HAI e-Newsletter May 2015


e-Newsletter May 2015
In this issue:
First Sunday Meeting May 3
Report of Sunday Meeting 5th April: Discussion on Education
Join us for the Family Day Festival on 17th May
The Religion Question in the Census
HAI Stand at the GPO
News Bytes
Chaplaincy News
Volunteers for History Team
Contributions from Members
New Groups and Local Humanist Groups
Living Wills



First Sunday Meeting: 3 May 






The first Sunday meeting is a presentation by Dr. Hugo Newman, entitled “Good without God”: A Philosopher’s View.  

The meeting will take place in our new venue, The Ashling Hotel, Parkgate Street at 4.00 p.m.

Dr Hugo Newman has just successfully completed his doctoral thesis in Philosophy on the moral foundations of libertarian anarchism. This year he taught on courses in UCD dealing with questions pertaining to death, meaning and value. In this presentation he will attempt to bring together lessons from both his research and teaching, defending an attitude of what he calls “atheistic humility”, and exploring ways in which one can make sense of objective moral value and purpose without appeal to a divine creator.
 There will be opportunity for members and visitors to discuss any issues related to the presentation as well as to discuss other matters more informally.


Alan Tuffery
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: 086 162 6988



Report of Sunday Meeting 5th April: Discussion on Education


Image credit: The Irish Times

Willie Collins, Board member of the HAI, chaired the meeting and welcomed everyone.  He gave  an update on the HAI’s progress in the area of education and outlined plans for the future. The intention of this meeting was to give plenty of opportunity for discussion and from this feedback identify what is important to our members in the area of education.

HAI Baptism Certificate Campaign: With the exception of Educate Together schools, most state schools discriminate against children who are not baptised and rank these children last on waiting lists for enrolment. This leads to ‘pragmatic’ baptisms where parents are forced to baptise their children to gain entry to a local school. The HAI is currently running a campaign to highlight the necessity to change this situation.

To this end, the HAI has met with the Taoiseach and Minister for Education.  The campaign has achieved high media attention with coverage by the major radio stations and newspapers. Most people at the meeting were aware of the campaign, either having viewed the posters on-site or online. An active discussion took place with all agreeing that the aim to create public awareness had been achieved.

HAI School Visiting Programme: Síle Headen, HAI Board member, reported on the HAI programme of visits to secondary schools undertaken with Ellen Sides. The HAI Education Committee receives regular requests from secondary schools for visits, these are mostly for transition year students.  She shared a list of the types of questions asked including a set of sixteen questions posed by one class representative. Whilst every visit is different,  two topics recur each time –“How do Humanists live a moral life without a God” and “What do humanists believe happens after death?

Síle’s talk was followed by a discussion during which some of the teachers present disclosed that they and their unions could not let their humanist beliefs be known as it would impact on their employment and promotion prospects.

Forum on Patronage and Pluralism: In March 2011 the government announced the establishment of a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector. Despite the work of the Forum and submissions from the HAI (among others),  very little if anything has been achieved. Prof John Coolahan, Chairperson of the Forum, said the Department of Education needs to wield a ‘stick’ against the Catholic Church if it wants to make progress on the divestment of schools to other patrons.

The subtlety of how discrimination continues was discussed. It was acknowledged by all that this is a huge campaign and we need volunteers – the current HAI Education Committee punches well beyond its weight but is simply overstretched to do more than it is doing.

It was most encouraging that five volunteers came forward at the end of the meeting to offer to help the Education Committee.

Willie Collins then closed the meeting and many stayed on to chat afterwards.

Report by Maeve Cooling




Join us for the Family Day Festival on 17th May
This year, the HAI is taking a stand at the Family Day Festival which will take place in Wolfe Tone Square between 11.00 a.m. and 5.00 p.m. on 17th May. The day celebrates all kinds of families – one-parent families, step families, the traditional married family, adoptive and foster families,  blended and extended families, those with opposite and same sex parents.

Image Credit: One Family Ireland

The programme offers great entertainment, games and activities and useful information for all types of families and for the young and old.

More details about this year’s event can be found here. You can see a video of last year’s event  here.

We need your help!

Board Member Síle Headen is coordinating the event for the HAI, and needs volunteers  to come along on the day to help with the fun activities and promote the HAI at our stand.  If you would like to help, please get in touch with Síle at [email protected]



The Religion Question in the Census

One of the tasks which the HAI has undertaken is to lobby the CSO to change the religion question in the census. The question, as it currently stands, reads. “What is your religion?” The HAI feels this questions fails not only because it presupposes everyone has a religion, but also because it is ambiguous as to what constitutes having a religion.The HAI has been in discussion with the CSO on this issue for more than ten years, principally via correspondence. On April 13, 2015 the Chief Statistician of the CSO and her staff met with us in Swords on this topic.

The CSO opened the meeting by stating they were conscious of the number of submissions from the HAI! They also stated the religion question is out-of-date and agreed with us that it should be changed. A general discussion ensued on the rephrasing of the question. Also discussed were the plans for the 2016 census. It was suggested we work the various restatements of the religion question at a later stage for implementation in the 2021 census.  For our next meeting, we would work on a possible campaign around the 2016 census. The campaign could be directed on how people should approach the current religion question. The objective would be to increase the reliability of the data.To this end they invited us to propose a message with which they would approach an advertising agency in August/September.

A very successful meeting after many years in the making.

Report by Niamh Kelly, Terry Flynn and Nic Johnson




HAI Stand at the GPO 
The next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on 16 May from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!

AI member Karen Kiernan sends a family made video of children chatting about the value of different kinds of families and asking adults to vote “yes” in the forthcoming referendum.Brian Whiteside asks:  Does Jesus Christ like the schools being separated like this?Paul Rowe, Educate Together, criticises the continuation of the “Catholics First” policy on schools admissions.Jonathan Victory asks what is the point of the referendum on lowering the age of eligibility of Presidential candidates?

Tom Curran, partner of Marie Fleming, argues that new laws on assisted dying are needed

Independent TD Joan Halligan is to bring to the Dáil a Bill on assisted dying

Una Mullally asks how can you feel equal when you are denied equal rights?



Chaplaincy News
Lecture on the Spiritual Needs of Patients Who Are Non-Religious.

Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services, was invited to give a  lecture at Trinity College Dublin on the spiritual needs of patients who are non-religious. The lecture was sponsored by the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Humanist Chaplain Joe Armstrong fielded many questions and supplemented the lecture with a personal perspective of the services offered by Humanist chaplains.
The lecture covered the topics:
– What is a Humanist?
– Sources of beliefs, ethics, and sense of awe.
– Aims of the Humanist Association.
– Service areas of Humanist Chaplains.
– Spiritual needs of non-religious patients.
The lecture was well attended after which there was an extensive Q and A period.
Report by Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services


Volunteers for History Team

Nic Johnson has generously donated personal papers about Irish Humanism from 1930s onwards to the National Archive which are currently being catalogued.  Http://www.nationalarchives.ie/Following the success of our 21st Anniversary Celebrations last year in Galway, a small group of volunteers is interested in preparing a history project in time for our 25th Anniversary in 2018!Are there other members who have material they would like to lend or donate?We welcome volunteers to join us in setting up a HAI History Team.

  • Initially we are seeking names of interested HAI members and friends.
  • We then propose a meeting to share ideas & set goals and objectives which will contribute to the historical record of the HAI.

If you are interested in getting involved, wish to donate/loan any items/documents, or have any advice/skills or experience to share, please email: [email protected] or speak to Mairead Doyle on 087 8135915.



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 GroupsThe first meeting of the Westport and local areas group was held on 22 April in the Wyatt Hotel. Brian Whiteside gave a talk entitled “What Is Humanism”?  Details of further meetings from Séamus O’Connell on 087 245 35 36 or email [email protected]Local GroupsNorth-West Humanists meet on the third Sunday of the month in Paddy’s Bar, Main Street, Carrick-on-Shannon at 2.30 p.m.  Contact Isolde Carmody on [email protected] or 086 8820445.

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]com  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. Please note the change of venue: we are now meeting in the Anno Santo Hotel, Threadneedle Road, Salthill, Galway.  The meetings start at 12 noon. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.



Living Wills

Advanced Healthcare DirectiveAdvance 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