HAI e-Newsletter February 2015

e-Newsletter February 2015
In this issue:

HAI Meets the Taoiseach and the Minister for Education and Science
We had a very good meeting with the Taoiseach and Jan O’Sullivan, the Minister for Education and Science, as part of the Structured Dialogue Process (with religious and secular organisations) on 29 January.  The HAI was represented by Siobhán Walls, Brian Whiteside and Mairéad Doyle.
Education was the top of the agenda, and the HAI’s position was well received . However, according to the Minister, progress is constrained by the protection given to schools under the Equality Act, 2000, to maintain their religious ethos.  This protection will continue to apply in the Schools Admissions/Enrolment Bill currently going through the legislative process. 
The Minister and Department of Education officials said that they work constantly to ensure there are enough school places in all areas to meet demand. And of course they are now actively working to ensure those schools are of an ethos to meet demand too.
We made a real connection with Jan O’Sullivan, but follow-up is needed. The HAI must decide what strategy we should adopt to press for more rapid progress in this area.  We informed Jan O’Sullivan of the campaign that we will be launching shortly on the requirement for baptismal certificates.  
Richie MacMahon, from the CSO was very receptive to making the change in the Census that we are looking for so that people will not be asked what their religion is, but rather if they have a religion. He is willing to set up a meeting between the HAI and the CSO in advance of the 2021 Census, and we felt that this was a very good outcome.
Mairéad spoke to this saying that the move by the HSE to set up a multi-faith group was very positive, and she asked that the same model by applied to all state-funded areas where chaplains are employed. 
We registered our thoughts on this, but the Taoiseach was clear that there will be no more referenda in the lifetime of the Government. He said that he thought that the constitutional convention was a success and would be repeated in some form in the not too distant future. This forum is probably our best bet for keeping this issue on the agenda for a future referendum..
Under this we covered the following:
  • Blasphemy – we expressed our disappointment that blasphemy was not being pursued at this time. The Taoiseach said he would have been disappointed if we hadn’t mentioned it!
  • Same sex marriage – we got assurance that the HAI would certainly be included as one of the organisations that will be permitted to conduct same sex marriages, assuming the referendum is passed.
  • Our contribution to the Dialogue Process – we said we were happy and willing to engage with the churches and others in continuing the process.
Report by Siobhán Walls

HAI in the News!
The HAI has recently had significant coverage in the Irish Times and on RTE about children being required to have a baptismal certificate in order to secure a place in a State-funded primary school.  Historian and commentator Diarmuid Ferriter wrote an opinion piece last Saturday in the Irish Times in which he referred to this requirement possibly being in breach of both equality legislation and the Constitution.  He mentioned the invidious practice, highlighted by the HAI, whereby parents are having “pragmatic baptisms” for their children in order to secure a place in their local primary school.  The full text of Diarmuid Ferriter’s piece is here.
The same edition of the Irish Times (24 January) had a piece by Joe Humphreys, reporting the HAI’s call to ban school patrons from seeking baptismal certificates as an entry requirement. The piece mentioned the HAI’s meeting with the Taoiseach on 29 January, and quoted Brian Whiteside as saying “education is on top of our agenda” for the meeting.  You can access the full text here.
This issue was also aired on Morning Ireland on 29 January, including a sound bite from Brian Whiteside. You can hear it as a podcast on RTE.

Darwin Day – 12 February
Darwin Day lecture

The Ice Age and Its Discovery: Darwin, Controversies, 200 years of research and what we now know…

Prof. Pete Coxon, Department of Geography, Trinity College, Dublin

7 pm Thursday 12th February
Thomas Davis Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, Trinity College, Dublin.

All are welcome to attend this free public lecture.

Pete Coxon is a Trinity Geographer in the tradition of his friends and colleagues Frank Mitchell and Bill Watts. Pete has a special interest in the Irish landscape and in Quaternary studies in general and his research focuses on the changes in the natural landscape over the last 2.6 million years — the Quaternary Period — that is still colloquially known as ‘The Ice Age’. Pete is particularly interested in the effect of environmental changes throughout the Quaternary on the landscape of Ireland but has worked on Quaternary deposits as far afield as the Himalayas and the USA.

New Venue for Sunday Meetings from March, 2015
The new venue for the Sunday Meetings is the Ashling Hotel  which is very close to Heuston Station and on the LUAS line.
We are making this change because Buswell’s Hotel was not wheelchair accessible, and we want to be able to accommodate wheelchair users at our meetings.  The new venue has been chosen (on a trial basis) because it has a suitable meeting room and is close to buses, train and the LUAS.  It also has a multi-storey car park at the cost of €2 per hour.
 We hope the location will make it easier for members from outside Dublin to attend.

Humani’s Darwin Dinner in Belfast
FRIDAY 13th February 2015 is the date for Humani’s Annual Darwin Dinner at the Malone Lodge Hotel, Eglantine Ave, Belfast at 7.30 p.m.
All members and their guests and partners are welcome and we would, as usual, be very keen to see our friends from other Humanist, Atheist, Secular and Sceptical organisations and groups.
Our speaker will be Dr Neil Reid, a former Chairman of the Association and a Lecturer in Conservation Biology. Neil is our local Sir David Attenborough, regularly plunging into the South American rainforest to map the diversity of life. His talk will be on:

WHY THE WORLD ISN’T SHRINKING: there is more in Pandora’s Box than just hope
Bookings can be made on the Humani website here here

HAI Stand at the GPO 
The next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on 21 February from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!

Chaplaincy News
A Time to Remember
The Humanist Chaplaincy held a remembrance event on 4 January 2015. This event was built on the traditional moment of silence which has been held on the first Sunday of every New Year. This year’s event was called, ‘A Time to Remember’. (See Hi Magazine November-December, No. 149, p. 21.)
Some 70 people attended the event, representing the largest number to-date at a Sunday meeting.
Table showing candles, pansies, sprigs of rosemary  and several family photos.
The event centred on the theme, ‘So that good friends and loved ones are not forgotten’. Those present were invited to speak of their memories and feelings of loss of friends and family members. Intervals of music were offered by Eoin O’Brien, and Humanist Chaplain Joe Armstrong facilitated the schedule. He also read a poem he wrote specifically for this occasion.
If you experience a loss as a result of the death of a close friend or family member and would like to have that person remembered at next year’s event, contact Nic Johnson at [email protected]
Report by Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services
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]

Local Humanist Groups
Calling all members in Westport and local areas!  Séamus O’Connell is interested in starting a local group, and would like any interested members to contact him on 087 245 35 36 or email
The next meeting of the Kilkenny group will take place on 13 February in the Aspect Hotel at 8.00 p.m.  Meetings will take place on the second Friday of each month from now on. Contact Peter Deevy on 087 2570855 for further details.
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.
Mid-West Humanists will be hosting a Darwin Day Lecture on the 12th of February from 7.30 – 9.30 at the Stormy Teacup in Foxes Bow Limerick. Dr Chris Exton will be giving a talk  on Ethics in a Secular Society.
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.

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