What We Do

Advocacy

Advocacy - a crowd of people campaigning for change

Stand Up for Freedom

The Humanist Association of Ireland passionately believes that a modern Ireland must be a secular or religiously neutral state. We actively work to achieve this goal. Have a look at some of our recent Advocacy work:

Submission to the Seanad on the Constitutional Future of the Island of Ireland

The HAI has made a submission to the Seanad Public Consultation Committee on the Constitutional Future of the Island of Ireland. The purpose of the public consultation process was to invite submissions from individuals, interested groups and organisations to consider the constitutional future of the Island of Ireland. In our submission, the HAI has pointed out several deficiencies in our constitution, where the non-religious are disadvantaged, and we have made several recommendations for change and for a move to a more secular constitution. (September 2022)

Mark No Religion - Census Campaign

In February 2022, the HAI launched a public information campaign encouraging all those who do not have a religion or no longer practise a religion to mark the ‘No Religion’ box on Census night, which took place the following Sunday 3rd April. The main pillars of the HAI campaign were

1.    Fair representation
2.    Fairness in public funding
3.    Fairness in Voice and influence

In addition to highlighting the issue on social media channels, the HAI created a short information video to highlight why this issue is important and our CEO, Jillian Brennan, gave interviews on many local and national radio stations.

In previous censuses the HAI felt there was a biased nature of the census question that assumed a religious affiliation by asking ‘What is your religion’? After Census 2016, the HAI engaged in consultations with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) with a view to updating the question on religion. Following a CSO pilot survey, the Census Advisory Group decided to change the wording and the new question was: “What is your religion, if any?” with “No Religion” being the first option on the checklist. The rewording of the religion question should more accurately reflect the number of non-religious people in Ireland.

In the 1991 census, “No Religion” represented 2% of the population and this figure rose threefold to 6% in Census 2011 and made a big jump in Census 2016 to just over 10%. In fact, the 2016 census revealed that those with no religion had almost doubled to 468,400, a massive 73.4% increase making “No religion” the second largest category behind Roman Catholics.

The results of the census and the HAI campaign should be available in April 2023. We expect the results to show a significant increase in the percentage of non-religious people in Ireland.

Ownership of National Maternity Hospital

We wrote to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, outlining our concern about the ownership structure for the new National Maternity Hospital. It appears that the Government is considering gifting the new National Maternity Hospital, to be built with hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money, to a private company established by the religious Sisters of Charity. (May 2021)

Judges Swearing a Religious Oath

We made a submission to the Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys, on the General Scheme of the Judicial Appointments Commission. In advocating for the rights of the non-religious, we outlined our belief that the current requirement for Judges being constitutionally obliged to swear a religious oath is a barrier for non-religious citizens. (May 2021)

New RSE Programme for Catholic Schools

We issued a statement deploring the new syllabus on Relationships and Sexuality Education that was launched for Catholic schools. (April 2021)

HAI Publish Guide to School Admissions

The HAI published a Q&A guide for parents/guardians raising children of no faith outlining their rights when admitting their child to their local school. For many years in Ireland, parents have faced the so-called ‘baptism barrier’ when seeking a school place for their children. The introduction of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 aims to address various issues of inequality around the admissions process to schools, including religious background. In essence, the Act removes the ‘baptism barrier’ faced by so many parents to date.

The Act requires all schools to have an Admissions Policy in place and these policies will apply for admissions for the 2021/2022 school year onwards. While the removal of the ‘baptism barrier’ is a welcome move to secure the rights of children of all faiths and none to a fair education, the HAI supports the view that teaching in state-funded schools should encourage critical thinking, be objective and pluralistic. Education should encourage learning in all forms but mostly it should be inclusive and should develop a respect for learning, for each other and for difference. (February 2021)

Mother and Baby Homes Report

We issued a statement on the Mother and Baby Homes report, condemning the appalling abuse suffered by women and children at the hands of religious institutions. (January 2021)

Universal Periodic Review of Ireland

We made a submission to the Human Rights Council, Third Universal Periodic Review of Ireland, (2021), where we set out our recommendations for the improvements of the human rights of the non-religious in Ireland.

In recent years

..... we have supported so many campaigns and act as advocates wherever we are needed, including:

State institutions should not biased towards any particular belief group. Our advocacy for causes like this is built upon three core beliefs when it comes to our relationship with the state:

  • Differences of belief or philosophy should be fully and equitably respected in policy and accommodated in practice by public authorities
  • The constitution, laws and practices of the state reflect a secular approach and are non-biased
  • As we have entered the third decade of this century, we embrace the fact that Ireland is becoming a much more ethnically, culturally and philosophically diverse society. That’s why the state, which serves us all, must respect diversity without any religious bias in our constitution, laws and practices.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up today and receive our monthly email newsletter straight to your inbox.