May 2016 e-Newsletter

In this issue:

First Sunday Meeting 1 May: Shakespeare and Humanism

Report of First Sunday Meeting – 3 April on Campaigns

2016 Census Campaign – We Did It!

Glasnevin Commemoration Ceremony

Centennial Commemoration of the Easter Rising

British Humanist Association Annual Conference 10-12 June

Media Volunteers Needed!

Local Humanist Groups

News Bytes

HAI Stand at the GPO

Contributions from Members

Living Wills and Planning Ahead

First Sunday Meeting 1 May: Shakespeare and Humanism

This year is the 400th since Shakespeare’s death. His ideas and language have permeated English culture as much as texts like the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. His compassion and humour can still touch us all.Brian McClinton has been the face of Humanism in Northern Ireland for many years. For many of us he is best known as the editor of Humanism Ireland, but he is a steady writer of letters on Humanism-related topics to the media in Northern Ireland. He was a schoolteacher and is the author of two other books, The Shakespeare Conspiracies and Ulster’s Third Way.  He has an abiding deep interest in philosophy

Brian McClinton will begin with the Renaissance idea of a ‘Humanist’.  Humanism as a philosophy did not exist as such, but ‘Humanists’ did. How is Renaissance  ‘Humanism’ similar to and perhaps different from our own?

After considering Shakespeare’s attitude to religion —sometime a matter of debate,  Brian will consider Shakespeare’s sceptical brand of humanism. With Shakespeare there are no easy answers to life’s problems. Rather, he asks us to think about them for ourselves. Indeed, the plays are often disguised debates on these issues, but avoid  moralising. Evil is always shown as being avoidable and the ultimate morality is determined by a love of humanity and a balance between self and others.

All are welcome to attend at the Ashling Hotel, Parkgate Street  from 4 pm to 6 pm.

Report of First Sunday Meeting – 3 April on Campaigns

Some of the many topics that were discussed:

– Past & Current Campaigns

– Election Question

– Census 2016 Tick No religion

– Changing the Religion Question on the 2021 Census

– Coalition to Repeal the 8th

– Death With Dignity

– Secular Constitution

– Changing the State Supported Chaplaincy System

The  meeting was chaired by Terry Flynn with more than 50 people in attendance.

The contribution of Síle Headen, Chair of HAI, and Oisín Carey to the 1916 commemoration ceremony in Glasnevin on the same morning was noted. Terry said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had asked for a meeting with Síle Headen and that could be a positive development.

Terry went on to review various posters from HAI campaigns, opposing religious discrimination in schools, the blasphemy laws, questions for political candidates and a YES vote on the Marriage Equality referendum. Audience members suggested the same questions should be put to Seanad candidates.

The current campaign is about the Census on April 24th. The option to tick No Religion is on the form, but not clearly visible. A quarter of a million people ticked it during the census in 2011 and it is important to maximise this figure, because the government use such numbers as factors when formulating public policy. It is important to like and share the campaign on Facebook and members should indicate themselves as Going.

Ailbhe Smyth (pictured left) of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, told us that the coalition has 60 member organisations dedicated to repeal this amendment which dates from 1983. Over 150,000 women have travelled from Ireland to Britain to have a termination since 1980, but such abortions remain illegal in Ireland and the penalty is up to 14 years in jail. Ms Smyth’s address was applauded warmly by the audience.

Nic Johnson spoke on the campaign to change the question about religion on the Census form, which he has been pursuing since 2002, and has got agreement in principle from the CSO that new wording will be used in 2021.

The issue of  Death with Dignity was first raised with Dick Spicer in 1993. More recently, the HAI has moved to the use of the phrase Physician Assisted Suicide. John Halligan, TD, has proposed a Private Bember’s bill on Dying with Dignity. It was noted that Milford Care Centre has agreed to respect patient determinations under the heading Think Ahead.  Physician Assisted Suicide is legal in Oregon, although there has not been much take up there, and there is similar legislation in Holland and Switzerland.

Rónán Ó Dálaigh spoke for Education Equality, which has been established as a separate organisation with a grant of €10,000 from HAI. Section 7.3C allows schools to discriminate on the grounds of religion and there is now a considerable groundswell of opposition to this among parents in Ireland. The campaign has 2,500 followers on Facebook and has been the subject of an article in the New York Times.

Not for the first time at a HAI Meeting, teachers in the audience spoke about the challenge of religious influence and discrimination in schools in the Republic. One spoke of attending a national meeting of science teachers at which a nun said grace before meals. Another said she had seen no sign in her school of the repeal of Rule 68, which had been enacted by the last government.

Willie Collins spoke about the campaign to achieve equal recognition for humanist chaplains. Religious chaplains in Irish hospitals receive a state salary of more than €45,000. . Currently the HAI has 3 qualified chaplains, one of whom , Joe Armstrong, was at the meeting. This year the BHA will train 12 new voluntary chaplains for the HAI, with a view to humanist chaplains being recognised by the HSE in due course.

Fachtna Roe then spoke of the aim of the HAI to achieve a secular state. The word Republic does not occur in Bunreacht na hEireann. So even though the special position of the Catholic Church was repealed in 1973, Fachtna does not feel that we can call ourselves a truly independent republic, as long as public officials such as judges swear allegiance to the ‘higher power’ of a supernatural being.

Arthur Deeny

2016 Census Campaign – We Did It!

The social media campaign to encourage people to tick No religion on the census attracted a huge number of views and generated lots of publicity. These are the statistics for our video on the HAI Facebook page:



185, 565 Reached

Media coverage was both positive and negative – George Hook and Mary Kenny were predictably hostile, but there was plenty of positive coverage as well. Róisín Ingle declared her intention of marking No Religion in her column here in the Irish Times on 23 April, describing it as a peaceful protest against the religious dominance in our education system.

The video packed a powerful message and was very well made – well done Ross Whitaker & James O Callaghan for doing such a great job. Grateful thanks also to everyone who participated in making the video at such short notice.

Video available on YouTube here

Many thanks to the Census 2016 Campaign Team Arthur, Bob, Brian, Daf, Joe, Kilda, Maeve, Mairead, Niamh, Nic, Sharon and Terry.

Glasnevin Commemoration Ceremony

The Department of the Taoiseach in conjunction with the Glasnevin Trust organised an Interfaith Service at the Remembrance Wall, Glasnevin Cemetery on April 3rd 2016.

This event was held to commemorate those who died in the Easter Rising 1916. The Remembrance Wall lists the names in alphabetical order of all those known to have been killed in the Rising. The programme stated: Of the 488 who were killed, 55% were civilians, 24% were British army soldiers, 16% were insurgents and 5% were policemen. A number of the policemen and soldiers who died were Irish.

This event was headed by the Taoiseach and attended by members of current and past Governments, members of the diplomatic corps and invited guests.

The ceremony opened with an invitation by the Taoiseach to Representatives from the Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths to lead in an act of commemoration, each according to their own tradition; followed by a reflection from the Humanist Association of Ireland.  A musical interlude followed the offering of prayers by the faith representatives after which the HAI provided its reflections. Síle Headen, Chair of the HAI representing the Humanist Chaplaincy, and HAI member Oisin Carey spoke for the HAI.

The text of the reflection read by Síle:

We, the Humanist Association of Ireland, join here in a common purpose to remember the events of the 1916 Rising.
We commemorate all those who lost their lives and otherwise were caught-up in the turmoil of this event.
Their sacrifices and vision shaped a new Ireland based on the ideals of peace, liberty, tolerance, justice and equality for all regardless of religion or beliefs.
All of us are the beneficiaries of that vision.
We have come here to offer prayers and reflection to inspire us to continue the commitment to that vision.
We can make that commitment based on our common humanity.

And the following was read by Oisín:

The Humanist Association of Ireland stands together with these religious representatives to reaffirm the commitments made by the Irish rebel forces in the year 1916.
These brave men and women stood, as we here do today, for the protection of the most basic of human rights:
freedom and control of one’s own destiny, civil liberty, gender and class equality.
We acknowledge the responsibility of Irish society to continue this brave tradition of moral progress, and to ensure the rights of people of any religious tradition, and the people who live without religion.
We stand together now as a single Irish people, united by the flag of our country, the Republic of Ireland.

– Report by Nicolas Johnson

Centennial Commemoration of the Easter Rising

At the invitation of the Taoiseach’s office I represented the HAI and Humanist Chaplaincy on Easter Sunday 2016 at the centennial commemoration of the Easter Rising.The noon-time event consisted of a remembrance ceremony followed by a parade of the Defence Forces. I was assigned a seat in the row reserved for ‘Faith Representatives.’  The first two seats in the row were reserved for Archbishop Michael Jackson of the Church of Ireland and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of the Roman Catholic Church.

One part of the ceremony of interest to HAI members consisted of a Prayer of Remembrance read by the Head Chaplaincy of the Defence Forces, Fr. Séamus Madigan, shown in picture beneath:

The evening event consisted of a State Reception for President Michael D. Higgins at Dublin Castle. When the opportunity came to introduce myself to him, I mentioned I was representing the Humanist Association of Ireland. He acknowledged with a nod and smile.

Within the throng of people at the reception I recognised Fr. Madigan and approached him again. He remembered he had posed for a photo with me earlier in the day. I introduced myself as Director of Chaplaincy Services of the Humanist Association of Ireland. In conversation I asked whether he would be available to meet with us sometime to discuss the chaplaincy services offered by his office. He graciously accepted the suggestion and said he looked forward to it.

Later in the evening I chose at random a military officer to approach for the purpose of engaging in general conversation. We covered various light topics such as the role of the Defence Forces as peace keepers, my reason for coming to live in Ireland, and his being born in the US.  The officer, of course, knew Fr. Madigan. He stated he himself was responsible for the support staff functions which by implication included chaplaincy services. I informed him I had just spoken to Fr. Madigan and that he was open to meet with me on chaplaincy services. He took well to that and expressed interest in the outcome of that meeting. He then offered me his business card. He is Kevin Cotter, Major General, Deputy Chief of Staff (Support).

Report by Nicolas Johnson

British Humanist Association Annual Conference 10-12 June

The BHA is holding its Annual Conference in Birmingham from 10 – 12 June.  Details of the programme can be found hereSpeakers include Polly Toynbee, Alice Roberts and Peter Tatchell – pictured leftThe BHA is promoting its new ‘Conference Extra’ category of tickets which cost £79 (or £49 for students)

Media Volunteers Needed!

The HAI Media and Publicity Group are seeking members with experience in Journalism, Public Relations, Design and Digital Communications to give us a hand with growing the profíle of the Association. This is a new group within the HAI and we hope to meet up next month to see how we can all work together.

Humanism is a fast growing movement in Ireland today and increasingly it is encountering pushback from the religious and cutltural establishment. Can you help us to state our case? Do you understand how to get the right kind of publicity? Are you passionate enough to make things happen and patient enough to cooperate with others? All genuine team players please take one step forward.

Please contact

Arthur Deeny, Director with responsibility for Media and Publicity at [email protected]

Local Humanist Groups

Cork Humanists meet on the First Tuesday of the month in the Bar BOQ, Bridge Street, Cork at 7.30 pm.  Details are also on or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.Humanists West serve Galway and surrounding areas, and 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.

Kilkenny plus members from Laois, Offaly, Carlow, and Kildare meet on the second Friday of the month at 8.00 p.m. in The Bróg Maker, Castlecomer Road, Kilkenny.    Contact Fachtna Roe on [email protected] for further details.  Please note change of location!

Mid-West Humanists 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 For more information contact Peter O’Hara on 086 8155102 or email [email protected].

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.
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.
South Dublin Humanist Community meets on the third Monday of every month in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire at 7.30 pm for an 8.00 pm start. Further details from Brian Whiteside at  [email protected] or phone 086-384 8940.

Waterford Humanists meet 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 further details.

West Cork Humanists are meeting next on Sunday, 22 May.  Please email  [email protected] to register your attendance and for venue details.

Westport Humanists meet 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.

News Bytes

On the Census: Irish Times

Donald Clarke says stop with the bearing of false witness already!

Róisín Ingle on ticking the No Religion box

Census 2016 will get religion all wrong, says Richard O’Leary

On the spate of killings of gay activists and other human rights campaigners in Bangladesh

National Secular Society (UK)

Bangladeshi government called to act over killings and defend free speech

Gay activist killed in Bangladesh

HAI Stand at the GPO 

The next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on Saturday, 21 May 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 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 or contact Daphne Wynne, 01 2802879, for further information.




Humanist Association of Ireland  •  34B Royal Terrace West  •  Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Ireland
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