HAI e-Newsletter March 2015

e-Newsletter March 2015
In this issue:

First Meeting between an Atheist Group and the Government
Last month, we reported the meeting that took place between the HAI and the Taoiseach on 29 January, 2015.  This was the most recent in a series of meetings that the HAI has had with Government ministers over a number of years.
HAI delegation meeting the Taoiseach in 2007
Contrary to what has recently been reported, the first meeting between an atheist group and the Government actually took place on 11th October 2007.  Some would probably argue that this was a Humanist group rather than an atheist group, but I think they are splitting hairs here.  The HAI was meeting under the Structured Dialogue process that the Government engaged in with “religious and other non-confessional bodies” which stemmed from a clause in the Lisbon Treaty.
The HAI delegation comprised Catherine O’Brien (Chair), Dick Spicer, Ann James, Brendan Sheeran, Nic Johnson and Brian Whiteside.  The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, attended the meeting along with six Ministers and three officials.
The HAI  had made a submission which was later published as Equality for the Non-Religious.  Following the Taoiseach’s opening remarks, Catherine O’Brien replied by saying that in essence what we were looking for was equality.  Bertie Ahern famously replied that “the problem with equality is that if you give it to one person they’ll all want it”.
Having gone through all the issues the only ray of hope we went away with was that it might be possible to get legislation through to give legal status for Humanist marriages. It was to be another five years, and a change in government, before this became a reality. But this is how change comes, slowly; and to be engaged in the process gives a platform for dialogue and the possibility for eventual change.
Brian Whiteside

Report of Sunday Meeting on Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples, 1 February
Moninne Griffith, Director of Marriage Equality, spoke about her involvement in the campaign to give same sex couples the right to marry.  The meeting was chaired by Mairéad Doyle.
Moninne  was inspired by the case taken by Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan to have their Canadian marriage recognised in Ireland in 2006.  Monnine came out as a lesbian around this time, and when she and her partner had a baby, she realised that she wanted her family to have legal recognition.
Marriage Equality, a campaigning coalition, was set up in 2008 to campaign for same sex couples to have the right to marry.
While the Civil Partnership Act, 2010  provided some rights and recognition to same sex couples, it did
not entitle them to marry. The Referendum in May proposes to amend the Constitution by inserting a new section stating: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.
Moninne put forward five reasons to support civil marriage equality:
  1. It will make Ireland fairer and more equal. The Irish have an innate sense of fairness – gay men  and lesbians marrying the person they love will not harm anyone.
  2. Polls show that this amendment  has the support of three quarters of the population and the main political parties.
  3. In seventeen countries and twenty US States, gay couples can marry the person they love.  We don’t want Ireland to be left behind.
  4. Research shows that marriage is good for people, families and society. This also applies to  gay couples.
  5. It is good for the economy. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others like to set up business in countries where their employees will be treated equally.
Moninne pointed out that the referendum is not about children, and legislation to permit same sex couples to adopt children is being drafted as a separate issue.
Moninne then spoke on some of the concerns people have about the referendum:
– ‘It will damage traditional marriage’: Marriage has changed over the years. It used to be about children, property and inheritance and to this end, arranged marriages were common.  Mixed race, inter-faith marriage and divorce were frowned upon.  Now it is about love and commitment to one person, and it is the same for same sex couples.
– ‘Marriage is about religion’:  This  referendum is about civil marriage and will not obligate any church to marry people. Similarly, after the divorce referendum, churches were not forced to marry divorced people.
– ‘Why do we need marriage when civil partnership already exists’: Civil partnership falls short of constitutional equality and the legislation would extend equal constitutional rights, responsibilities, status and standing. Gay couples want to be able to say “this is my wife/husband”.
-‘Marriage is about children and procreation’. Marriage certificates are not issued conditional upon couples having children. In Ireland today there are many couples who have children and who are not married, also many couples who choose not to have children. A recent poll in Ireland shows that two-thirds agree that to be raised in a loving home is more important than being raised by a mother and father.
There was a lively Questions & Answers session.
Report by Maeve Cooling

Reminder of New Venue for Sunday Meetings from March, 2015
Don’t forget that the Sunday meetings have now moved from Buswell’s. The new venue for the Sunday Meetings is the Ashling Hotel  which is very close to Heuston Station and on the LUAS line.
We have made 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.

Now you can join HAI online!
Thanks to the efforts of Fachtna Roe, a new system which allows people to join the HAI online through the website has now gone live.  This has made joining much easier, and membership applications are increasing steadily, with new members joining every day.  
The system is still being developed, but soon members will be able to renew their membership online as well.  Membership renewals are changing from the present system of renewing on the date of joining, to two annual renewal dates.  The dates are 1st January and 1st July each year.  No member will be charged more than once during a 12 month period.
Existing members will be contacted by email or by post to make arrangements to move over to the
new system during March. For some members this means their last subscription will cover them for more than 12 months, in order to align with the dates in January and July, but to avoid double-billing. 
Existing members are not required to take any action at present. In particular, they should not alter standing orders or their PayPal renewals until after we have made contact.

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

Chaplaincy News: Paid Chaplains in the Department of Defence
Members may be interested in the reply to questions which HAI member Paddy McDermott posed to the Press and Information Office, Department of Defence. It makes interesting reading and a challenge to us. In short, there are 17 state-paid religious chaplains in the Department of Defence!
Q1. How are Chaplains appointed?
A1. Chaplains are appointed to a Military Installation by the Episcopal Conference for Catholic Chaplains and by the Archbishop of Dublin on behalf of the Anglican Communion, following approval by the Minister for Defence. In addition to the foregoing, from time to time temporary Chaplains are appointed. A temporary Chaplain would normally be appointed if, for some reason, a full time Chaplain was going to be absent from his post for a period of time. Chaplains are responsible for the pastoral care of members of the Defence Forces. There are currently 17 Chaplains (including 1 part-time Church of Ireland Chaplain).
Q2. Who pays them?
A2. They are paid by the State out of the Department of Defence budget.
Q3. Are all Chaplains Roman Catholic?
A3. While the Defence Forces Chaplaincy Service caters for military personnel and their families who are predominantly Roman Catholic, there is one part-time Church of Ireland chaplain. Provision is also made to provide for the spiritual needs of all other faiths.  The Chaplaincy Service respects the traditions and practice of those of other faiths and those of secular beliefs and ensures that the integrity of all these groups within the Defence Forces is respected. Representatives of other faith groups and those of secular beliefs are encouraged to visit barracks and to partake in services.
Report by Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services

News Bytes
From the Irish Times
Inspired by Gay Bryne’s interview with Stephen Fry, Eamonn McCann talks about how he became an atheist.
Donald Clarke talks about Gay Byrne’s “mock aghastness” at Stephen Fry’s trenchantly-expressed views about the existence of God.
Schools admissions policy and ethnic segregation in schools.
Kitty Holland writes about the Amnesty International Report that finds 2014 was “devastating” for human rights
From the Guardian
Protests in Bangladesth following the murder in Dhaka of secular blogger Avijit Roy

Senator Katherine Zappone would like your help!
If you live in South-West Dublin, and are interested in supporting Katherine Zappone’s campaign for marriage equality, you can send her your details here

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]

New Groups and Local Humanist Groups 
New 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
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.
Local Groups
Members from Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare meet on the second Friday of the month at 8.00 p.m. in the Aspect Hotel, Kilkenny  Contact Peter Deevy on 087 2570855 for further details.
Details of Cork Humanists’ 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 Harry’s 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