October 2016 e-News

– First Sunday Meeting 2 October 2016 – Brain Health, preceded by presentation of certificates to Volunteer Chaplains

– Living wills and planning ahead

– Repeal the 8th – HAI were out in force on 24 September!

– Humanist Times launched on 14 September

– Volunteers Needed for Campaigns

– Famine Commemeration

– Report of Sunday Meeting 4 September Oaths and AffirmationsSpeaker: Justin McKenna

– Ceremonies – the year so far

– Local  Humanist Groups

– Humanists Urge Vote to Remove “God” References from Constitution

– Save the Date: Annual General meeting – 6 November

– Podcast

– Humanists West AGM on 30 October

– HAI Stand at the GPO

– Festive Meeting 4 December 2016

– Back Issues

– Contributions from Members


First Sunday Meeting 2 October 2016 – Brain Health, preceded by presentation of certificates to Volunteer Chaplains

The meeting will be preceded this month by the presentation of certificates to our 14 volunteer chaplains who successfully completed their training and have been accredited by the British Humanist Association.  The presentation will take place at 3.00 pm, and all are invited to attend.

Our topic for this month’s meeting is Brain Health.

The talk will be delivered by neuroscientist Sabina Brennan.

There is no direct relationship between the degree of brain pathology or brain damage that a patient sustains and the clinical manifestation of that brain injury or disease. Furthermore some people are able to maintain better brain function than others as they age even if their brain has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease pathology.
Sabina Brennan will explain how this protective ‘cognitive reserve’ appears to be related to modifiable factors such as level of education attained, carrying out cognitively demanding tasks and being socially active. She will discuss how simple lifestyle changes can boost our brain health building reserves that may serve us well in the future.

Sabina Brennan (PhD) is a research psychologist affiliated with the School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin. She is a principal investigator at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN) and the ADAPT Centre, TCD.


Repeal the 8th – HAI were out in force on 24 September!

Tens of thousands marched on Dáil Éireann on the 24th of September in support of a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment representing a wide spectrum of our society. The HAI were represented in the march by a contingent of members, carrying HAI placards and a banner.  It was a day of great energy and enthusiasm for change in favour of equality and freedom. The atmosphere was hopeful, friendly and exuberant with song and optimism.

On a day which rained consistently, and boasted a bus strike, the record numbers of people turning out both for the March as a whole, and those marching for the Humanist Association of Ireland, literally demonstrated the desire for progress.

Many thanks to all who came out in such great numbers and showed their support of the HAI and the Coalition to Repeal the 8th.

Shona Weymes


Humanist Times launched on 14 September


left to right: Martin Connelly, Print Central, Arthur Deeny, Editor, Amanda Wilkinson, Chair, Media and Publicity Committee, Duncan Stewart, Dutch Videographer and Damian Nee

The Humanist Times, the new voice for the non-religious in Ireland was officially launched at the Third Space in Smithfield Square on Wednesday 14th September.  With support from the Humanist Association of Ireland, this new magazine is being posted free to all members. It also aims to be more accessible and open to all those hundreds of thousands who tick the box marked No Religion on the Census form.

Speakers at the event included Duncan Stewart, the broadcaster and campaigner on green issues, Willie Collins and Arthur Deeny, of HAI, and Damian Nee, publisher of the Humanist Times. Live music was supplied by the trad Irish group, Riasc, and others in attendance were the author, Kate Beaufoy, the actor, Malcolm Douglas, the RTE producer, Jim Lockhart, and via Skype there was a contribution from Jeffrey Wilkinson MD, who runs a non-religious hospital in Africa.

There are plans to provide for mainstream retail sales and to seek advertising within the publication, in order for it to play a role in building the Humanist community in Ireland. All members are encouraged to provide feedback, letters to the article and submit articles to [email protected]. The launch was reported by Ronan Duffy for journal.ie here


Volunteers Needed for Campaigns

We’re calling on all willing members to let us know they can help!

We need volunteers to manage or support a campaign for:

  • Reform Census Question 2021
  • Blasphemy (Ireland & International)
  • Religious Oaths
  • Amend section 37 of the Employment Equality Act
  • Dying with Dignity

Just to list a few.

You could support a campaign like our recent Census tick the no religion box, last year’s baptismal campaign, or our general election questions campaign; or you might like to help to update the document Equality for the Non-Religious, or compose a submission like this year’s one to the UN.

We are looking for more members to join our enthusiastic and strong campaign team of volunteers to help with research, organise events, write to politicians, compose submissions, and help to spread information and do your bit for equality for the non-religious.

Simply email me and I will be in touch with you – [email protected]

Our volunteers are invaluable and your support is greatly appreciated!

– Terry Flynn
Director of Campaigns


Famine Commemoration

On Sunday, September 11th, Síle Headen and I attended the annual national Famine Commemoration, held this year at Glasnevin Cemetery. The proceedings were led by President Michael D. Higgins, while Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys was also in attendance.

Síle Headen, Director of Ceremonies and Pastoral Care, gave a two-minute speech which focused on the lessons to be learned from the famine, and the need for compassion at a time when millions of refugees around the world find themselves displaced; not unlike the experience of so many of our ancestors 170 or so years ago.
It was perfect in tone and content, and was the only address to receive a round of applause from the audience.

The ceremony concluded with the President unveiling a large Celtic Cross to commemorate the approximately 22,000 victims of the famine who are buried at Glasnevin. This statistic contradicts the idea that the famine only affected rural areas and that the capital was largely unaffected. The site at Glasnevin holds the largest number of famine victims of any such burial site in the country. Several ambassadors and emissaries were given the opportunity to lay a wreath at the new monument.

President Higgins took a moment to chat with us and to pose for photographs, and he remarked that he is always delighted when we can send representation, reinforcing the notion that he would like his presidency to be one of inclusivity, without special preference being given to the religious over the non-religious.

– Eamon Murphy


Report of Sunday Meeting 4 September Oaths and Affirmations

Speaker: Justin McKenna

The First Sunday Meeting dealt with the subject of oaths and affirmations, and the speaker was Justin McKenna.

Justin explained that one of the duties of every solicitor is to record statements from clients in the form of an affidavit or declaration averring the truth. This normally takes the form of asking the clients to confirm the statement to be true and asking them to sign it without any recourse to religious texts. This rather mundane and pedantic task was questioned recently by Mr Justice Peter Kelly, President of the High Court. His question concerned the lack of a bible when statements were being made by Christians. This question is completely valid in Irish law and it has important ramifications for almost all of the affidavits made in recent years throughout Ireland. Is it necessary that a baptised person should use a bible to verify that they have spoken the truth? If so, then how can a judge or other legal agent find out if the person is a Christian other than by asking them? Is this question an infringement of the person’s right under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) article 9, to privacy regarding their beliefs? Yes, it does break the convention.

There have been various methods used to establish legal truth. In the past there was trial by combat (still available on Game of Thrones) and the invocation of various deities to smite the appellant if they had not spoken the truth. It could be said that the penalties for perjury are sufficient to encourage the truth. Some Christians, who take the bible more literally than others, use the bible itself to abstain from swearing on it (Mt 5:37).  This practice showed the need for a non-biblical “oath.  Eventually, by 1938, Ireland had statutes allowing declarations of the truth in commercial cases. In 1990 the Law Reform Commission agreed that secular affirmations should replace the choice of affirmation or religious oath as this identification of a person’s religion or lack of it was contrary to  the European Court of Human Rights. This has not been acted on yet, and given the rather weak position the government is in regarding the support of various independent TDs, it is unlikely that anything will happen soon.

Justin’s talk brought forth many questions and comments:

Q1 In the case of the Glen of the Downs protest, was it the case that the judge insisted that those who had been baptised should use a bible to swear an oath?
A1 I am not familiar with the case.

Q2 Could a request by a witness to make a secular affirmation instead of a religious oath be detrimental to their credibility?
A2 I don’t think this is a problem in Ireland.

Q3 In my experience in the Coroner’s Court it is not normal to ask people if they want to make a secular affirmation or swear on a bible; the bible is assumed.
A3I feel there have been cases where non-believers have given a religious oath in court so as to bolster their credibility.

Q4 I find that when entering hospital there is a question about one’s religion, surely this is none of the hospital’s business?
A4 There is a right in ECHR article 9 to privacy regarding your religious beliefs or lack of them.

Q5 The last time I did jury service the clerk of the court didn’t offer a secular affirmation and didn’t seem to understand the idea until the judge explained it. The British system seems more open to secular affirmations.
A5 This is a practical problem, when I arrange for a house purchase I usually ask about the choice of religious oath or secular affirmation at the start as it saves time changing the paperwork later. It seems odd that this is an issue in buying a house, but it is.

Q6 Can a judge just be awkward about oaths?
A6 No, the judge must accept your decision to make a secular affirmation.

Q8 Are there cultural and subconscious biases among judges?
A8 There can be bias but due to the system of advocacy in Ireland this should not present a problem.

Final remark from Justin:
Judges and our President still take a religious oath on taking office.

– Report by Peter Deeney


Ceremonies – the year so far

Humanist ceremonies continue to be popular, and our celebrants are having a busy year.  596 weddings were carried out between January and June, which compares to 490 weddings over the same period in 2015.  Since the marriage equality legislation was passed, a number of these weddings were for same-sex couples, and we will have a breakdown of these statistics in due course.  In the same six month period, there were 46 funerals and 25 namings  – a similar number for last year, where there were 44 funerals and 38 namings.  The statistics show an increased demand for humanist weddings, but a fairly steady demand for humanist funerals and namings.  As membership grows, we would expect these figures to increase.


HAI Celebrant Joe Armstrong and a happy couple


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 http://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:
The North Dublin Humanist Community will be meeting on the 3rd Monday of the month from now on (mostly in Hedigans in Phibsborough, also known as the Brian Boru) so our next meeting will be Monday 17th October and we now have a space upstairs (turn right at the top of the stairs). If for some reason we’re not upstairs (because sometimes they may have a paid gig) we’ll be downstairs…
Andi is going to give a short talk on vulnerability – postponed from this month.
Please email [email protected] for further information and to be included on the group’s email list.
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 will be meeting next on Monday, 12th September at 8.00 pm in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dún Laoghaire.  The speaker is Justin McKenna who will discuss religious oaths. 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 will meet on Sunday 23 October at 3pm in Rosscarbery. We will be discussing recent HAI regional meetings and the film The Young Offenders. Please email [email protected] to register and for venue directions.

Westport Humanists meet in the Park Terrace Wine 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.



Humanists Urge Vote to Remove “God” References from Constitution

Campaigns Director, Terry Flynn, urged a referendum to remove references to “God” from the Constitution on International Blasphemy Rights Day.  Terry’s statement got lots of coverage in the Irish Times – see link:
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/humanists-urge-vote-on-cutting-god-references-from-constitution-1.2810479Terry also had a letter published in the Irish Times here

Save the Date: Annual General meeting – 6 November

A date for your diary: the Annual General Meeting will take place in the Ashling Hotel on 6 November.   AGM papers will be sent out in early October.


We now have a podcast, with interesting people discussing topics relevant to humanism
Please Join & Follow to ensure you never miss a show! For more information or to get involved contact [email protected]com

Humanists West AGM on 30 October

Humanists West AGM will take place on Sunday, 30th. October at 11.00 hrs in the Anno Santo Hotel, Threadneedle Road, Salthill.

All members of HAI living in Co. Clare or Connacht are warmly invited to attend.

Election of Convenor,
Election of Treasurers(2)
Election of 3 Committee Members.
Structure of Humanists West.
Programme for upcoming year.

Contact: Garry O’Lochlainn at [email protected] for further information.


HAI stand at GPO

The next outing of the HAI stand at the GPO will take place on Saturday, 15 October from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!

Festive Meeting 4 December 2016

The First Sunday Meeting in December is traditionally a social occasion – with goodies.  In previous years, we have had some readings, and we would like to build on that, so I invite all members to suggest readings, songs, recitations – or anything else.  You  need not read yourself if you don’t want to.  I know there are lots of creative types of all sorts out there, so please get in touch with your ideas so we can put a programme together.

Contact : Alan Tuffery 086 162 6988 or [email protected]


Back issues

Back issues from January 2014 can be found on the website 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]


Living wills and planning ahead

Planning Ahead

The 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