November Meeting

Our Next Meeting: Again held on-line because of CV19.  Branch member Bridget Carlin will speak to us on “Economics for the 21st Century”;  if you would like to partake in a bit of debate and craic,  please do join us 12 Noon on Sunday, 29th November.

For meeting link contact Tom @ humanistswest@gmail.com

***Please note we will be changing our regular monthly Zoom meetings  from December onwards-  they will now be held at the more family-friendly time of 7:30 PM,  on the last Wednesday of each month***

A Second Republic- Reflections from the Summer School from Tom White

LET’S REASON OUR WAY TO A COMPASSIONATE FUTURE

This year’s Summer School event in Tullamore was absorbing and challenging, especially on Day Two when the debate moved to the political future of our island in the light of Brexit. No-one in attendance claimed to know what will develop from the fluid, fraught political problems we are currently faced with North and South. When our brains become overloaded with complexity, there is an all too human tendency to revert to gut instincts – fear, fight and flight. This has been a recurring motif in Irish history and indeed world history. In crisis situations it is difficult to think of long – term solutions.
The Good Friday Agreement came out of a crisis situation. It brought PEACE to Ireland after decades of struggle and suffering, and all sides grabbed the Peace dividend and sighed a mighty sigh of relief. Although the Good Friday Agreement contained many forward – looking aspects, the natural human tendency on all sides was “to let the hare sit” on contentious and challenging issues; these issues have been both home – grown (“Cash For Ash”, Parity of Esteem, Irish Language) or imported, like Brexit. The political institutions underpinning Good Friday have now largely failed (no debates at Stormont); when people give up talking with one another, they generally end up shouting at one another. Most worrying of all, the Peace dividend we so longed for and valued is beginning to look distinctly rocky.
The political leaders of the Loyalist community in Northern Ireland (the DUP) found themselves in temporary nirvana after the last Westminster election. Theresa May failed to secure a majority, and turned to DUP to help govern – a lurch to the right and a blatant act of treachery towards her Conservative long term supporters, the Official Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. For the Tories, the DUP represented “any port in a storm;” so the DUP got the chance to strut the world stage, whilst screwing a few extra UK tax-payer pounds towards Northern Ireland. Stormont has been prorogued, now Westminster has also been prorogued; a bit of a pattern there, perhaps? Maybe the DUP might not be the best coalition partners for anyone to have?
“We are where we are” – the old cliché; but where exactly do we want to go? South of the border, the women and young people of Ireland (and the EU!) have slowly dragged what used to be a deeply conservative nation kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Recent referendum triumphs in the Republic have masked the fact that what has been achieved has been one hell of a struggle for progressives against the innate Catholic conservatism enshrined in the McQuaid-De Valera Constitution of 1937. Whatever the many shortcomings in the current Irish Constitution, it sure beats the dreadful state of affairs at the moment in the UK which has muddled by for centuries of “precedent.”
I believe it would be much better for citizens living south of the border to update and redraft the Irish Constitution to help make it a secular and inclusive document which everyone on the island could ascribe to and support. That one giant stride of progress would circumvent the constant effort of progressives having to fight referendum causes to seek to amend a deeply flawed document. Arriving at a draft for a “Second Republic” will be a complex process, but that process would be greatly enhanced if Loyalists in the North were prepared to have a creative input to its drafting. Why should they do so? Demographics alone suggest that there will soon be a majority of people in Northern Ireland who favour a united Ireland; better surely to influence the outcome of what may well become inevitable than to have a fait accompli foisted upon Loyalists in the North. Better to walk through the door to reunification clear – sighted rather than blindfolded. That’s prudent and rational. That’s not just a polite request to Unionists in the North; the fact of the matter is, progressives in the South need your input and help. The prospect of a United Ireland still has immense traction amongst conservatives South of the border; they will be more inclined to accept clauses which might otherwise be too radical for them if they believe a United Ireland is made more likely by their voting “Yes.”
There’s a lot of challenges out there, North, South, East and West. In the midst of confusion, we can revert to tribalism, to shooting one another, or we can move on to a cooperative, shared future which supports the legitimate aspirations of all the diverse communities which inhabit our island. Let’s choose the latter option, and let’s start the planning and work to put that in place NOW. Planning a Second Republic, with its constitution written from the grassroots up, is what is needed to give comfort and hope in our time of crisis. Let’s draft a new secular Constitution and let’s put that to voters, South and North.

News and Events

Summer School Tickets Available Now!

The programme for this year’s all-Ireland Humanist Summer School has been finalised. The Summer School with take place at the Bridge House Hotel in Tullamore, County Offaly, on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th of September. Tullamore is a pretty town in the centre of Ireland with excellent transport links and loads of options for food and entertainment.

Speakers over the weekend are Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD; journalist and author Martina Fitzgerald; Religious Affairs correspondent Patsy McGarry of the Irish Times; poet Sarah Clancy; Professor Colin Harvey of Queens University, Belfast; activist and former USI President Síona Cahill; Liam Herrick, Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Naomi Connor of Alliance for Choice in Northern Ireland, and Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners. We also welcome back an old favourite in Brian McClinton of the Irish Freethinkers and Humanists.

You can see the full programme here:
https://www.humanism.ie/2019/06/summer-school-2019/ and book tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/all-ireland-humanist-summer-school-2019-tickets-62777805105

And don’t forget the Saturday night meal for conference attendees, along with the traditional post-meal entertainment, and a couple of extra surprises!

For those of you new to the Summer School. it is a two-day theme-based event with presentations, discussions, and plenty of socialising and entertainment. It is educational, good fun, and a chance to socialise with your fellow humanists while taking in some really interesting speakers.

This year’s theme is Humanism and the New Ireland and the event will cover a wide range of topics relating to the future of Ireland, to the more secular island emerging, and what is humanism’s place within that. There will also be some cultural and entertainment-based additions to the programme compared to previous years, and a little something to help your mental health!

Some quick research suggests that accommodation prices in Tullamore are creeping up as humanists take up the available rooms, so we recommend booking accommodation as soon as possible.

Any questions about the event can be directed to Eamon at 0879608295 or eamonmurphy83@hotmail.com

We are also looking at including some events for children of various ages over the weekend but first we need be check on what kind of interest there would be in availing of this. If people are interested in bringing their children to the Summer School and have them partake in some activities please could you email Roseanne at reillyrs@gmail.com as soon as possible.

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