HAI e-Newsletter November 2014

e-Newsletter November 2014
In this issue:

Report of HAI 21st Celebration Conference 11 & 12 October 
93 people had signed up for the conference and 75 were there on the day. 24 of them were not HAI members but hopefully will have joined up since. The conference was fast paced, the speakers’ aim was to raise ideas and stimulate a lively group discussion in the afternoon session.
The objective of the conference was to create a document that can be disseminated in order to lobby TDs and councillors to act on their obligations under Human Rights legislation and provide a genuine choice in primary education for all residents of all faiths and none throughout the country.
In 1811, Henry Grattan submitted his opinion to an inquiry into Irish primary education that religion “should be taught, but that no particular description of it should form a part of their education”. Two centuries later, isn’t it time that his advice was acted on?
Top row L to R: Dick Spicer, Paul Rowe, Inger-Johanne Slaatta, Grace Robinson
Bottom row L to R: Gerry O’Connor, Sinéad Kennedy, Deirdre Kenny, Seán McMahon
The 8 speakers in the two morning sessions on the Saturday focused on:
– Issues surrounding the lack of progress on transfer of patronage of schools from the RC church to Educate Together (ET)
– Waiting lists for ET schools
– The need for consistent & vociferous public and financial support for ET
– Need for religious education as opposed to instruction
– Concerns about the ‘content heavy’ primary curriculum which left little room for imaginative, critical, & open ended enquiry.
– Communion & confirmation usurping school time. Exploration of the system in Norway where, in 2014, 10,000 15 year olds opted for a Humanist confirmation, approximately 30% of those were confirmed.
– Norway has a similar population to Ireland, the NHA has 83,000 members. HAI has less than 600 members. With such a small support base, how can we hope to achieve our stated objectives?
– Whilst there have been 18 reports on sexual abuse between 1996 & 2012 none of them have focused on day schools – this omission needs to be remedied urgently.
– Inertia is rampant. Might we be misguided in thinking that parents are as passionate about secular education as we think?
– Opposition to Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act which allows patrons to discriminate against teachers on the grounds of sexual orientation & marital status.
– Under that legislation the 1985 decision in the Eileen Flynn case (an unmarried teacher dismissed when she became pregnant) was cited in a case in Belize this year.
– The need for teachers to profess Catholicism in order to secure & keep a job, gain promotion or get a transfer.
– Support for secular education & transfer of patronage is not going to come from people who currently have children in RC schools for fear of their children being adversely targeted. The issue needs to be of concern to people before they are even thinking of having a child.
To quote Colm Toibin:  “Living in Ireland now must be like living in 18th century France at the time of the Enlightenment.”  Catch up time!
 Report by Bridget Carlin

First Sunday Meeting Report –  5 October, 2014
Mindfulness with Helen Byrne
Helen Byrne has a background in education, psychology, family therapy and the community and voluntary sector. Helen has just completed her Master’s thesis in Mindfulness-Based Approaches in Social Care, Health and Education with Bangor University and is teaching on the new M.Sc. course in Mindfulness-based Interventions in University College, Dublin.
The meeting was chaired by Siobhán Walls, Chair of the HAI, who came to ideas about mindfulness via Sam Harris, a well-known promoter of secular values.
Daily life is full of annoyances and distractions: we spend large amounts of time caught up in thinking about the past and the future, rather than focusing on the present moment. Mindfulness is a practice which enables us to relate differently to our difficulties without trying to push them aside. In addition, it teaches us to concentrate on the essentials of a situation, rather than reacting inappropriately to superficial elements, such as tone of voice or an angry gesture. It is more than a skill, it is a way of being which can be cultivated through practice. It is being applied in many contexts, including prisons and schools. It is recommended in the UK’s NHS as valuable and cost-efficient for people with recurrent depression.
The questions and comments throughout the presentation were informed and curious about the values of more widespread knowledge and practice of Mindfulness.
The presentation began and ended with exercises in mindfulness: sitting quietly and focusing the attention, from the wider environment, to the relationship of the body to it, and then to parts of the body and finally to the gentle movements of air associated with quiet breathing.
Report by Alan Tuffery

Think Equality, Act Equality Conference Report
An excellent video, ‘Stand Up at Work: Say No to Homophobia and Transphobia in the Workplace‘ was a highlight of the ‘Think Equality Act Equality’ conference on mainstreaming equality, held at Dublin Castle on 14 October 2014 and organised by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Designate. The video is receiving a lot of hits on YouTube and is well worth a watch. It includes insights from LGBT people employed in Irish Catholic hospitals and schools who feel they cannot be honest about their sexual identity.
The conference was introduced by Ms Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner Designate of the body which will replace the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission.
In his opening address Mr Aodhán O Riordáin TD, Minister of State for Equality, New Communities and Culture, referred to the resistance within the education sector to altering admission policies.
Ms Carole Sullivan, Head of Equality Mainstreaming Unit, Equality Authority, chaired a session on equality mainstreaming in the workplace and in further education and training. Speakers included Saorlaith Ni Bhroin from the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Rachel Mullen, an independent consultant, who spoke about an Inclusive Public Transport Service in Ireland and Finola Keogh, teacher and project development officer at Cavan Institute, spoke about Embedding Equality at her workplace.
Mr Michael Barron, Founding Director of BeLonG To, a national organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) young people, aged between 14 and 23, introduced the Stand Up at Work video, and Mr David Joyce, Equality Officer at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, contributed a trade union perspective to the issue of LGBT equality in the workplace.
Mr Laurence Bond, Head of Research and Development, Equality Authority, chaired the final session of the morning on the public sector duty on equality and human rights. He made the point that it is the responsibility of every public body to actively demonstrate their commitment to equality. It is a ‘positive duty’ about which we should be proactive.
I was happy to attend the conference as a representative of the Humanist Association of Ireland and my challenge to the HAI arising from the conference is this: if there is a positive duty on public bodies to actively promote equality mainstreaming, surely it is incumbent upon us as Humanists to ensure that nobody is excluded from activities of the HAI or at events presided over by Humanists. Specifically, I submit that we have a positive duty to ensure that Humanist meetings and ceremonies are only conducted at venues to which wheelchair users have access.
Report by Joe Armstrong
Editors’s note: the Board meeting held on Oct 28th agreed to move First Sunday Meetings and the AGM to a wheelchair accessible venue in 2015.

Contributions from Members
If you have constructive comments or feedback on this e-Newsletter, Board meetings, the organisation in general, and/or are able to contribute to the goals of the HAI in any way, please let us know.
And if you have news items or links you would like to share with other HAI members, please send them for possible inclusion in the e-Newsletter by the 27th of the month.
We would very much welcome your contributions!
The email address is [email protected]

News Bytes
From the Irish Times
David McConnell participates in a debate on science and religion in the letters page
Lorna Siggins reports on the 21st Birthday Conference in Galway
Catholic Church spokesman speaks out against the planned schools admission bill
From the Guardian
How should we treat people coming to the end of life? Ed Cummings discusses Atul Gawande’s book
From The Journal.ie
Aoife Nolan contends that human rights should be an important consideration in the Budget.

HAI Stand at the GPO 
The next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on 22 November from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!

Chaplaincy News
Humanist Chaplaincy News
HAI and the HSE Chaplaincy Council.
As reported in the previous newsletter, the HSE Chaplaincy Council has formed a subgroup to ‘refine the terms of reference’ of the Council. The HAI is a member of this subgroup which met for the first time on October 21. Willie Collins and Nic Johnson attended. It was a good meeting in that it gave us a forum to express the needs of the Humanist chaplains and the services they offer non-religious patients, staff and family. Other members of the subgroup include Catholics, Moslems, Eastern Orthodox, and Jews.
At one point the facilitator asked each member to state in brief what they felt was the most important issue to them. We said ‘Equal accommodation for those of religion and no religion as well as understanding of group commonality.’ In addition one of the recommendations we made in our submission was highlighted by the HSE: ‘There should be an HSE staff member who is Director of Chaplaincy services to whom all chaplains are responsible and accountable.’
The Jewish and Islamic representatives often expressed their needs as being similar to those of the Humanists. This is based on the fact they, like us, are not only a minority group but also non-Christian. We have allies in our efforts!
A Time to Remember
Plans are progressing well for a remembrance of members who have died, as well as for members who have suffered a loss though the death of family or friends. This event will be held on the first Sunday meeting in January. We have made a request for any member who is a musician and would like to donate his/her time and talent in support of this event to contact the Director of Chaplaincy Services at [email protected] All musicians are welcome to respond.
Summer School for Training Chaplains
The chaplaincy committee has identified the need for a training programme for those who wish to become Humanist Chaplains. An option to this end has been offered by the Dutch Humanists. They have put forth a ‘Proposal for Summer School Humanist Chaplaincy 2015 in The Netherlands’ and have written us to explore our interest. The aim of the Summer school is: ‘To inform, inspire and train international professionals and volunteers. Academic expertise and skills are offered by the lecturers and professors of the University of Humanistic Studies. An important part of the programme will be practising and developing skills relevant for humanist chaplains. Besides this we will arrange working visits to Dutch humanist chaplains in different working fields (military, health care and penitentiary institutions).’
We plan to evaluate this as an option in meeting our needs.
New Student Chaplain
HAI member Ciaran O’Floinn has been appointed Student Chaplain at Maynooth University. He is currently a student at the University. He accepted the appointment with considerable gratitude and enthusiasm.
Report by Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services

Humanism Comes to 40 Teachers from Educate Together Schools
Ellen Sides and Eithne Dempsey were invited to ETNS, Skerries to talk to a group of 40 or so ET teachers; Shona Weymes and Alan Tuffery went along as moral support.
Ellen Sides presented a wonderfully concise history of free thought, from the early Greek philosophers to the present day, via the Enllghtment and the Scientific Revolution. Her theme was that Humanism is not a new philosophy; it has been around in all recorded thought — certainly in Western Europe. Although at times it has been actively suppressed, in Western Europe, Scandinavia and North America its time has come, now that societies are more educated and increasingly secular. She emphasised the ethical nature of Humanism and its tolerance and compassion. Finally she discussed Humanism’s ‘spiritual’ dimension and its joyful celebration of the cycle of life.
Eithne Dempsey, as a celebrant, spoke about how Humanists celebrate rites of passage: naming ceremonies, marriages and funerals She communicated the importance of such rites to our sense of community and her sense of privilege at being permitted to assist people to express their feelings at such important times.
The discussion was confined to a few aspects of ceremonies and the fact that they are available to all, not just to ‘card-carrying’ humanists. Funeral directors are very comfortable with the idea and practices of Humanist funerals. It was  a privilege  to meet such a group of dedicated and enthusiastic teachers and the warmth of their reception was palpable.
Report by Alan Tuffery

Coming of Age Ceremonies – Any Ideas?
Following on from the recent Galway Conference, where Inger-Johanne Slaatta gave a very interesting talk on Coming of Age Ceremonies in in Norway, (and with whom I had a good chat) I have undertaken to put together something for the HAI. I have no idea yet as to what exact form this might take other than to say that I have a number of ideas!
What I think would be most helpful initially is to have an input from members of the Association who have children/teenagers who would be interested in having a coming of age ceremony. (Or indeed the wider families or friends of members who would share our outlook but aren’t necessarily members).
I am currently thinking of something that would be aimed at the 12-15 year age group as I think it’s very important that they are involved and engaged in designing their own ceremonies. I also haven’t come to any particular conclusions about whether this would be something that would happen as a group activity (say a short course run over a weekend) with a public ceremony at the end or whether it would be putting together a template for individual ceremonies. It’s all up for discussion!
So if you have an interest in this topic then I would love to hear from you – I’m on 087 6590117 or you can email me at [email protected]
Many thanks
Emma Sides

Humanism Ireland – November/December Issue Preview
Hi! No. 149 for November/December will be through your letterbox any day now. Here’s a preview:
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: Landmark Factory not Closed 
THE ROLE OF CEREMONIES •  Siobhán Walls   
LETTERS: Sinn Fein • Paisley • Ceremonies
A TIME TO REMEMBER • Nicolas Johnson
BOOKS: Sapiens • Fields of Blood • Brian McClinton
BOOK • A History of Loneliness • Torquemadder 
Crossword, p17; Diary, p18
Literature Review
Ethical Record: The Proceedings of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, Vol. 119 No. 9, October 2014
In a thought-provoking article on mortality, Chris Bratcher states that he expects to be dead within the next fifteen years. ‘Am I reconciled to that fact…and that the splendid hornbeam which I can see through my window will fall and decay within the next fifty years?’ He doesn’t welcome his death but he isn’t worried about it either.  
He quotes Jules Renard’s Journal: ‘I don’t know if God exists, but it would be better for his reputation if he didn’t.’
Bratcher also recalls Dylan Thomas’s, ‘Rage, rage, against the dying of the light’, and Jules Renard’s (1864-1910) poem ‘Wild With All Regrets’ at dying ‘meaninglessly’. Bratcher reflects that ‘meaning and timeliness is not part of the natural order of things: it is something we as humans bestow.’
I like Bratcher’s astute observation: ‘Perhaps writers have a special block about death, having tried, however much they deny it, to immortalise themselves in print.’
Manu Bazzano also has an excellent article on living and dying, which looks at the Zen/Buddhist tradition, which encourages us to embrace becoming and impermanence: ‘We are fragile flowers, even though we may feel great after a brisk walk in the morning sun, even though we may feel invincible when someone praises us or falls in love with us. An illness, a crisis, a setback, a diagnosis: it doesn’t take much to make us wobble.’
He suggests that our fragile existence is like the cherry blossoms. When the wind rises, blossoms fall; but ‘the beauty and magnificence of life, in spite of the suffering it entails, is increased by the certainty of our finitude’.           
Other articles include: ‘Socialism: Substance and Limits’; an essay by Don Langdown entitled ‘I voted UKIP. Does that make me a bad Humanist?’; and ‘Sustainable Energy Cheaper than Fossil Fuels?
Cataloguing complete
Some 18 months ago the task was begun of catologuing the archives of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society. It is now complete and can be found here: http://www.conwayhall.org.uk/catalogue and http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/Library/Library-Catalogu
Report by Joe Armstrong                                 

Local Humanist Groups
Peter Deevy is organising a meeting in Kilkenny on 21 November at 8 pm.  The meeting will take place at Aspect Hotel on the Kilkenny Bypass.  It is adjacent to the Waterford turn-off, near Kentucky Fried Chicken and Woodie’s Home Store.  Contact Peter Deevy on 087 2570855 for further information.  All welcome!
Síle Headen is interested in setting up a new local Humanist group for members in Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare.  If you are interested, please get in touch with Síle at 
[email protected] or 087 7704946.
Ann Brennan is interested in setting up a new group for members living in the South-East region.  Her contact details are [email protected] or 086 0680444.
Isolde Carmody would like to gauge interest in setting up a North-West local group, covering Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon.  She would be happy to coordinate with others if there is interest.  Her contact details are [email protected] or 086 8820445.
A group of people interested in setting up a new local Humanist group in Cork have met twice recently.  Details of further meetings are on http://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.
North Coast Humanists meet every second Tuesday of the month at 6. 30 pm in the foyer of Lodge Hotel, Coleraine. New faces are welcome. For more information, contact: [email protected]  or 07818036404.
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 venue from Sunday 26 October 2014 will be the Cottage Bar, 76 Salthill Road Lower, Galway. The meetings start at 1.00 p.m. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.

Living Wills
Advanced Healthcare Directive
Advance directives are written legal documents by which patients express their wishes about the kind of health care they want to receive in the event they become unable to make their own treatment decisions. This usually means if he or she is physically or mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to makes these desires known. They are designed to allow competent patients the opportunity to guide future health care decisions. Advance directives include living wills and medical powers of attorney, sometimes called durable powers of attorney. It takes the decision away from family members, thus reducing their stress at a vulnerable time.
More information and downloads are available from http://www.worldrtd.net/organization/living-wills-trust-lwt or contact Daphne Wynne, 01 2802879, for further information.

Would You Be Willing to be Interviewed?
As part of his research, a student of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute is looking for Humanists who were formerly Christians who would be willing to be interviewed about their move away from a position of traditional belief.  If you are interested, you can contact Robert Robinson at [email protected]

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