Secular Sunday #504 – Atheist Ireland meets Lord Mayor of Dublin

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Atheist Ireland meets Lord Mayor of Dublin


Atheist Ireland this week became the first atheist group to meet with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, as part of the traditional greeting meetings that take at the start of a new Lord Mayor’s term of office.

We discussed the importance of freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief as a fundamental right protected by the European Convention.

Atheist Ireland also wrote this week to the Oireachtas joint committee on Education, about the implications for parents’ rights of the anti-abortion video shown in a Tipperary school.

Parents and students were not informed before the video was shown about the contents of this video. It was shown during the Religious Education class which the State inaccurately claims is suitable for students from all religions and none.

The video was acquired by the teacher at a registered training day, meaning it was sanctioned by the Department of Education. The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) runs registered training days for curriculum Religion teachers alongside the Catholic Church.

Our letter explains how this behaviour breaches the rights of parents and students, and how the lack of transparency about Professional Development Service for Teachers is undemocratic and unacceptable.

Please consider joining Atheist Ireland if you are not already a member. We are a voluntary group with no paid staff, and we depend on our members to continue our lobbying on this and other issues including religious oaths for high office. You can join here.

– 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


Atheist Ireland meets Lord Mayor of Dublin


Atheist Ireland this week became the first atheist group to meet with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, as part of the traditional greeting meetings that take at the start of a new Lord Mayor’s term of office.
Typically these meetings include the President, the Taoiseach, the Catholic and Church of Ireland Archbishops, the Chief Rabbi, and a Muslim Imam. This year the new Lord Mayor asked for Atheist Ireland to be added to the groups that she meets.
Michael Nugent and Jane Donnelly, who attended the meeting, welcome this act of inclusion by Lord Mayor Gilliland. It symbolises a recognition that, in an inclusive society, people with nonreligious beliefs are as worthy of respect as people with religious beliefs.
We discussed the importance of freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief as a fundamental right protected by the European Convention. It is enshrined in a wide range of national and international texts. The right protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief.
We suggested that we need to amend the category of ‘religion’ under the Equal Status Act and the Employment Equality Act. These Acts just refer to ‘religion’ not ‘religion or belief.’ The definitions include “…or one has a religious belief, background or outlook and the other has not.”
This does not reflect the EU Equality Directive which refers specifically to ‘religion or belief’ in a way that equally respects the positive rights of atheists, secularists, and all those with nonreligious philosophical convictions.
We also raised the need for an inclusive education system that treats all children, parents, and teachers equally regardless of their religious or nonreligious beliefs. As things stand, the State assists parents with the religious education of their children but does not assist parents with non religious beliefs/philosophical convictions with the moral education of their children. Read more…


The anti-abortion school video, the Catholic church, the PDST, and the Department of Education


According to an article in the Sunday independent today, a religion teacher in the Ursuline secondary school in Tipperary played an anti-abortion and unscientific video to students. This is relevant to an issue that Atheist Ireland wrote about three years ago, when we sought information under the Freedom of Information Act about the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST).
The video which was seen by the Sunday Independent contains numerous controversial claims, including that women who have abortions are at high risk of developing breast cancer, that abortion clinics harvest foetal organs to sell them to medical researchers to fight Parkinson’s disease, and that the “scalp of the aborted baby can be sued to correct baldness”
A parent of a student complained to the school and the issue went to the Teaching Council, who ruled that the complaint did not warrant a full disciplinary inquiry for the religion teacher involved.
The Irish independent has seen the correspondence in relation to the complaint. According to the correspondence of the Teaching Council to the parent, the Teacher Council pointed out that the DVD was acquired by the teacher at a registered training day, meaning it was sanctioned by the Department of Education.  The Department of Education said it and its teachers’ education supports service has no knowledge of the video referred to in the article.
The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) runs registered training days for curriculum religion teachers alongside the Catholic Church. It seems at the very least plausible that it was at one of these training days that the religion teacher was given the video to show her students.
The teacher has said that she is committed to continuing her own professional development as a teacher. Showing this video was already part of her ‘professional development’ if she obtained the video on a training day organised by the PDST and the Catholic Church.
Atheist Ireland has tried unsuccessfully to obtain information about these training days between the PDST and the Catholic Church but the Information Commissioner found that the PDST are a private body and did not come under the FOI Act.
You can read our Article “Professional Development Service for Teachers won’t answer about in-service training with Catholic Church” here.

“Atheist Ireland recently used the Freedom of Information Act to ask some questions of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), which is a State-funded body that provides in-service training for teachers, about its relationship with the Catholic Church when providing such training for religion teachers.
The PDST gave us incomplete, misleading, and contradictory answers to our requests. When we appealed the responses under the Act, the PDST changed track. They told us that they were not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, because they are a private body, and the Office of the Information Commissioner agreed with them.
Consequently, a body that is State-funded but has no legal status, is now working with the Roman Catholic Church to deliver in-service training to religion teachers in State-funded schools, without any day-to-day role for the Department of Education in supervising this work. Furthermore, there is no public accountability in relation to how this work is conducted.”

The result of all of this is that the teacher and the school are claiming that the video was acquired at a registered training day. That registered training day was probably run by a publicly funded private body (the PDST) and the Catholic Church for teachers of curriculum Religious Education.
The Teaching Council has found that a Religious Education teacher showing a video to students that has been distributed by private bodies, without the consent of parents does not warrant a full disciplinary inquiry for the religion teacher despite the fact that parents and students objected on conscience grounds to the contents of that video. Read more…

*|YOUTUBE: [$vid=0J3wQERxAa0]|*

Religion Teachers

If Religion teachers want religious education to be made compulsory in all schools then they are going to have to change the constitution.

Parents have constitutional rights in relation to the religious and moral education of their children.

It is not up to religion teachers to decide what is or is not against the conscience of parents.

Religion teachers in Ireland should concentrate on understanding the constitutional and human rights rights of parents and children. Two thirds of religion teachers want to make religious education compulsory. As it stands many of these teachers force students to take RE.

It was a religion teacher that forced students to watch an anti scientific and anti abortion video that stated that women that had abortions were at high risk of have breast cancer. This was shown during the curriculum religion class.

It is not up to religion teachers to decide what is or is not against the conscience of parents. It is parents that have a constitutional right to decide on this issue not religion teachers.

Parents and their children have a Constitutional right to ensure that their children do not attend any RE course that is against their conscience.

No matter what religion teachers say they cannot force your child to take religion.

Religion teachers instruct students in religions other than their own all the time without the consent of their parents. In Ireland many students are coerced into taking curriculum religion at second level.

This is unconstitutional as the Supreme Court has said that it was impermissible for a chaplain to instruct children without the consent of their parents, the same principle must apply to religion teachers.


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**
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. 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  $33,425 to 1162 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 1871 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 4,081 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

Places  And Faces

Atheist Ireland Chair Michael Nugent, Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland and Atheist Ireland Human Rights Officer Jane Donnelly


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




Catholic Archbishop of Dublin says belief has ‘vanished’ in Ireland.

By Patsy McGarry


Evidence of Christian belief in Ireland today “has for all intents and purposes vanished,” Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell has said. This “underlying crisis of faith” was “particularly acute among the younger generations,” he said. “Public commentary in the media in Ireland has not been positive in its understanding of the Church and its need for vocations, and for public support of those trying to preach the Gospel,” he said. Read online…


Only humans could have screwed up an entire planetary system the way we have

By Fintan O’Toole


Perhaps we humans have always known that we might set the world on fire. Or maybe that awareness crept into our collective consciousness when we began to make the Earth a mere servant of our desires. Something told us that this might be a dangerous game. Read more…

Lord Mayor of Dublin invites atheists for Mansion House meeting

By Patsy McGarry


For the first time ever members of Atheist Ireland have been invited to meet a Lord Mayor of Dublin as part of the usual round of meetings that take place when a new occupant assumes the office.
Labour Cllr Alison Gilliland, who became Lord Mayor last June, met Atheist Ireland chairman Michael Nugent and its Human Rights Officer Jane Donnelly at the Mansion House this on Tuesday afternoon
. Read online…


School abortion video scandal a wake-up call that our schools are still not secular

By Emma deSouza

The screening of a deliberately graphic and scientifically inaccurate anti-abortion video to students at Ursuline Secondary School in Thurles does not warrant disciplinary action, according to the Teaching Council. Read more…


The Church Must Not Guide the Future of Ireland’s National Maternity Hospital

By Hemant Mehta


There’s a controversy brewing in Ireland involving what’s called the “National Maternity Hospital,” a non-profit which is meant to help low-income mothers and their babies, as well as women with high-risk pregnancies. Without getting into too many details (which I fear I would inevitably screw up), the problem is that the hospital, which was once on the verge of being taken over by a Catholic charity, may still have Catholic influence due to the site’s new owners and who will sit on the hospital’s board of directors. Read more…

Church authorities are in no position to complain about lack of consultation by Government

By Tony Flannery


I was quite surprised, indeed taken aback, when some bishops announced they were going to ignore medical and governmental directives, and advise their priests to begin to celebrate the sacraments of first communion and confirmation. The fact that among the early ones out of the traps were Bishops Doran of Elphin, Cullinan of Waterford and Deenihan of Meath made it a little less surprising. Read more…

Atheists get to meet Dublin’s Lord Mayor for the first time

By Barry Duke


ON Monday this week, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell, above, whinged that Christianity had totally lost its grip on a country notorious for having once been a seething cauldron of godliness and unspeakable cruelty. His point was underscored a day later when, for the first time in Ireland’s history, an atheist group was invited to meet the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Labour Cllr Alison Gilliland. Read more…


Magdalene testimonies in RTÉ documentary

By Lynne Kelleher


Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries were synonymous with unmarried mothers, but girls working in the steaming wash rooms were as young as seven or eight . As part of a new two-part RTÉ series called Ireland’s Dirty Laundry, which contains testimonies from survivors, one woman reveals how she was forced to work at such a young age for being disruptive in school. Read more…


Religious education should not be compulsory, say third of RE teachers

By Patrick O’Donoghue


One third of religious education teachers do not think the subject should be compulsory in post-primary schools, a report has found. The finding was published as part of a study of inclusive religious education produced by researchers at Dublin City University, Dr Amalee Meehan and Derek Laffan. Read more…


Amid calls to #TaxTheChurches – what and how much do US religious organizations not pay the taxman?

By Ryan Cragun


The hashtag #TaxTheChurches began trending on Twitter in mid-July.The spark was allegations about the wealth of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen. But it wasn’t the first time that “tax the churches” has circulated. In fact it is slogan that long predates social media – Frank Zappa was singing it back in 1981 and Mark Twain expressed similar sentiments many decades before that. Read more…

Victory for campaigners as homeopaths quit healthcare watchdog

By Rhys Blakely


The largest organisation for homeopaths has withdrawn from the register of healthcare providers accredited by Professional Standards Agency. The Society of Homeopaths (SOH), which has 1,000 members, had been accredited by the PSA, the government’s healthcare watchdog, since 2014. Read online…


Religion and health care services should not mix

By Charlotte Buchanan


Catholic hospital systems are the largest in the country. Of the ten largest health care systems in the United State, five are Catholic. The church is in big business, taking in operating revenues of tens of billions of dollars per year. The business is health care, not religion, but the church brings its religious beliefs into its business and forces some of its beliefs on everyone who uses its health care. Read online…

Faith schools: Three in 10 families have little choice but a religious school, study finds

By Will Hazell


Three in 10 families in England are left with little choice but to send their child to a faith school when they start school, research has found. According to analysis by the National Secular Society, 30 per cent of families live in areas where two or three of their nearest primary schools are faith based. One in 10 families have the same issue at secondary level.Read more…


Should anyone believe Taliban pledges to respect women’s rights?

By Heather Barr


IN A NEWS conference on Tuesday, the first since the Taliban gained control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, the official Taliban spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid sought to reassure women. “Our sisters, our men have the same rights,” he said. “They are going to be working with us, shoulder to shoulder with us. Read more…


It’s time to move on from religious education

By Keith Sharpe


RE has become a subject in search of a purpose. There are better approaches to learning about the diversity of beliefs, and better uses of time than using outdated legislation to perpetuate it, says Keith Sharpe. Read more…

Humanists respond to crisis in Afghanistan

By Humanists UK


Take action today by writing to your MP to urge them to advocate for a humanitarian response to the crisisThe humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been devastating for millions of people, with many losing their lives, livelihoods, or being internally displaced. The crisis is particularly devastating for women and girls. They now face being denied the right to education, being denied employment, being unable to leave their homes without a male chaperone, and being forced to wear a full face covering when they do. Read more…

Read Humanists International’s response to this crises here.

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.

Newstalk Podcast – Has The Time Of Devout Religiosity Come To An End In This Country
The Freethought Prophet –
Submission to Consultation on the Review of the Equality Acts



Freethought Radio – Taliban Takeover
The Friendly Atheist Podcast – The Modern Legacy of the Spanish Inquisition
National Secular Society – Schools aren’t there to save the church
The Freethought Prophet –  Open Letter to AAI Member Groups and Advisory Council
The Freethought Prophet –  Physician, Heal Thyself

Media Watch

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




Please consider joining Atheist Ireland and support our continued work








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