, church attendance trends and the swing towards non-religious weddings and asked the question: what sort of education system do these couples want for their children? We talked about our wish for a secular education system with a change to the patronage system and said that, as a priority, we wanted the requirement for baptismal certificates stopped.
We referred to the requirement for religious oaths for high office as an example of inequality and talked about the many submissions made to the Constitutional Convention for separation of church and state. We made the case for equality for Humanist chaplains. We went through the HAI’s “Equality for the Non-Religious” publication and pointed out the UN Human Rights issues noted in it.
The census and how the religious question is asked got an airing. We drew their attention to the recent re-branding of Trinity College (current that day – they have replaced the bible for an open book on their crest) citing it as an example of a long-standing, conservative institution moving with the times. We said that Ireland, as it approaches the centenary of 1916, should become a modern, democratic republic appropriate to the 21st century.
We were asked if we had anything we could offer Irish society. We talked about what we offer the non-religious community in terms community, ceremonies, chaplaincy, etc.
Our points were well received and the process explained to us. We expect to formalise the agenda in the short term and the next step is a meeting at ministerial level to discuss the agreed agenda which can be summarised as follows:
  • Education – with immediate emphasis on stopping requirement for baptismal certificates.
  • Oaths – an end to the requirement for religious oaths for high office.
  • Chaplaincy – equal treatment.
  • Census – how the religious question is asked.
  • “AOB” – religious symbolism; state function participation.
Report Siobhán Walls and Brian Whiteside

News Bytes
Click on the links to two radio reports from RTE Education Correspondent, Emma O’Kelly:
On March 12th about the four new Educate Together schools to open in September, Emma talks to some parents struggling with having their children in Catholic schools.
You can read more about the school patronage divestment process on the Educate Together website.
Also on RTE radio, listen to Director of Ceremonies, Brian Whiteside, clarifying a story about a wedding guest stepping in to replace a solemniser on the Derek Mooney show on RTE Radio 1 on April 1st.
From the National Secular Society in the UK
International Humanism
The European Humanist Federation General Assembly takes place this year in Brussels on May 9th and 10th. Director Philip Byers is going to represent the HAI.
Former chairperson Ann James and director Daphne Wynne will be in London for the World Humanist Congress that takes place from August  8th to 10th.

New Local Group in Cork
A group of people interested in setting up a new local Humanist group in Cork have met twice recently. The next meeting is on Monday, May 5th and if you’d like to find out more you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.
The Moment of Truth
The HAI has been contacted by the RTE programme The Moment of Truth with Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh.
The are looking for people from all walks of life to tell their stories of the life changing and often difficult decisions they’ve made.
Click here  to watch one of last year’s programmes. If you’re interested in taking part or would like to find out more contact Birthe Tonseth at [email protected].

Dates for your Diary
All Ireland Summer School in Carlingford on 30th and 31st of August.
HAI 21st Birthday event in Galway on October 11th and 12th.

Local Humanist Groups
The Mid-West Humanists group includes people from Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary who meet on the third Wednesday of each month at 20:00 in Limerick – the Absolute Hotel, Sir Harrys Mall, Limerick. Meeting notice at www.midwesthumanists.com. For more information contact Peter O’Hara on 086 8155102 or email [email protected].
Serving Humanists in Galway and surrounding areas, Humanists West meet in Galway city on the last Sunday of each month. The meetings start at 12 noon at the OSLO Gastro Bar- Micro Brewery, 226 Upper Salthill.. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.
A group of people interested in setting up a new local Humanist group in Cork have met twice recently. The next meeting is on Monday, May 5th and if you’d like to find out more you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.

Humanist Association of Ireland  •  34B Royal Terrace West  •  Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Ireland