HAI e-Newsletter July 2015

In this issue:
Climate Justice Conference June 2015
Private Members’ Bill to Amend the Employment Equality Act
UN Human Rights Committee Criticises Ireland’s Policy on Education
First Sunday Meeting 5 July
Membership Renewals
Summer School 2015 – Humanism, War and Peace
Report of First Sunday Meeting on 7 June – Let’s Do Philosophy — Teaching Philosophy in Schools
HAI Stand at the GPO 
News Bytes
Call for Coding Volunteers
New Groups and Local Humanist Groups 
Contributions from Members
Big Questions for Kids
Faith Study Questionnaire
Living Wills

Climate Justice Conference June 2015

The Humanist Association of Ireland was delighted to be invited to a conference on Climate Justice held at NUI Maynooth on 22nd and 23rd of June in conjunction with Trócaire. The conference was titled ‘Meeting the Challenge of Climate Justice: From Evidence to Action’. Some of the world’s leading voices on climate science, climate change and climate activism came together to give their insights on global warming.

Mary Robinson addressed the delegation on the first day with a wonderful keynote speech on new approaches to combat climate justice. She also greatly highlighted how it was not just an environmental problem but also a major human rights problem.
On day two the main focus was a panel debate titled ‘The moral imperative to act’. The debate outlined the consequences of global warming and how Mother Nature does not discriminate against any of us, climate change will affect us all. It is our moral imperative to act upon the scientific evidence which can no longer be ignored.

Bill McKibben, Co-founder of www.350.org,  also spoke of his campaigning and work within climate justice internationally. In moving forward, the conference gave insights into sustainable energy, zero carbon, a divestment movement, and price fixing on carbon. Globally the poorest areas are worse affected and have done the least damage. Flooding in Bangladesh was given as an example where millions of people may be displaced from their homes. Some countries are already planning for such evacuations so their inhabitants can migrate with dignity.

Prof. Jean-Pascal van Yperesele, Vice-Chair of IPCC, addressed the conference with climate scientific data and evidence and gave an insight into the alarming effects of not dealing with global warming. As Prof. Jean-Pascal van Yperesele stated ‘We are cutting off the branch on which we are sitting’.

It was a great opportunity for the HAI to be invited and involved in such a major international conference.
Report by Síle Headen

Private Members’ Bill to Amend the Employment Equality Act
A Private Members’ Bill to remove Section 7 of the Employment Equality Act has been brought forward by the Anti-Austerity Alliance of TDs Joe Higgins, Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy. Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act gives an exemption to religiously run schools and hospitals, allowing them to discriminate against employees on the ground of religion in order to protect their religious ethos.

While this Bill will not succeed without Government support, it will be brought to Committee stage which will allow the proposed amendment to be debated in the Dáil.

The Government has now stated that they intend to progress their own Bill, which got as far as second stage in the Seanad two years ago, and to bring further amendments to this Bill.  However, the Goverment is not supporting the removal of section 37. The Government Bill would allow religious discrimination to continue while curtailing discrimination on other grounds.

The HAI  has written to the TDs to express support for their Bill and for the  removal of section 37.   The Board is intending to  meet these TDs to discuss this Bill and other legislative initiatives needed to progress the separation of church and state and to achieve greater equality for the non-religious.

UN Human Rights Committee Criticises Ireland’s Policy on Education
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights evaluated Ireland’s third periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. and issued its report on 19 June.  Among other criticisms and recommendations, the Committee made a number of recommendations on the right to education, as follows:

Right to education

  1. The Committee is concerned at the discrimination faced by children with disabilities, migrant children, children belonging to a religious minority, Traveller and Roma children, including:

            (a)     Legal provisions, such as Section 7 of the Equal Status Acts 2000, which allow schools to give preference to admission of                                 students based on religion;
            (b)     Discriminatory criteria against children with special educational needs contained in many admissions policies and the lack of a                       regulatory framework; and
            (c)      Adverse effects of the austerity measures on the education sector, including the reduced number of teachers, rationalization of                         teacher/student support services, abolition of grants to schools, increase in transport charges and reduced allowance for                                   clothing and footwear, which further restrict disadvantaged children from attending schools (arts. 13 and 14).

The Committee recommends that the State party:

  1. Take all necessary measures to bring all relevant laws, including the Equal Status Acts 2001 and the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2015 in line with the international human rights standards and to increase the number of non-denominational schools at the primary and post-primary education levels;
  2. Review admissions policies of all schools with a view to removing all discriminatory criteria for enrolment and establish a regulatory mechanism to monitor school policies, including admissions policies; and
  3. Revoke the austerity measures which affect disproportionately disadvantaged children.

The full text of the Report can be accessed here

First Sunday Meeting 5 July

This meeting will be a round table discussion on Education and Volunteering with the HAI.  Philip Byers, HAI Director, will chair the meeting with support from Síle Headen and other member of the Education Committee.  The meeting is primarily a response to the many offers of support and requests to volunteer subsequent to our Baptism Campaign.

All are welcome to attend – First Sunday meetings are also social occasions, and  a great opportunity for members to meet and chat. We would love to welcome some of the many new members that have recently joined.


Alan Tuffery
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: 086 162 6988

Membership Renewals
Some of you have been wondering why you haven’t been receiving renewal notices – this is because we have been developing a new web-based system to process both new memberships and renewals.

Members will start receiving their renewal notices by email over the next few days.

This will be the first occasion since the introduction of the web-based membership system that renewal notices will be issued. To reduce the likely possibility of the system being overloaded, notifications will be sent in blocks, with earliest renewals being sent first.

The process should be straightforward and will accept payment via PayPal. Please note that you do not need a PayPal account to pay via PayPal, just a credit or debit card. Follow the instructions in the email you will receive, and on screen.

Members without email addresses will be processed separately.

If you have any queries about your membership, please contact Kilda Taylor on [email protected]

Summer School 2015 – Humanism, War and Peace
There are still plenty of places left for the Summer School which will be held in Carlingford from 29th to 30th August, 2015.

There is a great line-up of well known speakers, including

Author and Journalist

IHEU Representative at the Council of Europe

Professor of Modern History,
Queen’s University, Belfast

Dutch Humanist Chaplain

The programme is as follows: 

8.00pm Informal Gathering: Carlingford Arms

09.15am Registration
10.00 Welcome from the Chair: SIOBHÁN WALLS
10 10 Introduction: War and Peace:
10.30 The Concept of a Just War: DAVID POLLOCK
11.15 Q and A
11.30 Tea and Coffee; sale of books, CDs, DVDs
12.00 Are We Awakening from Ireland’s Violent Past? RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS
12.45 Q and A
1.00pm Lunch in the Village
2.30 Workshop: Should Humanists be Pacifists? Introduced by Oisin Carey

Workshop: Can Women Teach Men the Key to Peace? Introduced by Sile Headen

7.30 Dinner: Café Marina

10.00am War: The Lessons of History: KEITH JEFFERY
10.30 Q and A
10.45 Tea and Coffee
11.15 Humanist Chaplains in Conflicts: NORBERT DE KOOTER
12.00 Panel Discussion on Humanism, War and Peace
1.00pm Formal Close
2.00 Walk up Slieve Foye

Application Form and payment details for summer school and Saturday night dinner

For accommodation: www.carlingford.ie/index.php/accommodatio

Report of First Sunday Meeting on 7 June – Let’s Do Philosophy — Teaching Philosophy in Schools

Gary Doyle described himself as a volunteer offering workshops in philosophy for schools. He began his presentation with an exercise that he uses in schools, namely to state how many objects make up ‘Pencil Person’. This elicited a range of responses, from one to infinity. The discussion then quickly spread out to the nature of perception and the perceiver and the perceiver’s world-view. It was clearly a discussion about abstract ideas, which is a good working definition of Philosophy, in contrast to Science which is arguably about things.

At present there is little or no Philosophy taught in schools in Ireland, perhaps a little as part of Religious Education, but it is not integrated into the curriculum. Philosophy is important because it fosters critical thinking, a vital element of Education and, in contrast to simple factual knowledge, is a higher-order thinking skill, like analysis and application.

Limitations of the present educational system were illustrated by the current discussion of a state examination paper which presented mathematical topics in an unfamiliar context and caused much consternation. An OECD report put Ireland only 22nd of 44 countries in students’ application of knowledge.

Gary Doyle’s approach mirrors that of the Philosophy Foundation which asserts that Reasoning is the ‘fourth R’ and is key because it makes the others useful.

The Internet makes factual knowledge readily available which shifts the emphasis in education from rote-learning to efficient application of knowledge: Knowledge is no longer Power, rather Power is the ability to apply knowledge appropriately. Knowledge itself in many areas is rapidly shifting. In a changing world with changing novel technologies, a conceptual approach is invaluable. Education is not just about fitting people for work, but fitting them for life.

Philosophy workshops foster confident engagement in collaborative learning and allows students to accept uncertainty. Indeed, development of reasoning skills assists the development of literacy and numeracy.

Gary Doyle concluded by briefly reviewing the objections to introducing Philosophy to schools. Young children are fully capable of engaging with philosophical ideas, once the material is presented in an appropriate manner; children rapidly get used to the idea of uncertainty (a feature of life in general). There appears to be no evidence that Philosophy is particularly dangerous or radical — but there are those who prefer not to encounter abstract questions.

The audience of 70 or so generated a lively discussion. Examples were give of the use of collaborative learning and critical thinking within the present system, even though restricted by the tyranny of the curriculum content.

The discussion also explored the opposition that Gary Doyle had encountered: he had only had one incident where a proposal was rejected by a higher authority. He has encountered no opposition from individual parents.

Report by Alan Tuffery

http://www.philosophy-foundation.org/ — offers resources for teaching philosophy in schools



HAI Stand at the GPO 
The next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on 19 July from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!

News Bytes

RTE says retention of Angelus is ‘defensible’

From the Journal.ie

UN criticises Ireland’s position on abortion

From The Irish Times

Educate Together takes legal advice on admissions

Call for Coding Volunteers
Can you code?

If you know how to code, and are familiar with the syntax of perl (same as C, Javascript)
and how web-apps work on a LAMP stack, we need you!

Please email [email protected] with subject line CODEVOL.

New Groups and Local Humanist Groups 
New Groups

The first meeting of the Waterford group took place on 26 June in the Tower Hotel, Waterford at 7.30 p.m.  HAI Director Philip Byers gave a talk to the group. Contact Teresa Graham on [email protected] for details of further meetings.

The first meeting of the Westport and local areas group was held on 22 April in the Wyatt Hotel. Brian Whiteside gave a talk entitled “What Is Humanism?” which was well attended.  Monthly meetings will be held 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.

Local Groups

North-West Humanists meet on the third Sunday of the month in Paddy’s Bar, Main Street, Carrick-on-Shannon at 2.30 p.m.  Contact Isolde Carmody on [email protected] or 086 8820445.

Members from Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare meet on the second Friday of the month at 8.00 p.m. in the Aspect Hotel, Kilkenny  Contact Fachtna Roe on [email protected] for further details.

Details of Cork Humanists’ meetings are on http://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.

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]  or 07818036404.

The Mid-West Humanists group 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].

Serving Humanists in Galway and surrounding areas, Humanists West 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.

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]

Big Questions for Kids
A new book has been published that explains Humanism at primary school level:

What is Humanism? How do you live without a god? And Other Big Questions for Kids

by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young


This book will form part of the British Humanist Association’s campaign to send a copy to every primary school in the UK (similar to the campaign to send a free copy of the Young Atheist’s Handbook to every second level school & prison and young offender institution in the UK).

The book is hardback, in colour throughout, and includes contributions from Stephen Fry, Philip Pullman, and Jim Al-Khalili.

While it is designed for the UK, it  is a very good book, and would be a very useful resource for primary education here in Ireland as well.

– Terry Flynn

Faith Study Questionnaire


I need as many non-religious people as possible to complete it !

If you are willing to complete a questionnaire (EITHER ELECTRONICALLY OR IN WRITTEN FORM – it takes about 15 minutes)

PLEASE CONTACT ME: Dr. John Cornell  email [email protected]  ph.  +447985266411

All responses will be treated confidentially.

Living Wills
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 and downloads are 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
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