HAI e-Newsletter September 2015

e-Newsletter September 2015
In this issue:
First Sunday Meeting 6 September
What Do You Think?  HAI Strategic Review
Report of First Sunday Meeting on 2 August: Adoption in Ireland 
Education Equality Gets Thumbs Up from HAI Board
Support Paddy Monahan’s Online Petition!
Chaplaincy News
HAI Stand at the GPO 
News Bytes
Website Upgrade
Call for Coding Volunteers
New Groups and Local Humanist Groups 
Contributions from Members
Living Wills

First Sunday Meeting 6 September

SliderAugTransgender2015The topic for discussion for our September meeting is Transgender in Ireland.   Our speaker will be Broden Giambrone (Chief Executive) of Transgender Equality Network Ireland. TENI seeks to improve conditions and advance the rights and equality of trans people and their families.

Despite significant progress in the past years, Ireland remains a place where it is difficult for  trans people to lead safe, healthy and integrated lives. TENI is dedicated to ending transphobia, including stigma, discrimination and inequality. TENI engages in activities that promote the equality and well-being of trans people in Ireland.

Broden will look at what it means to be transgender in Ireland today. This talk will begin by looking at the concepts of gender and sex and how we understand them. Broden will then explore the issues facing trans people and share the lived experiences of this community. He will discuss the trans rights movement and what visibility means for social change. He will end by looking at how people can support the struggle for trans rights and equality.

Broden has been involved in community organising, research and capacity building in trans communities for over fourteen years. In his current role, Broden leads TENI’s advocacy and public awareness campaigns. He is also an experienced public speaker and has delivered presentations across Europe and Canada. Broden holds a Master’s in Public Health (Health Promotion) from the University of Toronto, which focused on Community Development and Policy development in the field of trans health. Broden has been published in numerous academic journals such as BMC Family Practice, Journal of Community Psychology, Action Research Journal and the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies. He has also written opinion editorials for the Irish Times, Irish Sun and GCN.

All are welcome to attend – First Sunday meetings are also social occasions, and  a great opportunity for members to meet and chat. We would love to welcome some of the many new members who have recently joined.

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

What Do You Think?  HAI Strategic Review
Over the next few days you will receive an invitation by email to answer a Questionnaire and give your valued opinions on various aspects of the HAI and how we will develop and move forward from here.
Quality Matters, a professional organisation, have been engaged by the Board of HAI to carry out a Strategic Review and develop a 5 year plan through consultation with our members, together with other significant people and organisations.
You will be asked to submit your views through this Questionnaire and, if you wish, to participate in discussion groups facilitated by Quality Matters.

Report of First Sunday Meeting on 2 August: Adoption in Ireland 
The meeting was chaired by Oisin Carey and was a discussion of adoption in Ireland, with speaker Shane Downer.  It was attended by about 40 members and visitors.  Shane Downer is Chief Executive of Arc Adoption and previously acted as the interim CEO of the International Adoption Association (IAA).

Adoption of children is as old as history, but has only been regulated in Ireland since 1953. Adoptions peaked in 1967 with 1,493 children adopted. This equated to the adoption of one in forty of all children born in Ireland that year. That number also represented 96.95% of children born to unmarried mothers.  However, adoption has moved from finding children for families to finding families for children. Intercountry adoption is a relatively new phenomenon, starting after World War II, and currently accounts for approximately 20,000 intercountry adoptions globally, annually.

There have been adoption problems in the past. There is general awareness of stolen baby stories, where children were taken from birth parents against their will. While this must be prevented, measures to do so should not make adoption impossible. In addition, there is a continuing lack of identity restitution, where Constitutional privacy is held as a barrier to establishing original identity for adopted people. Finally, although the ‘Best Interest of Child’ principle is applied in adoption decisions, there remains poor clarity on what this means, and who gets to decide it.

While the initial movers in adoption are prospective adopters, adoption is not a service for infertile couples. Care must be taken to ensure children are genuinely adoptable. For example, in Bulgaria a child must be available for national adoption for six months before being considered for Intercountry placement.  In addition, “free cash” in the adoption system must be eradicated to ensure there is no possibility of profiting from the placement of children.

A number of audience questions were raised.
Where is the child’s cultural identity in intercountry adoptions?  In the era of open adoption, with greater levels of transracial adoption, adoptive parents must be prepared to preserve and celebrate their child’s origin. For example, adoptive parents will likely celebrate relevant cultural events with their children, such as Tet parties for those adopted from Vietnam.

What about the child’s name? Ideally, and especially for older children, adoptive parents are encouraged to keep their child’s birth name.

What about contacting birth parents? There is a contact preference register, and new proposed information and tracing legislation has just been published. Such contacts should be possible, and facilitated through appropriately regulated services.

What about long term foster care? The Irish situation is changing. With over 6,000 children in foster-care here, approximately 2,000 children are in long-term care. Recent changes  have improved the adoption process for these children, although it remains a lengthy and complex journey.  There are very few “stranger” (i.e. not in-family) adoptions in Ireland.

Shane Downer commented that with the growth of internet sites, such as Facebook and Google, it is important that a proper, facilitated service is available to enable connections, and to protect younger adoptees from predators or inappropriate engagement. Finally, as globaly fertility rates drop worldwide, fewer children are likely to need alternative homes in the future. However adoption continues to provide many children with safe and permanent loving families.

Report by Peter Deeney

Education Equality Gets Thumbs Up from HAI Board
Education Equality is a newly established organisation formed in August 2015 with the purpose of promoting fair and equal treatment for all children and parents throughout the educational system. The group was formed with the specific aim of combatting religious discrimination in education, especially at primary level. Education Equality will maintain an independent identity that is “label-free”: the organisation is not associated with any label or religion. Rather it is open and accessible to people of all beliefs and none who believe that the education system should treat all children and parents equally regardless of their religion.

Various efforts have been made by organisations and individuals to address the issue of discrimination in the Irish school system, particularly in access to school places. Education Equality aims to bring a coordinated, unified approach to the campaign for equality. The Education Equality volunteer team are currently busy seeking the support of all interested organisations and individuals as partners in this single alliance dedicated solely to the goal of equal respect in the education system.

Education Equality is concerned by a number of elements in the education system which prevent equal respect being given to the rights of children and parents without a religion and of minority religions. These factors include religious discrimination in schools admissions policies (facilitated by legislation, the Equal Status Act 2000, s 7(3)(3)), difficulties in opting out of religious instruction if a child is attending a school with an ethos different to his/her own, and the “integrated curriculum” that requires all primary education to be infused with religious values. The first priority for Education Equality is the removal of s 7(3)(c) such that discrimination on the grounds of religion is no longer permitted in schools admissions.

The Education Equality campaign is to be modelled on the successful campaign for marriage equality.  A digital media campaign will build on the current levels of interest and energy. Work is being done on all the fronts simultaneously, with the support of enthusiastic and skilled volunteers, including Rónán Ó Dálaigh (Interim Chair) on mobilising support, April Duff on legal issues and Nikki Murphy on liaison support to/for parents.

At a HAI Board meeting of 17th August 2015, HAI member Rónán Ó Dálaigh, on behalf of the newly formed Education Equality startup committee, outlined their campaign and objectives.  The Board gave their full support to Education Equality.  Additionally the Board agreed to make a contribution of €10,000 as a startup fund for the group.

Given how the various campaigns and groups working for education equality have been developing and emerging in the last couple of years, we believe that a collective and inclusive approach is the best way forward to get education changed in Ireland. The Board was unanimous in its decision to get fully behind the Education Equality initiative.
— Siobhán Walls, Chair HAI

Education Equality plan to use the HAI contribution to help towards the costs of its digital campaign and the official launch of Education Equality. A workshop is to be arranged for the end of September on how to structure the campaign and deal with social media.

Education Equality welcomes volunteers from all walks of life. If you are interested in getting involved, get in touch by emailing Rónán Ó Dálaigh at [email protected]

Our timing for this campaign couldn’t be better.  All across the country groups are emerging independently with the same goal.  Hopefully we can bring them all together!
April Duff, Education Equality

Keep an eye on this newsletter for progress reports and updates. A progress report will also be sent to each HAI Board meeting.

Support Paddy Monahan’s Online Petition!
 Paddy Monahan has an online petition which will be sent to the Oireachtas Petitions Committee asking for section 7 (3) (c) of the Equal Status act, 2000 to be repealed.  This section allows schools to discriminate against children on religious grounds.  You can sign the petition if you follow this link.

Chaplaincy News
Meeting with the HSE Chaplaincy Advisory Council
Humanist Chaplain, Norma McElligott, attended a meeting of the HSE Healthcare Chaplaincy Advisory Council. This is a group organized by the HSE to review the chaplaincy services at HSE funded hospitals. The principal topic for the meeting was a discussion on training and accreditation of hospital chaplains.

The Catholic and Church of Ireland/Christian requirement of a degree in Theology as a pre-requisite was discussed and Norma said that from a Humanist perspective we were not happy with this, citing practice in Holland where accreditation could be based on either a degree in Theology or one of the Humanistic Sciences (Psychotherapy, Social Work or Psychology). Although there were mixed views on this point, the representative for the Muslim community gave his support to Norma’s position.


During the discussion Norma reconfirmed that what we wanted was parity of esteem and equal status. Norma also pointed out the need for a National Chaplaincy Association which would welcome members from all faiths and none.


Memorial to Those Lost at Sea
FastnetRemForNewsletterNorma McElligott in her capacity as Humanist Chaplain facilitated an event to commemorate the lives of those lost at sea in the 2003 Fastnet Yacht Race. She also spoke of adding of six more names to the memorial stone. The ceremony was held on Cape Clear Island on August 23, 2015 in beautiful sunshine.

HAI Stand at the GPO 
The next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on 19 September from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!

News Bytes
From NewsTalk
John Walshe attacks Diarmuid Martin’s defence of the baptismal requirement

From The Irish Independent
Ruairí Quinn calls for an end to the Catholic monopoly on education

HAI member Rob Sadleir has an opinion piece on religious discrimination in schools admissions.

From The Irish Times
Priest says demand for secular schools is low

The challenge for an inclusive State-funded education system that recognises that one in eight second-level students is born overseas

Editorial talks of the failure of political nerve in implementing a fair schools admission policy

Michael Nugent, Atheist Ireland, has an opinion piece on how to end school discrimination

From The Examiner
Report on Paddy Monahan’s campaign on schools’ Catholics first enrollment policy

From The Mirror
Paddy Monahan starts a campaign to stop Catholics first policy

Website Upgrade
The HAI are currently reviewing the website www.humanism.ie with a view to upgrading the layout, content and features. If there are any suggestions or comments you’d like to make in this regard, please email Niamh at [email protected].

Call for Coding Volunteers
Can you code?

If you know how to code, and are familiar with the syntax of perl (same as C, Javascript)
and how web-apps work on a LAMP stack, we need you!

Please email [email protected] with subject line CODEVOL.

New Groups and Local Humanist Groups 
New Groups

West Cork
Humanists based in West Cork are invited to meet up for a family friendly social brunch at 11am on Sunday 13 September in the Market Cafe in Rosscarbery.  Please email if you are interested in attending.  Contact details are : Sheelagh Broderick [email protected] and Anne Scallan [email protected]


Local Groups

Monthly meetings will be held on the third Wednesday of every month in the Reference Room, Waterford City Library, Lady lane at 6.00 p.m.  Contact Teresa Graham on [email protected] for details of further meetings.

Monthly meetings will be held in the Cobbler’s Bar of the Wyatt Hotel at the Octagon in Westport at 12 o’clock on the second Sunday of every month.  The group has a facebook page. Contact Séamus O’Connell on 087 245 35 36 or email [email protected] for further details.

North-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 Fachtna Roe on [email protected] 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. 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.

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]

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 is 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