Events and Podcasts
Local Events to celebrate World Humanist Day
Sunday 18th June at 11am
North-West Humanists, together with the Humanist Association of Ireland, are delighted to invite you to our June event to celebrate World Humanist Day and the 30th Anniversary of the Humanist Association of Ireland. Join us at our guided nature walk with Michael Bell, Chair of Sligo Birdwatch and Founder of Naturelearn, in Dereen Woods near Knockvicar, Boyle, Co. Roscommon, followed by refreshments at Ballinafad Community Centre. This is a free event, sponsored by HAI, but booking is essential. Contact Gill at email@example.com. All welcome.
Sunday 25th June at 12pm
The Cork Humanists, together with the Humanist Association of Ireland, are delighted to invite you to a picnic with Ukrainian children and their guardians in Doneraile Park and Community Centre on June 25th to show our solidarity and support to our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in this time of difficulty for them. For more information and to express your interest, please, contact Dominic at firstname.lastname@example.org before the end of May.
About HAI Events
We normally run 11 events every year and details of each event will be announced in advance on our Facebook page and here on our website.
Non-members are always welcome at our events.
Guest speakers at meetings in the last few years have included:
- Professor Aoife McLysaght (Head of Genetics Department, Trinity College) on genetics and human evolution
- Colm O’Gorman (Amnesty) on the Repeal Referendum
- Evgeny Shtorn on life in Direct Provision
- Cara Augustenborg (UCD) on Climate Action
- Jonathan Lanman (Queens University) on the nature of unbelief
- Liam Cahill (Journalist) on the history of the Limerick Soviet (to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the soviet)
- Donal O’Gorman (Medicins Sans Frontieres) on the work of his organisation
- Zlata Filipovic (Author) on her experience growing up in war-torn Sarajevo
- John Fitzgerald (Economist, Irish Climate Advisory Council) on Climate Action
- Hugh Turpin (Queens University) on the moral rejection of Catholicism in Ireland
Past Events and Videos
Over the past years the HAI have been privileged to host a wide range of guest speakers with varied interests and backgrounds. Scroll down to see what you might have missed and would like to catch up on.
Filmmaking and Social Justice: How Film Can Change Reality
In May, documentary filmmaker Hossein Martin Fazeli talked to HAI members about how cinema can help transform the world.
Born in Iran, Martin is a survivor of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, during which he lost family members to firing squads. “I became a sociopolitical animal very early in my life,” he said.
Documentarians are not happy with the status quo and hope to inspire action through their work. Documentaries can provide an antidote to feeling powerless over global problems. “Our job is creating a feeling of agency. The documentary genre has the power to do that if you do it right - to promote agency in the viewer.”
His 2007 film, The Tale of Two Nazanins, is an example of this. It is the story of an Iranian teenage girl who killed her attacker and ended up on death row. The film, made hastily in the 3 months between her original trial and retrial, was broadcast on international networks such as the BBC and CNN. The film ignited an international campaign that led to her acquittal, saving the girl’s life.
Martin highlighted other examples of documentaries that have caused positive social change, including Blackfish, about the tragic consequences of keeping orca whales in captivity. No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, was the true story of war crimes committed at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. Most of the footage in that film was recorded by witnesses on low-quality mobile phone cameras.
“It brings me back to my view that, when it comes to social justice documentary filmmaking, I don’t think of it as an elite art form. I think anybody should be able to make an impactful documentary film. The main two elements are passion and commitment,” Martin said.
Martin is in post-production on his next film, Phoolan, an inspiring story about an Indian woman who transformed herself from victim, to vigilante, to pacifist politician. The film will be released in late 2023 or early 2024. For more information, see fazelifilms.com.
The video is available on our YouTube channel if you would like to catch up on the presentation.
Planting Tiny Forests
In April, we held a talk by award-winning writer Catherine Cleary, about her company Pocket Forests. Co-founded with event planner and Australian tree nut Ashe Conrad-Jones, the company plants small native forests in urban areas.
Pocket Forests began as a social enterprise in 2020. Catherine is a journalist by training and was a restaurant reviewer for The Irish Times, while Ashe worked in the events business. Both of these industries came to a halt during the pandemic. Around the same time, the climate and biodiversity crises came into sharp focus.
“Suddenly, parks and the sea became the places everyone wanted to be. When our cultural and busy lives stopped or changed, many of us found ourselves going to nature,” Catherine said.
Catherine and Ashe lived a few streets away from each other, in an area of Dublin with very little green space - about one metre per person. The WHO recommends 9 square metres per person in urban areas.
Ashe came across the idea of tiny forests, a concept originated by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki 30 years ago to create dense forests with native plants. The concept has been adapted over time to suit smaller and smaller urban spaces.
Catherine and Ashe use a three-step process to create pocket forests. First, they bring residents of a local community together to plan the forest. Next, they aerate and feed the soil using repurposed materials. Last, they plant native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, and they help communities learn to care for them.
Their next project will be developing tools that allow groups of people to replicate the process in different parts of the country.
If you would like to view a recording of the event it is available on our YouTube channel.
How to Think like a Philosopher (and when not to)
In March, we held a talk by the philosopher Dr. Julian Baggini, an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent. He joined us to talk about his latest book, How to Think Like a Philosopher.
At the outset, Julian explained that modesty and humility are requirements of good thinking, and without those things, one can go astray. “Even the smartest people, when they know they’re smart, can often get over-confident, and overreach,” he said.
While the book’s title might imply there are quick and easy hacks to employ for better thinking, Julian stressed that thinking well is difficult. “Be aware that cognitive shortcuts will be problematic, and we’ve got to erect speed bumps,” he said.
Those “speed bumps” include taking time to get the facts right and not jumping to conclusions. Also important is the pure and sincere intent to find the truth (and not to defend an already-held view, or to attack someone else’s).
He talked about the ethical imperative to think better. “There’s a moral obligation here. If you don’t reason well, you end up believing things you shouldn’t believe; following people you shouldn’t follow; doing things you shouldn’t do. And these things have consequences.”
Click here for the book
This event was recorded and a video is available on our YouTube channel.
2023 Darwin Day lecture
The Humanist Association of Ireland hosted Professor Janet Browne from Harvard University, to deliver our 2023 Darwin Day Lecture. Lecture Topic: Charles Darwin: Rationality and Religion in a Victorian Context
Professor Janet Browne is Aramont Professor in the History of Science at Harvard University and she is a renowned expert on Charles Darwin. After a first degree in zoology at TCD she took a PhD in the history of science at Imperial College London and went on to work as associate editor of the early volumes of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. She is best known for a two-volume biography of Darwin that integrated his science with his life and times. She is thrilled to hold an Honorary degree from her alma mater, Trinity College Dublin, awarded in 2009, in recognition of her contribution to the biographical knowledge of Charles Darwin.
You can read a full biography of Professor Janet Browne on the Harvard website.
A recording of the event is available on our YouTube channel.
January 2023 Events
The Benefits of Teaching Young People Empathy Skills
Wednesday 18th January 2023
For our first event of the new year, we held a talk by Dr James Lawlor, director of Narrative 4 Ireland. Narrative 4 is an education project that uses storytelling to teach empathy and listening skills to young people.
James explained how the “story exchange” is used in schools as a social and emotional learning tool. At its heart, the purpose of the story exchange is to imagine what life is like for someone else. Teachers have used the method to connect different groups of people in creative ways - connecting students with older people in their communities, for example. A common prompt is to ask students to describe a time they overcame an obstacle.
The benefits of empathy education are myriad, James said, and include building trust, making people better able to resolve conflict, and being able to see the world from multiple viewpoints.
The programme is established in 236 schools across Ireland; there are over 800 secondary school teachers and youth workers in the network. Narrative 4 also works across 16 countries and can connect participants virtually. Teachers can become facilitators after completing an eight-hour training.
Dr James Lawlor is the director of Narrative 4 Ireland, an education project that teaches empathy and listening skills to young people using an evidence based storytelling techniques. He is a graduate of the University of Limerick, Queen's University of Belfast and University College Cork. He lives in Limerick. Narrative 4 is in operation in a number of countries around the world including the USA, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa. For more information, see narrative4.ie
A recording of this event is available on our YouTube channel.
A Time to Remember
Sunday 22nd January 2023
The annual remembrance event took place on Sunday, 22nd January at 2.00 pm. This event was an opportunity to remember and celebrate, in a humanist way, those members and friends we have lost. The remembrance meeting has proved to be a healing and positive experience for those who have attended in the past.
Each year, in advance of the event,we are particularly interested to hear if there is anyone you wish to have remembered, or know of any HAI members who have passed away during the previous year. The names and details of loved ones you would like to mention yourself, or to have mentioned, are to submitted to the event co-ordinator. Attendees are also invited to perform a suitable poem or piece of music, when they express their desire to do so in advance of the event..
Loved ones do not have to be a humanist or a member of the HAI.
November 2022 Event
Why should Humanists care about Animal Rights?
Corey Wrenn is an American sociologist specialising in animal rights mobilisation, vegan feminism, and critical animal studies.
Dr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology with the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent and co-director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Political Movements.
She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016), was elected Chair in 2018, and is co-founder of the International Association of Vegan Sociologists.
She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and is a member of The Vegan Society’s Research Advisory Committee. Dr. Wrenn has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Environmental Values, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis.
She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016), Piecemeal Protest: Animal Rights in the Age of Nonprofits (University of Michigan Press 2019), and Animals in Irish Society (SUNY Press 2021).
A recording of this event is available on our YouTube channel.
October 2022 Event
Dr. Peter Boylan, opponent of religious involvement in the National Maternity Hospital and campaigner for a Yes vote in the 2018 abortion referendum, talked about religious involvement in healthcare.
Dr. Boylan is a former Master of the National Maternity Hospital and former Chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He was appointed by the Minister for Health to advise the HSE on the implementation of the Termination of Pregnancy Service in 2019. He is the author of In the Shadow of the Eighth: My Forty Years Working for Women’s Healthcare in Ireland (Penguin, 2018) and, with Dr. Jennifer Walsh, The Irish Pregnancy Book (6th edition, O’Brien Press, 2020).
The Catholic Church owns seven public hospitals, which amounts to 20% of public hospital beds in Ireland. They received over €1 billion in funding from the HSE in 2020, and that number is likely higher this year, Dr. Boylan said. 66% of private hospitals in Ireland have a Catholic ethos. Also, the new National Maternity Hospital is set to be owned by a Vatican-approved private company, Dr. Boylan said.
Abortions, sterilisations, and other treatments are not allowed at these hospitals because of their Catholic ethos. On these matters, Dr. Boylan said, canon law trumps state law. Article 44.2.5 of the Constitution protects the right of every religious denomination to manage its own affairs. The Irish Supreme Court has yet to interpret the extent of this autonomy in a healthcare context.
Dr. Boylan said conservative American Catholic organisations are taking over religious hospitals around the world as religious orders leave direct care. This has already happened in Ireland with the Bon Secours, the largest private hospital group in the country. It merged with Bon Secours Mercy Health, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. It receives substantial funding from the HSE. “This is big business,” Dr. Boylan said. “American influence is likely to grow with the passage of time.”
Dr. Boylan encouraged HAI members to lobby their TDs. David McConnell, HAI President, encouraged him to write an article to raise public awareness of these issues.
A recording of the event is available to view here.
September 2022 Event
Jody O'Neill, actor and playwright talked about her experience of being diagnosed with autism at the age of 39.
Jody is an award-winning autistic writer and performer, based in Dublin. Her play "What I (Don't) Know About Autism" was co-produced with the Abbey Theatre and played to critical acclaim and sold-out houses in 2020 and 2021. Jody's work has a strong focus on disability advocacy and social inclusion. She is currently Theatre Artist in Residence at UCC and Cork Opera House, and is a 2022 recipient of the Markievicz Award.
Jody’s young son was diagnosed with autism three years before her. Their personalities were so similar, Jody decided to seek out an assessment for herself. Being diagnosed was a positive experience, she said. Many of the challenges she had in her life could be re-framed through the lens of autism. It made her realise she was working on a different operating system to other people.
Negative sentiments about autism in the media led her to write the play, “What I (Don’t) Know about Autism.” It was structured so autistic people could come to see it, with breaks for questions built into the script. Disability advocacy and inclusion have become major themes in Jody’s work. Presently, she’s writing a piece of educational theatre about an autistic girl who likes double numbers and routines.
Jody doesn’t want her son growing up in a world where autism is seen as a negative. “I wish we would talk more about human needs, rather than special needs,” she said.
For more information visit aboutautism.ie.
August 2022 Event
Marelle has a relentless passion for education and philosophy and has spent two decades embedding philosophical inquiry into her teaching and learning environment. She worked in the UK as Head of Religion, Philosophy and Ethics in both the state and independent sectors and was actively involved in teacher professional development in Philosophy for/with Children (P4C) during this time. Marelle’s work with the NCCA on the Philosophy Short Course lured her back to Ireland in 2017 and she wears several hats as she supports the development of Philosophical Inquiry and P4C in all areas of the Irish education system. Co-founder of Philosophy Ireland and Director of The Thinker’s Midwife, Marelle lectures on the PME programme with the School of Education, University College Dublin, and is involved in several educational initiatives there, including the SFI funded project; ‘Girls in DEIS Schools: Changing Attitudes, Impacting Futures in STEM’, which was shortlisted by the Teaching Council for their Teachers Inspire Award for Teacher Collaboration in September 2019. In more recent times, Marelle has turned her attention to educational projects focusing on Cyber Resilience, Digital Technologies, and Global Citizenship Education.
The video of the event is available to watch on our YouTube channel.
July 2022 Event
Non religious Teachers in Religious Schools
Dr Catherine Stapleton is a lecturer in Education in MIC, St. Patrick's Campus, Thurles. She teaches modules on Diversity and Inclusion. Her current research is focused on human rights and religious inclusion in the context of increasingly belief-diverse societies. Her research projects are funded by the Irish Research Council, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and SCoTENS. She is the co-author of the report on non-religious teachers in schools with a religious ethos.
A link to the jointly published research paper can be found here.
June 2022 Event
Philippa is a transgender woman. She joined the civil service, the Property Registration Authority, in 1980. She is married with one daughter.
She became involved with LGBTQ+ activism when she came to terms with herself as transgender, eventually transitioning about 12 years ago. She was very involved with both the Marriage Equality and Repeal the 8th referenda. She describes herself as a passionate, inclusive feminist.
Over the past 15 years she has been a board member and chair of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) and part of the Steering Committee of Transgender Europe (TGEU). She was a founding committee member of Sporting Pride, Ireland’s LGBTQ+ sports organisation.
In 2019 she was one of the founders of Under the Rainbow where she is now Chief Operating Officer. She is also a director of Dublin Pride.
Her memoir, My Name is Philippa, is now out from Mercier Press and available in all good bookshops and online.
Now available to view here on our Humanism Ireland YouTube channel
April 2022 Event
For our April event, our guest speaker was Research and Policy Analyst Michelle Murphy. Michelle will present different approaches to implementing a basic income system, and outline some proposals as to how a basic system for Ireland could be implemented.
Michelle Murphy is Research and Policy Analyst with Social Justice Ireland. Among her main areas of interest are the impact of policy on income distribution, the interaction of a minimum social floor and just transition and sustainability and regional development. She is also responsible for Social Justice Ireland’s European engagement including the European Semester and the Pillar of Social Rights. This will be followed by a Q&A session.
Now available to view here on our Humanism Ireland YouTube channel
Darwin Day Lecture 2022
Missed the lecture? You can play it back here.
Using evolution to improve our understanding of mental health and illness
Evolution provides the single most compelling and overarching explanatory model in biology. To quote Theodosius Dobzhansky: ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’.
Despite this, evolution is largely ignored in clinical medicine, psychiatry and psychology. Reasons for this neglect may be related to ambivalence around evolution itself, concerns about historical abuses of evolutionary ideas and a perception that evolutionary applications lack clinical usefulness for patients.
Join us on Wednesday 16th February 19:30 , as our guest lecturer Professor Henry O’Connell draws from the current leading researchers and writers in the field to make the case for the use of evolutionary principles in complementing and enhancing existing models for our understanding of both normal mental phenomena and mental illness.
The Humanism Ireland Podcast covers HAI events, interviews, lectures and more - if it's of interest to Humanists, it's here!
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Like and share it on Twitter, and look out for more episodes coming up in the future. Want to get involved? Maybe you’ve got something you’re eager to have discussed? We welcome your feedback and ideas. Get in touch here: email@example.com
Episode 31: Humanist Funerals - Siobhán Walls
Episode 30: Census No Religion with CEO Jillian Brennan
Episode 29: Paul Rowe - The Future of Equality Based Education
Episode 28: Catherine O'Brien - Secular Education in Ireland
Episode 27: Sarah Clancy reads her poetry
Episode 26: Síona Cahill. A New Ireland; What Young People Want
Episode 25: Dignity in Dying - Do We Have a Choice?
Episode 24: Colin Harvey - Uniting Our Shared Island
Episode 23: Naomi Connor - Alliance for Choice
Episode 22: Local Election Candidate Alan Edge (Independent)
Episode 21: Online Campaigning with Jean O'Brien, Digital Charity Lab
Episode 20: Humanist Summer School 2018
Episode 19: Blasphemy Part 2 - a Worldwide Perspective
Episode 18: Stand For Truth - Silent Solidarity
Episode 17: Dick Spicer - Origins of the Humanist Association of Ireland
Episode 16: Dublin Pride and National Day of Commemoration
Episode 15: Assisted Dying - Gaynor French
Episode 14: Episode 14: Prof. A.C. Grayling - World Humanist Day Lecture
Episode 13: Colm O'Gorman - Repeal the 8th
Episode 12: Blasphemy Laws with Selina Campbell
Episode 11: Humanists Uncovered
Episode 10: Walking with Humanists
Episode 9: Justin Keating Memoirs
Episode 8: Ellie Kisyombe - Life in Direct Provision
Episode 7: Strike for Repeal - Gwen Boyle reports
Episode 6: Humanists Causes and Campaigns
Episode 5: Dr. Emmeline Hill - Darwin Day Lecture
Episode 4: A Time To Remember
Episode 3: A Humanist Christmas
Episode 2: Duncan Stewart - Planet in Crisis
Episode 1: Humanism in Ireland - Introduction