November 2016 e-Newsletter

In this issue:

Becoming a Celebrant
Annual General MeetingPlanning Workshop in the Lexicon
Report of First Sunday Meeting 2 October 2016 – Brain Health
Media and Publicity Group News Update
Volunteers Needed for Campaigns
Local Humanist Groups
Podcast at the AGM
HAI stand at GPO
Festive Meeting 4 December 2016
Back issues
Contributions from members
Living wills and planning ahead

Annual General Meeting 6 November

Becoming a Celebrant

The Ceremonies Management Committee will be selecting candidates for training as HAI Celebrants during 2017 and invite applications from HAI members suited to the role.Applications should be emailed to [email protected] no later than Friday, January 6th 2017.We are particularly interested in applications from candidates who live in Connacht or Donegal.The qualities needed for the role of celebrant include an ability to relate well to people, an empathetic nature and good judgement, together with excellent communication, presentation, language and organizational (including computer) skills.We invite you to apply with a cover note outlining your reasons for wanting to become a celebrant and why you feel you would be suitable for the role, together with a copy of your CV and the names and contact details of three referees: two should be HAI members of at least two years standing (excluding serving members of the Board or the Ceremonies Management Committee) and one should be a work/character referee.

Please note that a requirement for application is a minimum of two consecutive years’ membership of HAI at the time of application and evidence of active engagement in HAI activities. Please include your date of joining HAI, details of the activities you have been involved in and the joining dates of your two HAI referees.

Applications should be no more than one page and include a recent photograph.

Short listing will apply and there is no guarantee that all applicants will be called for interview.

Interviews and ceremony presentation auditions will take place in February 2017 (date to be decided).

More details on the HAI website.

Planning Workshop in the Lexicon

A planning workshop to support the implementation of the HAI’s Strategic Plan was held at the Lexicon in Dun Laoghaire on 8 October.   It was facilitated by Janie Lazar.

left to right : Willie Collins, Áine Crawley, Caroline Clarke-Browne, Alan Tuffery, Fachtna Roe, Janie Lazar, Amanda Wilkinson, Mairéad Doyle, Daphne Wynne, Terry Flynn. Front: Síle Headen, Steve Rawson

Report of First Sunday Meeting 2 October 2016 – Brain Health

HAI First Sunday Meeting 10th October 2016

Brain Health — Sabina Brennan
The meeting was chaired by Alan Tuffery, a member of the working group for First-Sunday Meetings, and was attended by about 60 members and visitors. It can be argued that humanists have a responsibility to look after their own health, in the interests of both their own fulfilment and of society at large. As populations age, so the incidence of impaired cognitive ability rises. The main thrust of Sabina Brennan’s presentation was to define ‘dementia’, identify the risk factors and to demonstrate how the loss of cognitive ability can be delayed and ameliorated.

Dr Sabina Brennan is a psychologist, working in the Institute of Neuroscience and affiliated to the Department of Psychology in Trinity College, Dublin. As well as co-directing the Neuro-Enhancement for Independent Lives Programme, she works on the development of educational materials about brain health.

There are about 55,000 persons with dementia in Ireland. Most are hidden away and the funding for research and support is only about 5% of that for cancer.

A key concept is that of ‘cognitive reserve’: how well the brain is used so that many connections are formed within it. When there is damage to the brain, the undamaged part is able take over many of the lost functions (‘plasticity’). This is greatly enhanced if the brain is used to making new connections and the different regions are used to working together. Actions taken to improve brain health are effective at all stages of life, and can help to preserve function even after impairment of cognitive function has occurred. That said, it has to be recognised that brain function does slow with increasing age. Giving ourselves permission to take the extra time needed to process information may actually pay dividends in terms of our cognitive performance

Individuals can take steps to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment, by tackling each of the main risk factors (except age, which is inevitable!). Regular physical activity, leading to good cardiovascular fitness is a great help (see HSE guidelines); maintaining a healthy weight, ceasing smoking and reducing alcohol consumption to a ‘moderate level’ will minimise damage. In short, a sensible, healthy lifestyle with managed stress will be valuable. In addition, keeping the brain involved by learning new skills (e.g. choosing any of the many free online courses) and keeping an active social life will keep the brain healthy and ‘plastic’ by building a cognitive reserve.

The discussion was wide-ranging, from the effects of specific types of exercise and diseases (especially MS and Down Syndrome). Increasing social isolation in old age is a serious risk. [A future meeting will learn about McAuley Place’s mitigation of this aspect.]

Much of Sabina Brennan’s educational material is available at This includes an app to prompt activities which are positive for brain health (also available in diary form).

– Alan Tuffery

Media and Publicity Group News Update

Since the call for volunteers last May, the Media and Publicity Group has grown in numbers and strength with September’s meeting attracting nine members.Since its formation the group has assisted in promoting the Summer School, has written up a feature titled: ‘So what is humanism’, produced a Media and Publicity group PR template by Steve Rawson and has linked with campaigns to promote International Blasphemy Rights Day and the March for Choice, helped publicize the launch of Humanist Times, are currently devising a Media and Publicity Handbook for eventual use by all groups and are drawing up the Group’s Terms of Reference.The M & P group has also produced the HAI’s first ever Humanism Ireland Podcast by Gerry Wilson and Barry  O’Mahony   A second podcast is now in the pipeline.If you would like to get involved in the group, which meets up once a month on a Sunday morning, please contact the Chairperson at [email protected].

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

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 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 21st November 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…
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,14 November at the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire.  Roger Cole will give a talk and lead a discussion on 1916 – The Unfinished Business of the Secular Republic.   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 information.

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.


Podcast at the AGM

Heard the new Humanism Ireland podcast yet?
Now’s your chance to meet the team behind it and feature on the December edition. We want to hear what it’s like being a humanist in Ireland? How do humanists spend Christmas? The podcast team can give you the chance to be heard.
Just ask for Barry O’Mahony  or Gerry Wilson at the AGM. For more information or to get involved contact [email protected]com

HAI stand at GPO

The next outing of the HAI stand at the GPO will take place on Saturday, 19 November 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 admi[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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