July 2016 e-Newsletter

July e-NewsIn this issue:

– Education Equality: Gathering for Change on 3 July
– Why Science Has Made Humanism Inevitable and Desirable – First Sunday Meeting 3 July
– All-Ireland Summer School 26-28 August
– HAI at Dublin Pride
– Report of First Sunday Meeting 5 June: Coding, Kids and Creativity
– Quarterly Conference of Regional Groups
– Meeting of Northside Community Group
– World Humanist Day 21 June
– The Humanist Response to Brexit
– The New Dáil Follows the Humanist Agenda
– Local Humanist Groups
– South Dublin Humanist Community Party on World Humanist Day
– Media and Publicity Group
– HAI Stand at the GPO
– News Bytes
– Back Issues
– Contributions from Members


Education Equality: Gathering for Change on 3 July
You will have received a message from HAI Chair Síle Headen about this event recently.  The Education Equality: Gathering for Change will take place on Sunday 3rd July and I really hope that you will play a big part in making it a big success. This is our chance to show the new government that a huge number of people want equal access to education and equal respect at school for all children.This event is all about you: you, me, us – all of us who are affected by discrimination in our education system whether in the past, the future, right now or simply by living in a society that doesn’t treat all children equally. The impact of the Gathering for Change depends on us getting massive numbers out on the 3rd.The details:
When: Sunday 3rd July at 12 midday
Where: meeting at the corner of Stephen’s Green nearest Baggot Street at the Wolfe Tone statute (photo illustrates). Processing to Leinster House, Kildare Street entrance

At Leinster House, we’ll hear some very short speeches, mainly from parents, and we’ll gather children’s handprints to give to Richard Bruton to ask him to protect their rights.

This is a family-friendly event with a positive focus on equality and celebration of diversity. All are welcome, young and old, babies and grannies!

What can you do?

Our members are absolutely essential to make the Gathering for Change a success.

  • Click “Going” on the Facebook event and share it everywhere on Facebook & Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/events/1179015945493426/
  • Bring 10 people with you. If every single one of our members comes and brings 10 along, we’ll have over 4000! Especially, bring your children.
  • If you can fill a busload from anywhere in the country, we’ll help subsidize it!  Can you round up 10 or 20 people from your area who’ll stand with us?
  • Tell everyone you know about the Gathering, especially people with large followings that you know.
  • Bring colour!  Get creative with placards, face paint, t shirts… We’ll have some t-shirts, signs and badges to share around, but we really need you to make your own to add to them. We’ll send around a printable sign that you can print out on stick on card soon, but the more creative you and your children can get, the better.
  • Bring a balloon on a stick
  • Ask your local politicians to come
  • Bring your child’s handprint in colourful paint on a page to hold up in the crowd. At the end we’ll gather them all up to give to Minister Richard Bruton.

    Terry Flynn

Why Science Has Made Humanism Inevitable and Desirable – First Sunday Meeting 3 July

David McConnell is giving a talk for the First Sunday Meeting on 3 July.

The crucial achievement of humanism has been to debunk the idea of the supernatural and this we owe to science.

Modern humanism emerged during the Renaissance with the rediscovery of the ideas of ancient Greece and Rome. Gradually art, literature and science were liberated from the control of the Church. The most decisive break occurred when Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton showed that the Earth orbited the Sun and not vice versa, and establishied the scientific method as the only reliable method of finding objective truths about the natural world. By the end of the 17th century the question became not whether science conformed to religion but whether religion conformed to science.

The new science depended on free exchange of ideas, tolerance of differences and the resolution of differences by rigorous rational discussion based on evidence. Science proved the value of freedom of thought opening the way for humanism  and what we call democracy, in which religion  has little or no influence. In the West it is now generally accepted that people are entirely responsible for the conduct of their affairs. That is what we mean by humanism, leaving no role for the supernatural.

The challenges for us now are to explain humanism and to make the fundamental principles of humanism better known; to show that humanism, unlike atheism, has a positive commitment to strengthening the ethical core of our society. Science and humanism are natural allies in meeting these challenges.

David McConnell is well known to HAI members as the Honorary President of HAI and the Chair of the Darwin Day lectures.

A life-long humanist, David was Professor of Genetics in Trinity College, Dublin, where he oversaw the huge advances made in that discipline over the last 50 years.  He has written and spoken widely on humanist and scientific values.  Among his public roles, he was Chairman of the Irish Times Trust and of the Adelaide Hospital.  He has recently been elected a Pro-Chancellor of Dublin University

HAI President, David McConnell

All-Ireland Summer School 26-28 August

The theme for this year is Climate Change.

The information listed below is a preliminary sketch of what will be a wonderful few days in Carlingford.  Nearer the date, we will confirm speakers and workshops.
Global warming may not sound too bad, but climate chaos is in fact a more apt description of our future, and the chaos is unlikely to stop at climate.

This year the All Ireland Summer School will focus on Humanism and Climate Change and discuss how we can expect increasing conflicts over diminishing resources such as oil, land and water, escalating extinctions of wildlife, more frequent humanitarian disasters, and mass migrations of refugees from areas where food crops no longer grow.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • John Barry, Professor of Green Political Economy, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at QUB will speak on Climate Justice
  • Eamon McCann, Journalist and Author, campaigner for social justice will speak on Paths to Sustainability
  • Duncan Stewart, Award-winning Architect and Television Producer, has been a leading Irish advocate for environmental, health and conservation issues for over 40 years.

The dates are Friday night, Saturday and-Sunday morning, of 26th-28th August 2016.  We meet informally on the Friday night in the Carlingford Arms, then on Saturday and Sunday until lunchtime in the Heritage Centre, at the foot of Slieve Foy, the highest peak on Carlingford Mountain.

Ticket Price is €30 for Saturday and €15 for Sunday

On Saturday night we have a dinner and entertainment. If you wish to attend the dinner, the cost is €30.00

If you plan to come for two or three nights, it is important to book accommodation early. http://carlingfordandmourne.com/carlingford/where-to-stay

Paypal will be available on the website nearer the time or you can send a cheque for the amount, payable to Humanist Association of Ireland.

Report of First Sunday Meeting 5 June: Coding, Kids and Creativity
Fachtna Roe gave an inspiring talk to an attentive group on the bank holiday weekend. He surprised many by reminding us that pen and paper are  part of information technology.What separates us from other animals? It’s not our physical strength, emotions or use of tools. It’s our ability to access data. That is, our ability to store information beyond a few generations and the ability to teach people we don’t physically meet. This means that we don’t have to invent all the knowledge we need. The use of writing allows us to build on previous research and ideas.The spread of information threatens the established power. Hence all the bother from printed copies of the bible to Wikileaks. The ideal is to teach people to teach themselves and they’ll be free thinkers.

Computers are incredibly stupid, they do exactly what they’re told. The process of learning how to code is one of learning from mistakes; being wrong is the normal state of affairs. The teacher is not the all-knowing “sage on the stage” but a fellow.  Fachtna said that he is pleasantly surprised by the ingenuity of students and the way they solve problems. When they learn coding it is the student who learns, it is not usually the teacher who teaches.  The student is not an object but an agent.

Kids can code from perhaps 7 year olds and older. Once they have the basics they do not need to turn up in a classroom or a school to code. They naturally help each other and learn by themselves. Coding is not a formal subject on the Leaving Certificate but It could fit along with another subject or get its own certification. It would sit well alongside languages rather than maths. Programmers need the basics of maths but the computer is a calculator so it can do all that sort of thing for you. Part of the difficulty today in computer use is that people get used to using a computer but not knowing how it works. They do not get the chance to be creative with it. Reacting to social media or to games is not the same as being creative. A basic Raspberry Pi computer about the size of a large box of matches with plugs for internet, screen and keyboard costs about €50. That won’t bankrupt the country.

Report by Peter Deeney


HAI at Dublin Pride

left to right: Arthur Deeny, Kilda Taylor, Terry Flynn and Barry O’Mahony

The HAI inaugural appearance at Dublin Pride was complete with placards, Rainbow flags, face paint & specially commissioned Happy human rainbow ribbons. Our modest contingent of enthusiastic LGBTQ allies and supporters from the HAI got an enthusiastic reception from the good-humoured and colourful crowds which lined the streets and other parade participants gave us a thumbs-up of recognition and support.

While the atmosphere was joyous and celebratory, the 49 people shot dead in a gay club in Orlando earlier this month were remembered on banners and flags.  It was heartening to hear Minister Katherine Zappone announce that the Department of  Children and Youth Affairs will lead the development of Ireland’s first national LGBT strategy for young people.

Many thanks to Arthur, Barry, Daf, Kilda & Terry for their great Team effort to make this first an annual event. See you at Pride 2017!

Quarterly Conference of Regional Groups

left to right: Garry O’Lochlainn (Galway), Peter Doran (Waterford), Síle Headen (Chair, HAI Board of Directors), Joyce Cavalleros (North Coast), Graham Dolan (Galway), Charlie Clarke (Cork), Fachtna Roe (Director of Membership & Community, HAI Board), John Byrne (Kilkenny), Dominic Moore (Cork), Peadar Conroy (Galway), Valerie Gliffe (Kilkenny), Carole Castles (Humani), Séamus O’Connell (Westport), Keith Johnston (North Coast), Caroline Clarke-Browne (Mid-West/Limerick), Peter O’Hara (Mid West/Limerick). Photograph kindly taken by Ruth Healy (Westport)The inaugural Quarterly Conference of regional groups was held in the Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise, on the afternoon of Saturday 25th June. The conference objective was to commence the implementation of the Strategic Plan.Most existing local groups were represented, from all four provinces of the island. Each group was invited to send two representatives, one of whom would ideally be the group convener. Written contributions were received from some absent.The conference dealt with fundamental issues, such as considerations of geographical division and organisation, as well as guides for new groups, supports for existing groups, considerations for the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between groups and the Association at National level etc. A steering ‘committee’ of three consisting of Peter O’Hara (Mid-West/Limerick), Charlie Clarke (Cork) and Fachtna Roe (HAI Board) was selected to assist with moving forward the implementation of the Strategic Plan and the organisation of the next conference. The terms of the MOU will be drafted by Caroline Clarke-Browne (Mid-West/Limerick), Garry O’Lochlainn (Galway), Peter O’Hara (Mid-West/Limerick), Séamus O’Connell (Westport) and Fachtna Roe (HAI Board).The suggestions of the conference will be collated and circulated in due course, and it is hoped that by the next conference in September that much of the ground-work now laid will be codified and ready for adoption, though some items such as new members packs, and guides for new groups may take longer. Proposals arising will be placed before the Board.A heartfelt ‘thank you’ is expressed to those who gave of their time to travel, attend, and participate in a process that will create a stronger sense of community, as well as facilitate the strengthening of our Association during this period of unprecedented growth in membership numbers.

As of writing, the Humanist Association of Ireland has 1,212 fully paid-up members.

Meeting of Northside Humanist Community Group

left to right: Ann Gannon, Sally O’Kelly, Lorraine Cooke, Andrina Monaghan, Siobhán Walls, Adrienne Harrington and Emma Sides.  Absent from the picture: Catherine O’Kelly and Fachtna Roe
Delighted with the inaugural meeting of the North Dublin Humanist Community! We had a lovely evening and have lots of ideas for future meetings ranging from book club and board games, a visit to the Casino at Marino, and a guided walk on Howth Hill. Thanks to everyone who came out and looking forward to meeting more HAI members at future meetings.
– Emma Sides
World Humanist Day 21 June
This year HAI operated an information table outside the GPO in Dublin to mark the passing of the day. As Ireland has a long tradition of recognition of the solstices since long, long before Christ, it is therefore an extra appropriate day for us to mark World Humanist Day.The significance of the solstices is recognised in the Roman religion also, and it is widely held that the date for Christmas was chosen by the early church as part of Rome’s well-accepted policy of assimilation of existing cultural events, contributing to the success of that empire in consuming those other cultures and civilisations.
Our information table was operated by Fachtna Roe, Director of Membership & Community, and visited by numerous HAI members (thanks for the visits, company, and the fruit!) and passers-by. As is usual for an information table, most members of the public were welcoming of it, with only one axe-grinder of note.

The most entertaining visitor was one Nancy from Canada, who rushed up and hugged me saying “how wonderful to see you here. I’ve just been on one of your weekend courses”. She mistook the stand for one from Human Awareness International. The day would have ended differently indeed had I known what that HAI was at the time.  The most sincere and genuine was the woman who, on the question of whether Jesus (the inspiration of whom had hugely improved her life) was the son of god, happily accepted when that question was gently answered by the response: “I’m OK with Jesus. If Jesus was here now I suspect he and I would get on just fine, considering he worked with wood and I’m a vocational teacher who builds stuff. But as for him being son of god, then ‘which god?’, and how do you know that I’m not a god, and that you’re not a god?”. We shook hands as she departed. QED.

You can read more about World Humanist Day here

It is expected that HAI will organise more significantly for
World Humanist Day 2017.

– Fachtna Roe

Operating the information pumps: Arthur Deeny and Fachtna Roe

The Humanist Response to Brexit
When considering the political, economic and social challenge of Brexit, it’s instructive to view it from the perspective of the British Humanist Association. It may surprise you to learn that the BHA are as evenly divided as the British electorate on this crucial issue, as you can see here That’s because Humanism is a philosophy, not a political tendency.From an Irish perspective the Brexiters can appear incomprehensible. Were the English fired by the spirit of Magna Carta to strike a blow for freedom or just anxious about the influx of immigrants? Were the campaigners honest people of principle or unscrupulous exploiters of short term political advantage? Either way they have landed themselves and us in a right pickle.There is certainly a spirit of rebellion in the air in these islands. The British Labour Party is rebelling against its own members. And here the row over water charges rumbles on. Certainly there seems to be disconnect between the governed and their government. And underneath it all there is a decidedly nasty undercurrent of xenophobia, from opposition to foreign owners to resentment of foreign workers and their cultures.

Of course I have a political theory about both issues. It’s about austerity and political neglect of huge areas in both our countries and of course the constant drip drip of poison into the minds of so much of the electorate from manipulative media barons. That’s because I take a  socialist view, politically.

But Humanism as a philosophy takes a broader, kinder view of such transient squabbles. It’s one we’d all do well to reflect on at times such as these. Notwithstanding all the monstrous evil which men and women have perpetrated over the course of our history, human development continues apace. We share this third rock from the sun with more and more fascinating people in more and more fascinating ways. We are constantly expanding the definition of what it means to be human. There was a time when it excluded other races. There will come a time when it will include what we now think of as artificial life.

A hundred years ago the life of Jo Cox, a confident independent woman and a wife and mother, who rose from an ordinary background to take her place among the counsels of her nation, would have been unthinkable. And the just and reasonable treatment of her murderer, free from the threat of capital punishment, that too would have been unthinkable. We owe it to Jo’s children to keep in mind that humanist perspective, the one that looks forward and not back.

And we owe it to our neighbours to respect their decisions, and the leaders they choose, in the name of our common humanity. And yes, that does mean Boris. I guess we’re going to have to expand our definition of what it means to be human just a little bit more.

– Arthur Deeny

Jo Cox, MP

The New Dáil Follows the Humanist Agenda
Socially progressive legislation in Ireland was at one time described as following ‘The Liberal Agenda’. Today it is Humanism that is setting the course, through the campaigns initiated and supported by the HAI. In response to pressure from Equate, Education Equality and the Humanist Association of Ireland, the Labour Party is proposing to introduce a School Admissions Bill, to combat religious exclusion. And next week Mick Wallace will propose a Bill to allow for termination of pregnancy in the case of fatal foetal abnormality.

Mick Wallace, TD

While the Labour proposal does not go nearly far enough to challenge the power of the churches, and Wallace’s bill goes too far for the current state of the constitution, previous to a repeal of the 8th amendment, they are both well-meaning responses to the demand from humanists to deliver a more secular society in Ireland.

The Board of the HAI will shortly announce its decision to join the Coalition to Repeal the 8th. This follows on from our campaign during the recent elections to challenge candidates on the doorsteps on their stance on Women’s Rights. We circulated questionnaires that, among other issues, demanded to know just where politicians stood on the campaign to Repeal the 8th. Mick Wallace is effectively repeating a demand Clare Daly made last year. On that occasion her proposal attracted the support of 20 TDs. It will be interesting to see how many TDs, including some who sit on the government benches, can bring themselves to vote Tá this time .

At the same time, the Labour Bill presents a far more muted challenge to the status quo. It is proposed that when a denominational school accepts State funding, it must accept that aid is not given unconditionally. It must be prepared to accept pupils from other denominations or none, and to have separate secular and religious instruction. And such schools can have a preferential admission policy only if it is proved that the policy is essential in order to ensure reasonable access to education for the children of that denomination within its catchment area.

So this would do nothing to reduce the proportion of religiously controlled schools, now at 90%, and it would still accept the principle of religious discrimination, so long as certain conditions are met. But it is another ‘straw in the wind’ of change that is blowing through the Dail. The so called New Politics offers new opportunities for social change and gives new hope in the face of the increasing demand from humanists to live their lives free from the shackles of religious dogma. Never feel your efforts are wasted on the desert air. Drops of water hollow out a stone.

Arthur Deeny

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 onhttp://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ 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 www.midwesthumanists.com. 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 Dublin Humanist Community: please email [email protected] for details of meetings.

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 usually 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, but is taking a break for the summer!  We will resume meeting in September.  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:  Please email  [email protected] for details of the next meeting.

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.


South Dublin Humanist Community Party on World Humanist Day
To celebrate World Humanist day on June 21st, the South Dublin Humanist Community held a party. To be specific, Brian Whiteside opened his home and laid on food and refreshments for all on production of a tenner. On a fine evening there was a good turnout from the surrounding area as far south as Bray, in the shape of Dick and Annie Spicer, and near neighbours like Kilda Taylor and Daphne Wynne. The new Media and Publicity group was represented by Shona Weymes and Evelyn Cusack lent the event a touch of TV glamour, while the host sported a pair of suitably casual shorts. The charming garden was looking its best and all agreed it was a grand night and the drink never ran out. For next year, the Board of HAI is determined to have a much bigger public event to celebrate World Humanist Day. If it will be half as much fun as this party, it will be a day to remember.

Skeleton Staff at the Humanist Garden Party

Media and Publicity Group

Volunteers have come forward in response to the call for people to
get involved in shaping the public profile of humanism in Ireland. These include Steve Rawson, a vastly experienced PR professional, Shona Weymes, actress and feminist, Gerry Wilson, who for years was The Voice of RTE Announcements, Aine Crawley, a charity worker and Barry O’Mahony, a producer and presenter on http://www.charityradio.ie/charityradio.ie .
We meet in the Gresham hotel each month to discuss coordination of press releases, interviews, media training, charity activities, membership events and the production of podcasts on issues of importance to humanists. Watch this space for details or, better still, get involved yourself by emailing [email protected]

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


News Bytes

HAI member Rob Sadlier has been busy in the media recently – see his piece We Gave Our Schools and Never Got Them Back  in the Irish Independent here and his letter to the Irish Times on freedom of educational choice here


Back issues

Back issues from January 2014 can be found on the website here here, but do not include Board reports or other material specific to members.  If you want a members’ back issue, please contact the administrator on [email protected]


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]



Volunteers needed

 Help NeededHelp is urgently required in a number of areas, particularly around coding and IT. If you have coding skills, and/or knowledge of a LAMP stack, please make contact to offer your services!


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 Ireland