October 2015 e-Newsletter

In this issue:
Working Groups – Your Participation Needed!
First Sunday Meeting 4 October: The Refugee Crisis
Report of First Sunday Meeting on 6 September: Transgender in Ireland
Education Equality Progess Report
All-Ireland Humanist Summer School29th-30th August 2015, Carlingford: War and Peace
IHREC Public Consultation – Deadline 9 October
HAI Stand at the GPO 
Humanist Society Scotland – Annual Conference
News Bytes
Membership Renewals
Website Upgrade
Local Humanist Groups 
Contributions from Members
Xmas Celebration – Talent Needed!
Crossword No 15 (Hi! September/October 2015)
Living Wills

Working Groups – Your Participation Needed!
Many of you have completed and returned the survey sent to members as part of the HAI’s strategic review. We are very pleased with the response rate.  You also have a further opportunity to contribute to the review process by participating in our working groups.  These will take place in the Ashling Hotel, Parkgate Street (same venue as the First Sunday Meetings).  The three working groups will take place as follows:Sunday 4th October: 1 p.m. to 3.30 p.m.  Policy and Campaigns
Sunday 11th October: 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. Service Development (Chaplaincy and Ceremonies)
Sunday 18th October: 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.  Membership Building and Communications

We considered the best venue for these meetings, and although we appreciated that some members will have long distances to travel,  it was felt that Dublin was the most accessible location for people in all parts of the country and therefore the best location to have these meetings.  The Ashling Hotel was chosen on the basis of its closeness to Heuston Station, the LUAS line, and the M50 motorway.

These groups will be facilitated by consultants Quality Matters and are open to all members of the HAI.  If you have not already registered to attend, you can do so by emailing [email protected]

If the cost of travel to these working groups is going to cause you any financial difficulty, please email [email protected] so that we can arrange a contribution to travel expenses.

First Sunday Meeting 4 October: The Refugee Crisis

Report of First Sunday Meeting on 6 September: Transgender in Ireland
Broden Giambrone (TENI, Transgender Equality Network Ireland) was the speaker for the meeting on Transgender on 6 September which was chaired by Terry Flynn and attended by about 40 people.  The meeting was marked by the quality and openness of the contributions from members and visitors alike.TENI is Ireland’s only national transgender organisation and deals with issues of gender identity across Europe. One of its central tenets is the importance of education and to this end it is essential to try and tease out the Irish voices.

TENI Broden GiambroneBroden Giambrone himself was designated as female at birth in Canada. Today he is comfortable with the description of him as trans, but he generally just calls himself a man, as he doesn’t wish to qualify or compromise his masculine identity.

Sex is the designation at birth of someone as either male or female, whereas Gender identity is a deeply felt personal identification as male or female or something else. At TENI they understand that gender identity is a spectrum, not a simple ‘either/or’. There are many terms to describe different experiences of gender, such as Transsexual, Genderqueer, Transvestite Androgyne, Gender Neutral, Non-Binary, Cross-dressing,  Unsure.

Ireland is only the fourth country in the world to introduce a Gender Recognition Act based on self-determination, thanks to the tireless campaigning of Dr Lydia Foy. This does not require a psychiatrist or other medical practitioner to substantiate an application.

Broden had a video of personal testimonies. It is available to view at http://www.teni.ie/news-post.aspx?contentid=1301

Many contributors were teachers with experience of parents coming to them when their children began to identify themselves as a different gender from their birth certificate.  Teacher need training on how best to deal with this extremely sensitive matter.

One said that young children could be open and supportive of their classmates, and issues around bullying often involved parents and those in positions of responsibility. One spoke of ‘horrible things coming from people who are supposed to protect children.’

Children as young as four can express transgender feelings but TENI recommends that until puberty there should be supportonly for social transition. There may be the possibility of medical treatment to delay puberty which is done with parental and clinical support.

Another contributor discussed his personal experience around things like international acceptance of his male partner and the challenges faced by a relative of his who is identifying himself as transgender.

While research shows that transgender identity does not cause mental illness, the stresses of dealing with society’s response can lead to all kinds of problems. Some 78% of those surveyed by TENI had had suicidal feelings and 48% had made suicide attempts. Only 51% of the trans community reported being employed.

People spoke of issues around job interviews. How do you dress? What do you call yourself? How would an employer respond? That is why openness and visibility are so important, to help the wider community to come to terms with trans. The TV show ‘I am Jazz’ was mentioned as a positive and helpful development.

At the end of the meeting everyone agreed that it had been most stimulating, and thanked the HAI for holding such helpful and interesting events.

Report by Arthur Deeny

Education Equality Progess Report
Education Equality E-NewsOct15Progress continues with Education Equality (currently 29 members).  Delighted to announce that April Duff has prepared Submission to the UN Review.Next meeting:               4 October 2015
Time:                             12 Noon
Venue:                          Ashling Hotel
Topic:                            Branding and Marketing

All Welcome, especially those with graphical/copy-writing and marketing skills.

All-Ireland Humanist Summer School
29th-30th August 2015, Carlingford: War and Peace
Carlingford--The 13th Annual Summer School was a stimulating and enjoyable mixture of serious reflection and discussion and some convivial social activities. Reports of the aftermath of the dinner referred to excellent ‘party pieces’, brilliantly co-ordinated by Terry Mosley.

Brian McClinton reviewed thinking about war from Classical times, neatly relating ideas about pacifism and just war to the roles of women and nationalism to war and peace. This skilfully introduced all the main activities of the Summer School.
David Pollock, the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s representative at the Council of Europe considered the concept of just war from its beginnings. A modern human-rights approach rejects the analogy between states and individuals and the idea that a state may wage war in its own defence. Rather, the state’s duty is to defend the rights of its citizens. But war can only be justified if a greater evil will ensue if it is not fought.

Historian, novelist and journalist, Ruth Dudley Edwards, (pictured right)  considered the question, ‘Are we awakening from Ireland’s violent past?’ Tribal nationalism uses selective and often erroneous commemorations of the dead as propaganda for their own current political positions. Politicians who glorify the leaders of the 1916 Rising cannot but be tainted by the use of violence for political ends.

Oisín Carey led a workshop exploring the question, ‘Should Humanists be Pacifist?’, particularly the justification of violence: in self-defence, in defence of others? Qualified freedom of speech is a paramount right but there is no right not to be offended. Possible examples of just wars were discussed and the effectiveness of non-violent protest.
Síle Headen led a workshop, ‘Can Women Teach Men the Keys to Peace?’ The principal ‘keys to peace’ are: empathy, security (in oneself), equality, opportunity and altruism. Education and the role of schools were also seen as important, as is ‘learning to love’ in a secure, loving home.

Philip Orr, a teacher and historian, discussed ‘War: The Lessons of History’ emphasising the biased recollection of history, which can be counteracted by oral history, leading to a more detailed, nuanced view.

Norbert de Kooter, a Humanist Chaplain in the Netherland’s army with experience on active service, discussed ‘The Role of a Dutch Humanist Chaplain in the Armed Forces’. The chaplain’s primary duty is to individual soldiers and not to the army. This requires the building of trust with individuals. He gave moving examples of interactions. Humanist chaplains have been in the Dutch armed forces for 50 years and have parity of esteem with other chaplains.

Report by Alan Tuffery

David Pollock’s paper is available in full from: http://david-pollock.org.uk/humanism/just-war-a-humanist-critique/]

A fuller account of Brian McClinton’s paper will be included in the next edition of Humanism Ireland.

IHREC Public Consultation – Deadline 9 October
The purpose of the consultation is to direct the strategic plan of the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission for the next 5 years – a good opportunity to get the HAI’s  aims noted and hopefully acted upon.
HAI Director Níamh Connolly attended the meeting in Cork and says I had assumed that issues of interest to us, such as Education Equality, Assisted Dying & Repeal the 8th (FFA) etc. would be well represented. They were not. (Out of about 40 in attendance, there were 4+ people each representing Irish Sign Language, Direct Provision, the Travelling Community and Active Retirees).Most of the public consultations have now taken place, but you can complete an online written submission here  http://www.ihrec.ie/about/public-consultation.html

Submissions do not have to be long, but it would be good for issues – such as education equality – that the HAI is campaigning for to be made known and included in the IHREC’s strategy.

HAI Stand at the GPO 
GPO StandUpdatedThe next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on 17 October from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!

Humanist Society Scotland – Annual Conference
I received and was delighted to accept an invitation to attend the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) Annual Conference on Sunday September 27th. The day started at 5am when I left home to catch the first Ryanair flight to Edinburgh. Travel went according to plan and I got to the conference venue – the Royal Society of Edinburgh building – shortly before 9am. The first person I met was CEO, Gordon MacRae (pictured) who was adjusting the HSS pull-up banner on the front steps as I arrived. He introduced me to Gary McLelland, Head of Communications and Public Affairs and Lynsey Kidd, Head of Ceremonies and Chaplaincy.  Between them they are responsible for the day to day affairs of HSS.SiobhanScotlandE-NewsOct15Volunteers were manning the registration table and directing people upstairs for tea and coffee in a large, bright L shaped reception room. I met several other people there including HSS Chair, Lynne Ramsay (pictured) who opened formal proceedings in the theatre downstairs at 10am.

The first presentation of the day was by Prof. Callum Brown of Glasgow University on Education and Scots Law. This was essentially a first preview of research undertaken by Prof. Brown and his team over the last year into the role of religion in Scots Law. The research was funded by HSS and the full report will be available in the coming weeks on their website. The education system and its history is different in Scotland than it is here, but they do have issues and ambitions similar to ours in terms of achieving fully secular education with full equality.

The next stage of the day was policy workshops where the attendees were split into five different groups of about 20+ each and asked to discuss a certain topic with the help of a facilitator. We were asked to come up with objectives and targets on different policy areas that had been pre-published during online registration. The topics for discussion for the day included Education, End of Life, Human Rights, A Vision for post-religious Scotland and Environment.

We then broke for lunch moving back upstairs for a half hour with a very tasty finger food buffet and more chat and opportunity to meet people. I met several celebrants/chaplains during the course of the day – HSS have over 100 currently accredited and many of them were at the conference.

Policy workshops continued after lunch. The purpose of the workshops was to inform HSS policy and activities over the coming year. The executive team will go through all the input including follow up over the coming weeks via the members’ only section of the HSS website to set policy direction and to help focus their efforts through 2016.
Then it was back to the theatre for a presentation by two delegates from Malawi – not something I remember from history lessons, but Scotland and Malawi have something of a shared history in which David Livingstone played a central role. The two delegates told of their very new and very small Association of Secular Humanists (ASH) in Malawi and how their first challenge was witchcraft and witch hunting which is still quite commonplace there. HSS has entered into a partnership with ASH to combat witchcraft related violence in Malawi.

The Keynote Address followed and was given by Prof. Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and one of HSS’s Distinguished Supporters. An author, accomplished magician and advocate for scepticism, Professor Wiseman was highly entertaining, demonstrating how easily fooled we can all be by doing a few magic tricks. I bought a copy of his new book, Night School, after the talk – it deals with his recent research into the science of sleep.

The conference finished at 430 with closing remarks by CEO Gordon MacRae giving some highlights of feedback from the policy workshops and promising to have more information on the members’ area of their website soon.

Those of us who were attending the Gala Dinner that evening re-grouped at 630 in a hotel in Grassmarket about a 20 minute walk away. It was a pleasant stroll through Edinburgh – in the shadow of the castle and up and down over what is curiously called “The Mound” as opposed to a plain old hill. It was formed with earth excavated from the foundations of the New Town and piled up beside the drained Nor Loch which now forms the Princes Street Gardens.

Dinner opened with an address by one of the celebrants, Jennifer Buchan. Jennifer is also a university chaplain not to mention a very talented comic. I’d forgotten just how good Scottish humour can be.

An enjoyable dinner and evening was had by all. I left before most as I had an early flight back to Dublin in time for some catch up on work and family and a HAI board meeting on Monday evening.

I received an extremely warm welcome from everyone I met during the course of the day in Edinburgh and would like to see this visit lead to closer contacts between the HAI and HSS over the years ahead.

Report by Siobhán Walls, Chair HAI.

News Bytes
The appointment of Carl Blackburn as the new CEO of the International Humanist and Ethical Union has been announced.  Carl will be based in the London office and there are more details of his appointment hereFrom The Irish Times
Catholic Church proposes new patronage model for primary schools

Leading Irish artists call for repeal of 8th amendment

From The Guardian
There may be water on Mars, but is there intelligent life on Earth?

Edward Snowden joins Twitter!

From National Secular Society Newsletter
Bangladeshi secular activists remain defiant in face of death threats

Membership Renewals
Members are requested to check their email for notifications of their membership renewals.On-line notifications and renewals are being processed normally, and can be paid via PayPal. Note that you don’t need a PayPal account, just a credit or debit card.

If you’ve been expecting your renewal notification, but it hasn’t arrived … check your spam folder. Failing that, send an email to [email protected]

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].

Local Humanist Groups 
Monthly meetings are 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.Westport
Monthly meetings are 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]

Xmas Celebration – Talent Needed!
The First Sunday Meeting in December is traditionally a social occasion — with goodies. Last year we experimented with a couple of readings and we’d like to build on that, so I invite all members to suggest readings songs, recitations — or anything else. I know there are lots of creative types of all sorts out there, so please get in touch with your ideas, so that we can put a programme together. Alan Tuffery(086 162 6988, [email protected])

Crossword No 15 (Hi! September/October 2015)
If you are one of those people who haven’t a clue how to do cryptic crosswords and you’re interested in finding out how to crack them and the thrill of solving what you thought you couldn’t understand (a very Humanist activity!) – and maybe win a few quid – you may have noticed the ‘How to solve’ tips in the past two issues of Hi! Magazine. 

But you might not yet have spotted that there is even more detailed online help on the HAI website, which specifically helps you to solve every clue in the current Mojo crossword. Go to www.humanism.ie, click on the Community tab, and you will see ‘Hi! Crossword’,  where you find helpful hints for every clue.


Unlike other crosswords, we offer the hints while the crossword is still active – not after the event, in the hope that you might challenge yourself to give it a go. What’s more, there is a €30 or £25 prize for the first correct solution pulled from a hat. Whether you’re a cryptic guru or a beginner, give it a go and enter. You can do it!


The grid is in Hi! magazine. Entries to the address given in Hi! magazine by post by 16th October. Go for it!

– Stranger Mojo

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 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 Irelandhttp://humanism.ie