e-Newsletter November 2015

In this issue:

Report of First Sunday Meeting on 4 October: The Refugee Crisis

The meeting was chaired by Síle Headen and about 50 members and visitors attended. Karen McHugh, CEO of Doras Luimní (an independent, non-profit, NGO working to support and promote the rights of all migrants) addressed the causes and consequences of the crisis while Rónán Ó Dalaigh, Founder of SEDCo examined the meaning of social enterprise and how it may be of relevance.


Persecution, conflict, generalized violence, and human rights violations have now formed a ‘nation of the displaced’ that, if they were a country, would make up the 24th largest in the world. A refugee is a person who is forced to leave their country owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country. Asylum seekers are people seeking recognition as refugees, and are entitled to stay in the State while their application is considered. Granting ‘asylum’ means giving someone permission to remain in another country because of that risk of persecution; seeking asylum is not a crime. While there is a perception that the majority of refugees and asylum seekers come to Europe, this is incorrect. In fact, in 2014, developing countries (including Pakistan, Lebanon and Iran) hosted 86% of the world’s refugees. While more than 289,000 homes lie vacant, Ireland still continues to operate direct provision, a much-criticised profit-driven model where about 4,600 people, including 1,600 children, live in 34 accommodation centres spread across the State. The system prohibits those within it from working or continuing to third-level education and is not subject to independent inspection and monitoring. While much support has been expressed by the people of Ireland, the governmental response has been much more muted with the Irish Refugee Protection Programme accepting only up to 4,000 persons overall under the EU Resettlement and Relocation programmes.  It was noted that relative to other European countries, Ireland is accepting comparatively few Syrian refugees and for many refugees Ireland would not be their first country of choice.


In respect of the refugee crisis, the single biggest contributing factor is conflict over access and use of natural energy sources or fossil fuels. Social enterprise is an independent, transparent and accountable organization whose main purpose is to use its profits to achieve its social mission. The “third sector” (distinguished from the public and private sectors) hosts social businesses whose raison d’être is to contribute in some way to the social good. In the EU, social enterprise now provides 11 million jobs and represents 10% of GDP; indeed one quarter of all new start-ups are social enterprises. Cooperatives are the fastest growing form of enterprise, providing three billion livelihoods (see for example Mondragon, an organization with 80,000 employees). Mazí Mas is a good example of a social enterprise dedicated to supporting women from migrant and refugee communities. They provide opportunities for women who aspire to careers in the food industry to gain paid work experience, develop their skills, tell their stories, and connect with the wider public.


As humanists there are many actions we can take to address the crisis, from simple steps like engaging in social media debates right up to joining or starting social enterprises ourselves. We can query the business models our service providers operate and make responsible consumer choices based on ethical considerations. We can contact our local TDs asking them to advocate for Ireland to take more refugees. Individuals can fund humanitarian agencies working on the ground or even register an offer accommodation or services to refugees through the Irish Red Cross. The dual ideas of setting up a HAI group to assist refugees and also reaching out to those in direct provision through the chaplaincy service were met with a positive and enthusiastic response from members present.


Report by Deirdre Malone

Protest March Against School Discrimination


Roopesh Panicker addressing the crowd


On Sunday 25th October, a march from Dáil Éireann to the Department of Education was organised and led by Roopesh Panicker. Roopesh is an Irish citizen of Indian extraction, a member of HAI since June, who is discriminated against by the Irish State.

After much effort, Roopesh enrolled his daughter Eva in a National School some distance away, having been turned away by 6 other ‘National’ Schools, including their local school.

Roopesh and his family are Hindu, so baptism was out of the question, even though that was suggested to him in a call from the office of the Archbishop.

The march was well attended, with speakers from HAI, Atheist Ireland, Education Equality Alliance, Irish National Schools Trust, and most importantly from Roopesh himself.

Best quote of the day, from Nelson Mandela, via Roopesh: “In the end we must remember that no amount of rules or their enforcement will defeat those who struggle with justice on their side.”

The crowd was around 200, a very good number for a bank-holiday weekend. But we’ll want everyone we can get for the next march in January. We’re aiming for over 1,000 – so that means you!

For those who attended yesterday, the message from HAI is: “Congratulations, from today you are no longer a silent minority”


Fachtna Roe and Terry Flynn supporting the protest at Leinster House

Education Equality Progess Report




















The following is the text of a press release which will be issued at the official launch of the Education Equality Campaign in November: 


Education Equality is a new organisation established to campaign for equality in the provision of education for all children. We are calling for an end to all discrimination in State-funded schools.


We believe that all children should be treated equally regardless of their religion or non-religion. Equal respect for children and for the beliefs of their parents requires equal access to schools regardless of religion, the ability to opt out of religious education, and a curriculum that does not impose the values of one religion on children of different religions or no religion.


We take a human rights based approach to ending discrimination. All citizens have the right to freedom of religion, to non-discrimination and to education under international human rights treaties and under the Irish Constitution. The current education system does not respect these rights of all Irish citizens.

Education Equality aims to procure the removal of Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000 which permits schools to discriminate in their admissions policy, and Rule 68 which imposes an “integrated curriculum” imbued with religious values throughout the school day and makes opting out of religious

indoctrination impossible.


We take a multi-pronged approach to ending discrimination: by political lobbying, through the courts, through the UN treaty bodies, by empowering parents and by encouraging the public to demand change.

News Bytes

From The Irish Times

HAI member, Roopesh Panicker, tells of failure to get a place for his daughter in the local school

Report of protest against religious discrimination in schools organised by Roopesh Panicker

Wesley Boyd gives his view on the Angelus and RTE

From The Guardian

Harriet, Sherwood writes about  Irish parents’ fight for equal access to education: No baptism, no school

Paddy Monahan writes about his campaign and petition to get access to schools for non-religious children


From National Secular Society Newsletter

Baroness O’Neill has warned that there is no way of securing freedom of expression and a right not to be offended.

Meeting with HumaNI and Andrew Copson, BHA and IHEU



Pictured are Mairead Doyle and Síle Headen from the Humanist Association of Ireland at Humani’s October meeting in Belfast. Andrew Copson from the British Humanist Association was the speaker for the evening. The topic was ‘Work of the British Humanist Association and support for Humanism in NI’. An enjoyable evening was had by all.

Chaplaincy News

Accreditation of Chaplain

Ann James, Ex-secretary and chair  as well as first Humanist Chaplain  of the HAI, has recently received accreditation from the BHA (British Humanist Association) in Pastoral Care. Ann now plans to offer her services to hospitals and prisons. On the process and the course, Ann said:

“The course itself was a 2 day event, being accommodated in a hotel. It was a full-on two days but very good, nice people as you’d expect; PowerPoint and talking, role-plays which were good experience. After the trainers, who between them have had years of experience in hospitals or prisons, got together we heard whether we were accredited or not – I was, I’m pleased to say.”

Congratulations to Ann, and best wishes as she ventures out to find an institution in need of her services. We are certain that she will add tremendous value to any organisation.


Chaplaincy Education Programme

Following on from the above, the Chaplaincy committee of the HAI has formed an education subgroup dedicated to the development of an education program to allow the HAI to accredit chaplains. Spearheaded by Robert Sullivan and Willie Collins, this programme will consist of modules in various areas of counselling skills, humanist philosophy and organisational theory. These modules will be chosen based on those offered by different, already existing organisations, and on completion of the program applicants will be equally as qualified as religious chaplains.

This qualification will allow humanist chaplains to be recognised by the Irish government, making them insurable and available for hire as part of state-funded chaplaincy services. The project is in its infancy, however through our new links to the BHA we are extremely excited about this development taking off.


Activity of Chaplains

Joe Armstrong, Huamist Chaplain and celebrant for the HAI, will be contributing in November to two comemoration events for friends and family of deceased patients of Blanchardstown hospital. It is our hope that he will provide comfort and a sense of meaning for these families in their time of need.


Chaplaincy Conference in Utrecht

The HAI and HumaNI will be sending chaplaincy representatives as part of an All-Ireland Humanist delegation to a conference being run by Humanistisch Verbond in the Netherlands between the 18th and 22nd of November, 2015. This is the blurb for the event:

“The Dutch Humanist Association and the University of Humanistic Studies, in cooperation with European Humanist Professionals will be hosting an exchange program on Humanist Chaplaincy at the University for Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

The aim of the conference is to exchange and enhance knowledge on Humanist Chaplaincy and to provide participants with strategic knowledge on how to set up Humanist Chaplaincy within organizations in Health Care, Military and Prisons and other state deparments. Special attention is paid to actually experiencing methodologies and discussing various sources of inspiration.”

The Dutch humanists are highly advanced compared to the Irish and English organisations, so it will be a tremendous honour to learn from their 50 years of experience in promoting secularism and inter-faith cooperation.

– Report by Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services

HAI Stand at the GPO 

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


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.

Teresa reports:

We had a very lively meeting on Wednesday 21stOctober. Fachtna Roe came along to discuss the current campaign which is directed at dropping the requirement for a baptism certificate that some national schools require for enrolment. This was a topic that everybody had strong opinions on. If you want to help with the campaign you will find Paddy Monaghan’s petition on https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_Joint_Oireachtas_SubCommittee_on_Public_Petitions_Equal_school_access_for_unbaptised_children/?pv=17. Our next meeting is on November 18th in the Reference Room at Waterford City Library, Lady Lane, Waterford.


West Cork

Humanists based in West Cork are invited to meet up in Baltimore at 1:30pm on Sunday 15 November. Please email [email protected] for details and directions.



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])

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Xmas Cards

We are so fortunate to have highly talented graphic artists within our membership. Alan Pepper designed our own ‘xmas’ / seasonal card for us, and they are available in packs of 10 with envelopes to our members.




€9 – per pack of 10 cards and envelopes, blank for your own message inside.




We are happy to post them, please contact daf wynne at   [email protected]

First Sunday Meeting 3rd January 2016: A Time of Remembrance

We invite everyone to join us in January to remember in a humanist way those members and friends we have lost.  

Last year’s remembrance meeting was a “healing and positive experience” for those who attended. 

Again we are seeking musicians, singers and speakers to participate. 

If you have any queries, or wish to have anyone particularly remembered please contact Alan Tuffery at email [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 informatio