April 2016 Newsletter

In this issue:

– Report of First Sunday Meeting – 6 March: Altruism in Action – Donating Your Body to Medical Science
– First Sunday Meeting – 3 April: HAI Campaigns
– Humanist Volunteer Chaplaincy – Are You Interested?
– Tick “No Religion” – 2016 Census Campaign
– Local Humanist Groups – they’re multiplying!
– 5 Year Strategic Plan
– News Bytes
– Chaplaincy News
– HAI Stand at the GPO
– Contributions from Members
– Living Wills and Planning Ahead

Report of First Sunday Meeting – 6 March: Altruism in Action – Donating Your Body to Medical Science

A large group at today’s meeting listened attentively to a most interesting talk from Siobhan Ward and Philomena McAteer from Trinity College Dublin.

The dissection of actual human bodies is essential in the process of medical education, although the means by which this has happened in the past was at best grim and at worst criminal. Today in Trinity College Dublin, RSCI, UCD, UCC and NUI Galway, students learn from their “silent teacher and first patient”. The donor and their relatives are treated with the utmost respect and care.

At the forefront of care for donor families, the team in the Anatomy School of Trinity has developed procedures to help the family to grieve with dignity and with compassion.

The donor has decided against the usual death rituals and to use their body for the common good. There are several conditions the donor must fulfil. They must be over 18 years old, they must give consent themselves not through a third party, (mentioning in your will is not sufficient) and they must register with a school of anatomy which will decide whether to accept their body when they die. There are many reasons a body will not be accepted, for example if the person dies far from Ireland then practically the body will be too decayed by the time it gets back. If storage for the body is not available, if there was a post-mortem, or if there was a huge traumatic injury then the body would not be used. (The essential purpose is to teach students what a normal body looks like, ordinary causes of death are expected.) Naturally, if the organs of the deceased person can be used by a living person via organ donation, that takes priority.

Twelve donors are used each year to teach students from a range of disciplines in medicine. In May of each year these bodies are buried or cremated as desired by their registration and their relatives. It is essential that families of donors know of their wishes before they die.

Questions raised by the audience included:

  • Q. Do the various schools of anatomy have problems with getting enough bodies? A. No, there is a plentiful supply at present and there are sharing arrangements between the schools.
  • Q. Are bodies used for teaching or research? A. Both, mainly teaching.
  • Q. Is there a gender balance? A. It’s fairly even, slightly more women.
  • Q. Can I be on the organ donation register and on the register to donate my body? A. Yes, certainly. To have your organs used by another living person you practically need to die on life support in a hospital. If organs can be used to benefit a patient this takes priority over using your body for education.
  • Q. How does the body end up in the anatomy school? A. This is a good question, it is essential that your GP, family or the staff in your care home know of your wishes, otherwise your wishes cannot be carried out. The anatomy school will arrange for an undertaker to move the body. Look for the “Think Ahead” document from the Irish Hospice Foundation. http://hospicefoundation.ie/supporting/wayswesupport/think-ahead-planning-for-death-dying/
  • Q. Do all the colleges have the same arrangements? A. All of the schools of anatomy have different donor-support plans. Trinity has been recognized as a centre of excellence.
  • Q. Is there any chance that a student might recognize any of the donors? A. Siobhan and Philomena check with the students to make sure this doesn’t happen.
  • Q. Have there been any useful findings from donations in Ireland? A. Most of the work is aimed at teaching, however there has been some research done on knee ligaments.

A poem written by a medical student.

You came to take me for a walk with you.
I was afraid at first
to meet you,
to take your hand.
I pretended you were here
to teach me the details –
muscles, arteries, nerves –
and I held on tight.

Then I saw your face,
And I knew
You came to take me for a walk with you –
on the edge
you on one side,
me on the other,
we are only one breath apart.

Nancy Long, U Mass, Class of 1995




– Report by Peter Deeney

First Sunday Meeting – 3 April: HAI Campaigns

The April First Sunday Meeting will be a Forum on the HAI campaigns and other areas of our work.  Fuller details will be outlined soon. – See more at: http://humanism.ie/events/monthly-meetings/#sthash.HG30OAX1.dpuf

This meeting will be a forum on HAI campaigns and other areas of our work.

All are welcome to the Ashling Hotel from 4.00 to 6.00 pm this Sunday, April 3rd.

Programme of Topics and Discussions:
– Past & Current Campaigns
– Election Question
– Census 2016 Tick No religion
– Coalition to Repeal the 8th
– Changing the Religion Question on the 2021 Census
– Death With Dignity
– Secular Constitution
– Changing the State Supported Chaplaincy System

The April First Sunday Meeting will be a Forum on the HAI campaigns and other areas of our work.  Fuller details will be outlined soon. – See more at: http://humanism.ie/events/monthly-meetings/#sthash.HG30OAX1.dpuf

Humanist Volunteer Chaplaincy – Are You Interested?

Are you interested in training as a Humanist Volunteer Chaplain?The HAI Chaplaincy Committee is preparing to train a number of Volunteer Chaplains to respond to the need for humanist pastoral care in hospitals, universities, prisons and other places where Chaplaincy services are requested.

The Workshop
The half day workshop will detail the training proposed and the support and commitment required to fulfil these roles. People who want to attend this initial short workshop will need to have enthusiasm both for being good and doing good, a committed interest in our fellow human beings, and a passion for providing kind, attentive support to those in need.

Once interest has been established, the first training programme will be arranged to train volunteers formally in the basic skills needed for chaplaincy work. When the first training programme has been completed, the HAI Chaplaincy Committee will begin to develop further training supports to our Chaplaincy Volunteers to develop their skillset and improve our services, with specific training for the different areas people want to work in.

Where Do I Sign Up?
In order to progress this plan we are arranging a half day workshop for those who have an interest in training or supporting this service within the organisation. If you wish to attend this workshop please send a brief email to [email protected] and we will contact you with details of the time and venue.

The Chaplaincy Committee of the Humanist Association of Ireland are proud to launch our first altruistic, humanist service for the general public. We can’t wait to get started.

Tick “No Religion” – 2016 Census Campaign

We have launched our Tick “No Religion” 2016 Census Campaign on social media.

If you are on Facebook or Twitter please Like and Share and Re-tweet – Spread the Word, Raise Awareness!

Local Humanist Groups – they’re multiplying!

South Dublin Humanist Community

The next meeting will be held on 18th April at the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire at 7.30 pm  for an 8.00 pm start. The topic is Should Humanists Be Green? with speaker Councillor Ossian Smyth of the Green Party.   A contribution of €5 is requested on the night to cover the cost of the room.  Please email or text Brian Whiteside if you plan to attend as he needs to manage numbers. Contact:  [email protected] 086-384 8940.

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.

West Cork

For details of the next meeting and to register your attendance please email [email protected]

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 have changed their meeting place to Café Paradiso @Carrick Cineplex (behind Supermac’s), Sligo Road,Carrick on Shannon,Co. Roscommon.

The meeting time has been slightly extended, now 2.30pm to 5pm, still on the third Sunday of every month. The new venue is comfortable and quiet, with quality tea, coffee, snacks (including popcorn!) and a selection of wines. It is closer to the train station than the town-centre. For more information, directions and enquiries, please e-mail [email protected], text or phone 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 Kilford Arms, John Street, Kilkenny.  Contact Fachtna Roe on [email protected] for further details.  Please note change of location!

Details of Cork Humanists’ meetings are on http://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892. The next meeting of the Cork Group will be held on 5 April in the Bar BOQ, Bridge Street, Cork at 7.30 pm.

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.

5 Year Strategic Plan

After several months of active engagement by you, the members of HAI, not to mention some blood, sweat and tears, we launched our 5 Year Strategic Plan at the First Sunday Meeting in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin on March 6th..

Outgoing Chair, Siobhán Walls, explained that the plan was born out of a recognition that we are in a new phase that is characterised by a growing awareness of humanism in Irish society, a dramatic increase in demand for our ceremonies and in membership numbers, together with a new generation of enthusiastic HAI volunteers dedicated to advancing humanism in Ireland.

The intention is to grow and develop the humanist community in Ireland. This will be achieved by increasing our services in celebrancy and pastoral care; educating people about humanism; and promoting awareness of humanist issues through our work and campaigns. Good governance and organisational structures will be put in place to help achieve these goals.

The strategic plan will serve as a framework to support and enhance our growth between 2016 and 2021.

To read and/or download the full text of the 5 Year Strategic Plan click here.

News Bytes

Irish Examiner
Historian Diarmaid Ferriter has criticised the ‘baptism barrier’ in Irish national schools, calling it a dark stain on the country’s conscience.Irish Times
Two Humanist Weddings:A former Christian brother meets his future husband at Alternative Miss Ireland

Meeting in Yamamori and a first date in Bewleys

and from Paddy Monahan on the Letters Page…

Equal school access and the Proclamation


‘What is your religion?’ People are being urged to think hard about that come census night

National Secular Society (UK)
Educate Together awarded ‘Secularist of the Year’ prize

Chaplaincy News

The Chaplaincy Committee have been co-ordinating for several months with Humanist groups internationally, from HumaNI to the British Humanist Association to the University for Humanistic Studies in the Netherlands. There are now plans for Ireland’s first Humanist Chaplaincy Volunteer progamme, where volunteer Chaplains trained by the HAI will begin to provide services to the non-religious in institutions across Ireland. Our hope is to have volunteers in universities and colleges, hospitals, prisons, and potentially the army. A workshop is being organised in the near future for HAI members to express their interest in joining this programme.To assist in our attempts to access the non-religious in Irish institutions, the Chaplaincy Committee continue to attend meetings with the HSE. In recent times we have opened up a dialogue with the Irish Prison Services to begin the process of developing ties to prisoners who do not wish to identify with a religion. This dialogue is ongoing, but our hope is to someday begin visiting prisoners to offer our services to them.

A member of the HAI, Joe Rigby, is co-ordinating with the Chaplaincy Committee to develop a Parents Humanist Group that will meet in the Dublin region. The proposal has been approved at Board level, and soon an announcement of the time and location of the first monthly meeting of the group will be sent out, along with contact information for the organisers and social media connections for a Facebook group.  Issues covered will be school access, not baptising your children, moral upbringing without religion and much more!

The Chaplaincy Committee are always on the lookout for ways to help set up support groups for members of the HAI, providing resources and contacts to people who have good ideas. If you want to get involved in the Volunteer Chaplaincy, the contact details are given in the announcement, and if you are interested in other Chaplaincy activities or helping with planning be sure to either send us an email at [email protected]  or else meet one of us at a First Sunday Meeting.

– Oisín Carey

HAI Stand at the GPO 

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

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 and Planning Ahead

Planning AheadThe Irish Hospice Foundation has a comprehensive website http://www.thinkahead.ie/ which guides members of the public in discussing and recording their preferences in the event of emergency, serious illness and death.

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 Irelandhttp://humanism.ie