Secular Sunday #128 - Island of Shame and Scandal || 8 June, 2014
Secular Sunday - Atheist Ireland's weekly newsletter
Derek Walsh
I usually try to use this section for some light relief but having spent far longer than I intended in the normally routine task of compiling the week's relevant headlines, I find myself in no mood for levity.
The story of the Tuam babies that has dominated the news (and hence this newsletter) is one that arouses in me a visceral sense of anger and disgust; but along with it is a sense of weary familiarity, as we hear yet again about how the pervasive and ongoing collusion between the Catholic Church, the Irish State, and the Irish people led to the unnecessary and unjustifiable suffering of some of the most vulnerable people in society. The headlines I've selected are mostly about the Tuam scandal but are peppered with stories of other horrors perpetrated by Catholic institutions and enable by the Irish state and by the people of this country. Modern Irish history seems to me to be a story of generations of unspeakable (and unspoken) horrors promulgated by an organisation still funded, defended and fiercely embraced by the people of Ireland who have been ravaged by its abuses.
There will be reports, there will be further horrifying revelations, there will be carefully worded statements of contrition. That's what always happens. That's what we do now.
We need to do more.

 - Derek Walsh, Editor



People's Debate

Jane Donnelly and Michael Nugent were on TV3′s People’s Debate with Vincent Browne last Wednesday. The topic was ‘Is Ireland Homophobic?’ Their contributions should appear below or can be found here and here. The full show can be viewed here


Freethought Friday

Robert Coyle and Ciarán Ó Floinn have launched Freethought Friday, a monthly radio podcast for the freethought community living in Ireland. You can listen to the first edition here.



Upcoming Events

All events are free and open to everyone unless otherwise stated. Listing is not necessarily an endorsement. Listings sorted alphabetically by county, then chronologically.


Saturday 14 June, 8:00 pm, Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork (map)
Retweet Offenders â€“ A Talk by Geoff Lillis organised by Cork Skeptics. In this talk Geoff will show how most “Irish” pro life groups are supported from the States, how most Intelligent Design fans are more interested in apologetics than science, how you can hack Twitter, and why skeptics should look at the metadata, not just the data. Facebook event page Read more
Sunday 15 June, 12:30 pm, Soho (rear lounge), 77 Grand Parade, Cork (map)
Secular Sunday Brunch. A family-friendly social event where you can meet up for a meal or snack and a chat with like-minded people. You don't have to be a member of Atheist Ireland to attend, so feel free to come along if you would like to find out more or to just have an informal and fun lunch. Facebook event page.  Meetup event page


Sunday 29 June, 12:00 pm, The Mount Errigal Hotel, Ballyraine, Letterkenny (map)
Secular Sunday Brunch. A family-friendly social event. Facebook event pageMeetup event page


Wednesday 11 June, 7:00 pm, Department of Children, 49 Mespil road, Dublin 4 (map)
Justice for the Tuam Babies. March and candlelight vigil. Facebook event page

Tuesday 17 June, 7:30 pm, The Workman's Club, Wellington Quay, Dublin 2 (map)
Atheists in the Pub. This month's speaker is Max Krzyzanowski, an organiser with the group LGBT Noise who campaign for the equal treatment for LGBTQIA people in all areas of life, in Ireland and abroad. Facebook event page


Wednesday 11 June, 7:00 pm, Eyre Square, Galway (map)
Vigil for Tuam Babies. Galway Pro Choice are holding a vigil to express sorrow and outrage at the discovery of a mass grave for babies and children in Tuam, and to demand action from both the Church and the state on the issue of mother and baby homes. Facebook event page

Sunday 29 June, 12:00 pm, Oslo Bar, Upper Salthil, Galway (map)
Secular Sunday Brunch. A family-friendly social event. Facebook event pageMeetup event page


Sunday 22 June, 12:00 noon, Rivercourt Hotel - Riverview Bar, John Bridge, Kilkenny (map)
Secular Sunday Brunch. A family-friendly social event. Facebook event pageMeetup event page


Sunday 15 June, 12:30 pm, A Casa Mia, Tobergal Lane, Sligo (map)
Secular Sunday Brunch. A family-friendly social event. Facebook event pageMeetup event page


Sunday 22 June, 12:00 noon, Tower Hotel - Bistro Bar, The Mall, Waterford (map)
Secular Sunday Brunch. A family-friendly social event. Facebook event pageMeetup event page




8 June

World Oceans Day

12 June

World Day Against Child Labour. This year, World Day Against Child Labour draws attention to the role of social protection in keeping children out of child labour and removing them from it.

14 June

World Blood Donor Day. The focus of this year's World Blood Donor Day campaign is "Safe blood for saving mothers". Every day, about 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. Severe bleeding during delivery and after childbirth is a major cause of mortality, morbidity and long-term disability. The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness about why timely access to safe blood and blood products is essential for all countries as part of a comprehensive approach to prevent maternal deaths.
Contact the Irish Blood Transfusion Service to arrange a donation.


This Week in History

Anniversaries of momentous events in atheism, science, skepticism, secularism and human rights, plundered shamelessly from Wikipedia and other sources.

8 June

1794: Robespierre inaugurates the French Revolution's new state religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being, with large organized festivals all across France.

14 June

1822: Charles Babbage proposes a difference engine in a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society entitled "Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables".

1949: Albert II, a rhesus monkey, rides a V2 rocket to an altitude of 134 km (83 mi), thereby becoming the first monkey in space.

2012: The Muaro Sijunjung district court in Indonesia found Alexander Aan guilty of "disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility" and sentenced him to two and a half years' imprisonment and a fine of 100 million rupiah (€6,000).



8 June

1916: Francis Crick (d. 2004). English biologist, most noted for his role in the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA.

1955: Tim Berners-Lee, English-American computer scientist and engineer, invented the World Wide Web

1971: George Hrab. American rock & funk musician & podcaster. Known for exploring atheist, skeptic and science themes in his work.

10 June

1929: Edmund O. Wilson, American biologist and author. The "father of sociobiology" and the world's leading authority on ants.

11 June

1889: Joseph Lewis (d. 1968): American freethinker and atheist, president of Freethinkers of America 1920–1968.



Material collected from the Irish atheist blogosphere and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement.


No country for young women: Honour crimes and infanticide in Ireland

by Stephanie Lord

Stephie LordWhen I was in first year in secondary school in 1997, a girl in the year above me was pregnant. She was 14. The only people who I ever heard say anything negative about her were a group of older girls who wore their tiny feet “pro-life” pins on their uniforms with pride. They slagged her behind her back, and said she would be a bad mother. They positioned themselves as the morally superior ones who cared for the baby, but not the unmarried mother. They are the remnants of an Ireland, a quasi-clerical fascist state, that we’d like to believe is in the past, but still lingers on. Read more

Tuam and the death of empathy

by Paul WS Bowler

ItPaul WS Bowler’s not easy coming to terms with mass graves. A mass grave always denotes a tragedy of some sort. Be it war, genocide, epidemic, famine, earthquake or tsunami, it takes a disaster of epic proportions for us to dispense with the individual care our species routinely pays to its dead. 
In Tuam there is a mass grave of babies. The pit in which they were disposed was a septic tank. 
The normal response to such a departure from common decency is shock and horror. Followed by a call for justice. Who were these monsters who would fling dead infants into a shithole, a pit already clogged with the tiny bones of hundreds of dead babies? Let these demonic creatures be named and shamed and the sick philosophy which inspired them, be enjoined to perpetual silence. Read more

Outrage being expressed over Tuam babies, but we are still ignoring institutionalised abuse today

by Peter Ferguson

Peter FergusonIreland has been reeling from the shocking revelation that 796 children died in a “Mother and Baby” home in Tuam between 1925 and 1961, their bodies allegedly dumped in a septic tank. The manner of their deaths is unconfirmed but malnutrition, neglect and disease are strongly suspected.
As the news broke people began to wonder the hows and the whys. Why would people do this to children and how could society let it happen? The same questions were asked when the child sex abuse scandal was uncovered, and we will find the same answers here too: we didn’t listen and we didn’t care.
As much as we would love to pretend that we simply weren’t aware, it’s not true. We knew about the horrible conditions: it is attested in a local health board inspection in 1944. Children were described as “emaciated”, “fragile”, “pot-bellied”, and “not thriving”. Read more


Media Watch

News and views from Ireland and around the world



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