Secular Sunday #480 – Ireland’s turn at the Universal Periodic Review

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Ireland’s turn at the Universal Periodic Review


Atheist Ireland is working on a Submission to the UN for the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Ireland, which is due in October / November 2021. The UPR is a process in which the UN Human Rights Council reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States.

Atheist Ireland made a submission and spoke at Ireland’s last review in 2016. It is a different process than the examination by various UN Committees on the treaties that Ireland has ratified. The UN Human Rights Committee is one such committee and so is the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. These committees are made up of experts in the area of human rights law. The UN Human Rights Committee is not the same as the UN Human Rights Council.

The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

Atheist Ireland will raise with the UN Human Rights Council religious discrimination in the Irish education system, religious oaths for high office and the Asylum process.

– Secular Sunday Editorial Team

Éire Aindiach

Éire Aindiach


Chun ár gcuid feachtais a leathnú agus a neartú, tá sé beartaithe ag Éire Aindiach níos mó úsáid a bhaint as an Ghaeilge.
Ba mhaith linn meitheal a eagrú, chun cuidiú le:
  • Polasaithe agus feachtais Éire Aindiach a phlé ar an raidió nó ar an teilifís
  • Cuidiú le doiciméid ghaeilge a scríobh
  • Bualadh le polaiteoirí chun stocaireacht a dhéanamh
Táimid i mbun aistriúcháin a dhéanamh ar dhoiciméid polasaí faoi láthair, agus teastaíonn cabhair uainn le aistriúchán agus profáil.  Más maith leat bheith páirteach san iarracht seo, cur ríomhphost chugainn ag
English translation:

To broaden and strengthen our campaigns, Atheist Ireland have undertaken to make more use of the Irish language.
We are looking to assemble a group of volunteers, to help with:

  • Discussing our policies and campaigns on radio or tv
  • Helping to write documents in Irish
  • Meeting with politicians to lobby them
We are in the process of translating policy documents at the moment, and we need some help with translating and proofreading.  If you would like to assist with this effort, please email us at

Atheist Ireland News

 From 2020…

How the UN protects human rights

Where can you turn if your State denies you your human rights? Here is an overview of the main United Nations human rights treaties.
Atheist Ireland uses these treaties to advocate for human rights in the areas of freedom of conscience and expression, and separation of church and state.
The three main treaties
Founded in the aftermath of World War Two, the United Nations soon adopted the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This was later strengthened by two legally binding treaties: the 1976 International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Together, these three UN documents became known as the International Bill of Human Rights. By then Europe in 1950 and America in 1969 had already adopted regional human rights treaties, followed later by Africa in 1981.
Islamic states signed a rival treaty in Cairo in 1990 based on Sharia law, which limits rather than protects many human rights.
The UN has also brokered other treaties dealing with specific human rights issues including children, women, race, genocide, slavery and torture.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration is built on the principle that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. You have the right:

  • to life, liberty and security of person;
  • to not be enslaved or tortured;
  • to be held equal before the law; to not be arbitrarily arrested;
  • to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a fair trial;
  • to have your privacy and reputation protected;
  • to have a nationality and to move freely between countries, including asylum from persecution;
  • to marry and to own property;
  • to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion, expression and peaceful assembly;
  • to democratic government based on free and fair elections;
  • to fairly paid work, rest and leisure, social security and a basic standard of living;
  • to health and education, including free elementary education;
  • to take part in the cultural life of your community; and
  • to have all of these rights protected by law, and only limited to protect the rights of others.

International Covenants on Human Rights
Over 160 States have ratified the two main UN treaties that give these rights the force of law (about seventy more have signed but not yet ratified them).

  • Under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, States must respect and ensure the rights to life, liberty and security of person, equality and procedural fairness in law, individual liberties and political participation.
  • Under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, States must take steps, to the maximum of their available resources, to progressively realise the rights to work, social security, family life, an adequate standard of living, health and education, and participation in cultural life.

States can also sign optional protocols to these treaties, for example, to abolish the death penalty or to allow individual citizens to complain directly about violations of either treaty.
These treaties are monitored by UN Committees of independent legal experts who regularly consider compliance reports from States, and sometimes consider complaints from individuals.
So today, thanks to an ongoing process first triggered by the horrors of World War Two, many but not all people have someplace to turn to if their own State denies them their human rights. Read online…

From 2020…

The European Convention on Human Rights protects nonreligious beliefs

The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which is protected under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, also protects atheists and nonreligious philosophical convictions such as secularism.
The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg in France, oversees the European Convention, through the European Court of Human Rights (and before 1998, also through the European Commission of Human Rights). The Council has 47 member states, 28 of which are also members of the European Union.
The Council of Europe recently published an updated Guide on Article 9. It makes the following points.

“Freedom of thought, conscience and religion as enshrined in Article 9 of the Convention represents one of the foundations of a “democratic society” within the meaning of the Convention. It is, in its religious dimension, one of the most vital elements that go to make up the identity of believers and their conception of life, but it is also a precious asset for atheists, agnostics, sceptics, and the unconcerned. The pluralism indissociable from a democratic society, which has been dearly won over the centuries, depends on it. That freedom entails, inter alia, freedom to hold or not to hold religious beliefs and to practise or not to practise a religion (Kokkinakis v. Greece, § 31; Buscarini and Others v. San Marino [GC], § 34).”

The European Court and Commission have explicitly or implicitly acknowledged that the safeguards of Article 9 apply to various coherent and sincerely-held philosophical convictions.
These include secularism, veganism, pacifism, principled opposition to military service, and opposition to abortion, a doctor’s opinions on alternative medicine, the conviction that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman and rejection of homosexual unions.

However, Article 9 does not protect all nonreligious beliefs. For example, it does not protect demanding that the state uses your language, refusing to vote where voting is compulsory, wanting to be recognised as a political prisoner, or wanting to impose corporal punishment on a child. The Council of Europe Guide lists also almost fifty examples of unprotected religious and nonreligious beliefs.
The test of whether a personal or collective conviction is to benefit from Article 9 is that it must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
You have an absolute right to hold your beliefs, and a qualified right to manifest them.

  • The right to hold or change your belief (whether religious or not) is absolute and unconditional.
  • The right to manifest and practice your beliefs is not absolute. Any limitations must be prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society in pursuit of a legitimate aim. These legitimate aims are public safety, the protection of public order, health and morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The state has both a negative obligation to refrain from interfering in, and a positive obligation to secure to you, the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention. Read more…

Calling concerned teachers

If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at


List of Atheist Ireland Submissions



Buy this book “Is My Family Odd About Gods?”

**Schools Special Offer**

As Covid continues and schools start back online, Atheist Ireland are offering the book ‘Is my family odd about godsfree (excluding postage and packaging).  This means that you can get this book for the total price of 10 euro. This offer is aimed at families with school going children, who would like to read this book during their online school term. This offer is limited to one book per family unit and for postage within Ireland only. Read more…

Have you noticed that your school and your teachers may tell you one thing about religion, while some of your friends and family may have different ideas about god?
If you think that this is a little odd, then this book is for you. Buy this book here.


Lessons about Atheism

Atheist Ireland has published a set of free lesson plans about atheism for children aged 8 and up. We welcome feedback, which we will use to develop the lessons. You can download the lesson plans here



Be Good without Gods


Atheist Ireland ‘Good Without Gods’ Kiva team members have made loans of  $31,050 to 1078 entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here. Before you chose a loan, make sure you do not support religious groups. You can check the loan partner’s social and secular rating here.

Atheist Ireland’s ‘‘ is a place where people can publicly renounce the religion of their childhood. Currently there are 1811 symbolic defections. Many share their reasons for making a public symbolic defection which you can read here

Petition on Schools Equality PACT 

Atheist Ireland currently runs one petition – The Schools Equality PACT. This seeks to reform religious discrimination in state-funded schools. Currently this stands at 4,050 Help us reach it’s target of 5000. Please sign and share this petition if you haven’t already done so. Thank you.

Tell us what you think

Have you any feedback that you would like to give us on the Secular Sunday newsletter. What are we getting right? What could we improve on? Is there something you would like to see included? Drop us an email at

Please consider joining or re-joining Atheist Ireland

Atheist Ireland is an entirely volunteer run organisation. We receive no grants or government funding to continue our campaign work. We rely entirely on membership fess and donations.

Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged, €10 unwaged/student and €40 for family membership. Please consider becoming a member. Membership means:

  • You can help to build an ethical and secular Ireland.
  • You have a say in determining policy and electing officers.
  • You can attend members meetings and our AGM.
  • You will have access to our members only Facebook group
  • Your membership fee will go towards supporting our many campaigns.

You can join Atheist Ireland here.

Thank you for your continued support


Atheist Ireland Committee



Take Action

New report reveals vast extent of global non-religious persecution


By Humanists UK


A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG for FoRB) has today highlighted the vast global persecution faced by non-religious people, identifying particularly grave problems in many countries around the world. Humanists UK has welcomed the report, and commended it as a resource for decision-makers in their efforts to combat freedom of belief violations. 13 countries have the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy, and in dozens more it is a criminal offence to be openly non-religious. Read more…

Zara Kay will soon arrive in Australia


By International Coalition of Ex-Muslims


The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims is pleased to announce that Zara Kay will soon arrive in Australia today 4 March 2021 after weeks of facing threats and risk to her life in Tanzania.  She finally flew out of Tanzania on 1 March, having missed a 26 February flight after being stopped by police at the airport.
As had previously been reported, Zara Kay, Founder of Faithless Hijabi, was detained on trumped up charges on 28 December 2020 and held for 32 hours at the Dar es-Salaam Oysterbay Police Station. Credible sources revealed that the politically-motivated charges against her had been instigated by certain members of Zara’s former Khoja Shia Ithnasheri Jamaat community who are opposed to her apostasy, blasphemy and activism. Read more…


Raise awarness on blasphemy law abuse

Opinion and Media

Material on atheism, secularism, human rights,politics,science etc. collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement. We aim to include a variety of diverse opinions and viewpoints.


Blogs & Opinions




Éamon de Valera’s son facilitated illegal adoptions in 1960s


By Patsy McGarry


Evidence that a gynaecologist at the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street, Dublin, faked documents to facilitate four illegal adoptions over 60 years ago will be aired in an RTÉ Investigates programme on Wednesday night. The late Prof Éamon de Valera, a consultant gynaecologist and son of the former president, was identified by the Irish Mail on Sunday in 2015 as having facilitated illegal adoptions. Read more…

Eamonn De Valera Jr repeatedly arranged illegal adoptions


By Aoife Hegarty


Prof Eamonn de Valera Jr, the son of former President Eamon de Valera, repeatedly facilitated the illegal adoption of babies long after the introduction of the 1952 Adoption Act, which made the practice a criminal offence, RTÉ Investigates has learned. Read more…

Who am I? The story of Ireland’s illegal adoptions


By Aoife Hegarty


A large blue pocket folder. To anyone else, it might seem mundane. But to 56-year-old Mary Dolan, the folder means so much more, containing as it does the few clues she has in her possession to her true identity. On a damp October day in 2020, at one of the now almost desolate hotels by Dublin Airport, Mary recalled the mid-1990s day on which she was first told that she was adopted. Read more…


The RTÉ Investigates programme reminds us of the issues facing the State-funded National Maternity Hospital


By Dr Peter Boylan


THE INVOLVEMENT OF the Religious Sisters of Charity in illegal private adoptions, where children’s birth certificates were falsified, identities concealed, and dates of birth changed was starkly revealed in this week’s powerful RTÉ Investigates programme. Read more…

Abstinence and shame: Sex education in a church school


By Nora Redmond


I am sitting in a classroom, being shown a slideshow comprised entirely of repulsive images of STI-infected genitals. If there’s one thing religious schools do quite like no other, it’s sex. From sexual health to sexual orientation, much was absent from my education in a religious school. Read more…

‘Perverse’, ‘archaic’, and unfair: law allowing religious discrimination against teachers blasted by Stormont Education Committee


By Humanists UK


An exemption to equality law allowing schools in Northern Ireland to employ teachers on religious grounds is ‘perverse’, ‘archaic’, and unfair, members of the Stormont’s Education Committee said yesterday. Northern Ireland Humanists – which campaigns for equal treatment of teachers regardless of religious background – welcomed the comments and said they show it is high time for the exemption to be scrapped. Read more…


Secret Diary of an Irish teacher: Is it time to take religion out of the classroom?


By Secret Diary of an Irish teacher


I always felt a bit cheated when my kids had their first day at school. I’d imagined, before having them, that I’d get to cry at the school gate, spend my morning consoling myself in my empty nest — folding their little dinosaur pyjamas, looking wistfully at the empty garden swing. Read more…



I’m an Atheist; How Do I Talk to My Kids About Religion?


By Meghan Moravcik Walbert


When it comes to religion, parents—atheist parents, in particular—may find themselves stumbling to explain to their kids why other families believe in certain things, but we don’t. There are an endless number of “Big Talks” we have with our kids over the course of their childhood, but talks about religion are often steeped in the experiences of our own childhood, which may or may not hang off us like baggage now. Read more…

Polish LGBT activists found not guilty of offending religious feelings with “rainbow Virgin Mary”


By Daniel Tilles


Three LGBT activists have been found not guilty of the crime of offending religious feelings, which carries a potential prison sentence of up to two years in Poland.
The charges stemmed from their involvement in producing and distributing images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus with rainbow colours added to their halos. The so-called “Rainbow Virgin Mary” has become a symbol of LGBT rights protesters in Poland. 
Read more…

Parliamentarians discuss impact of Covid-19 on the non-religious


By Humanists UK


The All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) met on Monday to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the non-religious, including on our pastoral carers working in hospitals and prisons, on the work of humanist funeral and wedding celebrants, and the impact across the globe.The meeting was chaired by Baroness Bakewell and first heard from the Chief Executive of Humanists International Gary McLelland who shared an overview of the findings from this year’s Freedom of Thought Report. Read more…

Ruling on conscientious objection


By Editorial – The Korea Times


Government agency allows alternative service for objector based on nonreligious reasons The Military Manpower Administration (MMA) made an unprecedented decision Wednesday, allowing a man in his 30s, accused of refusing to fulfill his mandatory military service over his beliefs in nonviolence and pacifism, to engage in alternative service. Read more…

For the first time, Mexico adds 10 million atheists and fewer and fewer Catholics




Despite being the most popular religion, Catholicism is losing adherents in Mexico at an accelerating rate. Like most Latin American countries, Catholicism is the rule in Mexico. Holidays, school festivals and most customs are established in the Catholic Church based in RomeRead more…

Study: Atheism Isn’t Bad for Your Health


By Hemant Mehta


In a new paper published in the Journal of Religion and Health, researcher David Speed says that atheism, contrary to popular belief, is not bad for your physical health, emotional health, or psychological well-being. Read more…

If you are a blogger or vlogger writing or talking about atheism, secularism, ethics, skepticism, human rights etc. and would like us to include your work here please email the link to

Podcasts, Videos and Interviews


Do you host an Irish-based podcast on atheism, secularism, science, skepticism, human rights etc.? Let us know and we will link to it here.


Freethought Radio – Nine Decades of Progress – James Haught

Media Watch

News and views from Ireland and around the world. Sharing is not an endorsement. 




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