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Constitutional Convention Public Meeting in Limerick 27 Nov 2013

The Constitutional Convention has held meetings of its members for several weekends in 2013. The last one on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November voted to recommend removing the clause that states that Blasphemy is an offence.

The Convention it to meet over 2 weekends in February 2014 to discuss issues beyond the issues that the Government sent to it.

The Convention’s website has been open to the public to put up submissions on what other issues it will discuss in February 2014. This will close on 19 November.

The Convention has held evening meetings open to the public, also to receive submissions (you take your turn to stand up and speak).

There is to be a public meeting in Limerick

at 19:30 on Wednesday 27 November 2014

in the Strand Hotel.

The Mid West Humanists suggest that any person who wants the Constitution changed so that it is secular and free of religious influences attend the meeting and tell the Convention how they want the Constitution to be changed.

The other meetings were in

Cork             23 October

Galway        30 October

Waterford   7 November

Dublin           11 and 13 November

They will meet at 19:30 in these venues

Sligo             19 November             Sligo City Hall

Athlone       20 November           Radison SAS Hotel

Monaghan  25 November          Monaghan Institute of Further Education and Training.

Limerick     27 November           Strand Hotel

Constitutional Convention Deadline

Submissions to the Constitutional Convention will close on 19th November 2013

The Constitutional Convention is to hold its last 2 weekend meetings in February 2014. The subjects which they will discuss on those weekends are not settled, and the Convention’s members will vote in early December 2013 on what these will be.

The Convention’s members will use the list of subjects on which people made submissions to the Convention website. They have full discretion and are not bound by the number of submissions on a subject, but may be considering the quality of the submissions.

The website is going to stop taking submissions on 19 November 2013.

Any person who wants to make a submission to the Constitutional Convention needs to put the submission on the Convention website by 19 November 2013. After that date the Constitutional Convention will cease taking submissions on its website.

The Mid West Humanists have encouraged people of no religion, and also people with religion who would like a secular constitution, to put their own submission on the Convention’s website.

We have aimed since the Convention was announced in 2011 to seek to have it consider a plan to make the Constitution secular.

At present it is not in any way guaranteed that the secular questions (other than blasphemy) will be discussed.

You can make it more likely that the main secular questions will be discussed, by sending in your individual submission, which need not be long or complicated. See further down for some ideas.

Blasphemy was discussed at the Convention’s meeting on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. The vote was to remove the anti-blasphemy clause.

At present the Convention’s website says it has 620 submissions in its “Submissions – Other” list. There are also at least 14 submissions for a Secular Constitution in the “Blasphemy” list. The three largest groups of submissions are on these subjects:-

Separate Church and State (Secular Constitution) – 158;

Environment to be protected in the constitution – 137;

Economic, Social, and Cultural rights (ESC) (includes a Home) – 135.

Of the 158 submissions asking for a Secular Constitution, some of these are about all the parts that need to be changed, and some are on single subjects, such as the Preamble, or the Declarations for President, Council of State, and Judges.

In order for the changes to make a Secular Constitution get discussed at the Convention, this subject must receive as many individual submissions as possible, not form letters or emails. The Mid West Humanists have encouraged people to write their own submissions and not to copy another person’s submission. We hope this will mean more submissions of good quality, which we hear is more important than the number of submissions.

The Mid West Humanists recommend any person who thinks the Constitution should be secular to make her or his own submission. Here are what the Convention’s website will ask of you:

Name (will be shown on their website)
(some submitters have entered other than their true name, but their submissions are on the website)

County (will be shown on their website)

Title of your submission (will be shown on their website)

Address; email address – WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Telephone number (optional) WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Submission version 1 in a text box – maximum 1000 characters including spaces. (will be shown on their website)

Submission version 2, being a doc or pdf file that you create (optional). (will be shown on their website)

You can make quick reference to the main Articles of the Constitution that have too much religious content in the text box with 1000 characters. It is sufficient to count as a submission that you give a title that clearly shows the issue you intend. You will have shown enough substance in your submission if you put a few sentences about the issue in the text box.

For a submission in favour of a secular constitution we think it will be enough if you name some of these Articles and that you want them removed or made secular. There are already some submissions with arguments for these changes: not every submission needs to detail the arguments.

Mid West Humanists visit their TDs

When the government announced in 2012 that they would set up a Constitutional Convention, as promised before the General Election in 2011, the Mid West Humanists decided to visit the TDs in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary to ask them to have the Convention discuss making the Constitution secular.

By the time the Convention was starting its work in early 2013, the Dáil and Senate had included the part of Article 40 that makes Blasphemy an offence in the list for the Convention’s discussions.

Making the Constitution secular has not been on the list, but the Convention is considering what issues to discuss at 2 weekend meetings in February 2014. You can increase the chances that they will discuss Secular Constitution by making a submission to the Convention’s Submissions page. Give your own views, as in another post here.

So the Mid West Humanists set the plan to visit the TDs for close to the time when the Convention would discuss the anti-blasphemy clause.

The Convention discussed the anti-blasphemy clause on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. They voted to remove the clause; unfortunately they also voted to put in a replacement clause to prohibit religious hate crime. These are recommendations, and any referendum depends on a vote in the Dáil and Senate.

Members of the Mid West Humanists have talked to 3 of the 4 TDs in Limerick City and 2 of the 3 TDs in North Tipperary. We expect to get to speak to the other TDs in this region in the next few weeks. The TDs have listened to our proposals, which are in other posts here [Blasphemy, Declarations, Secular] ;

and in our submissions to the Constitutional Convention [Blasphemy, Declarations, Secular].

We asked the TDs to vote for referenda to let the people decide on removing the Blasphemy offence from the Constitution and on making the Constitution secular. We do not yet know what the TDs or their political parties think about this.

Watch out for more news.

Anybody who is a humanist or atheist and lives in Kerry-Limerick West would be welcome to help with the visits to TDs: please email info@midwesthumanists.com

Tell the Constitutional Convention that you want the Constitution to be Secular

The Mid West Humanists have sent one submission to the Constitutional Convention that the Blasphemy offence should be deleted;

another submission that several items in the Constitution should be changed to make the constitution secular; both on 24 May 2013;

and on 19 September 2013 a third submission that repeats the part of the second one that deals with a President, a judge, and a member of the Council of State being obliged to declare on starting the post that they so declare “in the presence of Almighty God“. We sent this because the Tánaiste making that declaration at the Council of State in July 2013 illustrated the bad effects of the mention of a god.

We have aimed since the Convention was announced in 2011 to seek to have it consider a plan to make the Constitution secular.

I write now because it is not in any way guaranteed that the secular questions (other than blasphemy) will be discussed.

You can make it more likely that the main secular questions will be discussed, by sending in your individual submission, which need not be long or complicated. See further down for some ideas.

Blasphemy will definitely be considered – at the Convention’s meeting on Saturday 02 and Sunday 03 November 2013. The Dail and Senate in July 2012 listed blasphemy as one of the topics that the Convention is to consider. The Convention’s website now states that on 02 and 03 November there will also begin consideration of Other Amendments. Other Amendments will get more discussion at the Convention’s last listed meeting on Saturday 30 November and Sunday 01 December.

As I write the Convention’s website says it has 301 submissions in its “Submissions – Other” list. The three largest groups of submissions are on these subjects:-

Right to a home;

Environment to be protected in the constitution;

Economic, Social, and Cultural rights (ESC).

I have not counted these submissions, but these 3 groups have at least 50 submissions each. On the website you cannot filter those or any other groups in order to count them, nor can you separate the Secular submissions from the “Other” set.

As I write there are 27 submissions asking for a Secular Constitution. Some of these are about all the parts that need to be changed, and some are on single subjects, such as the Preamble, or the Declarations for President, Council of State, and Judges.

In order for the changes to make a Secular Constitution get discussed at the Convention, this subject must receive more submissions.

The Mid West Humanists recommend any person who thinks the Constitution should be secular to make her or his own submission. Here are what the Convention’s website will ask of you:

Name (will be shown on their website)
(some submitters have entered other than their true name, but their submissions are on the website)

County (will be shown on their website)

Title of your submission (will be shown on their website)

Address; email address – WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Telephone number (optional) WILL NOT BE ON WEBSITE;

Submission version 1 in a text box – maximum 1000 characters including spaces. (will be shown on their website)

Submission version 2, being a doc or pdf file that you create (optional). (will be shown on their website)

You can make quick reference to the main Articles of the Constitution that have too much religious content in the text box with 1000 characters. It is sufficient to count as a submission that you give a title that clearly shows the issue you intend. You will have shown enough substance in your submission if you put a few sentences about the issue in the text box.

For a submission in favour of a secular constitution we think it will be enough if you name some of these Articles and that you want them removed or made secular. There are already some submissions with arguments for these changes: not every submission needs to detail the arguments.

Mid West Humanists send a submission to the Constitutional Convention on Declarations of Office

This is connected with the Council of State’s meeting in July 2013.

The Mid West Humanists have sent a submission to the Constitutional Convention on the declaration that the constitution says you must make on starting as President, or as a judge, or as a member of the Council of State.

This is our third submission to the Convention. In May 2013 we sent a submission on the Blasphemy law in the Constitution, because the Dail and Senate and the Government had sent this subject to the convention. At the same time we sent a submission on all the parts of the Constitution that have religious features and thus are not secular. This submission included asking to remove the Blasphemy law, but we sent the two separately because it was not fixed that the Convention would discuss making the Constitution secular.

In the Secular submission we noted that the Constitution tells a person (on starting the job) promising to do the job faithfully as President, as a judge, and as a member of the Council of State, that he or she must say she or he is doing this “in the presence of Almighty God“. The President and a judge must also add at the end “May God direct and sustain me

In the submission in May 2013 we had to speculate about judges who have no religion or do not believe in a god making these declarations, and so being dishonest; where honesty is one of the main features needed in a judge.

This was because we knew of no example of a person, publicly known to have no religion who had to deal with one of these declarations.

We sent the recent submission because in July 2013 President Higgins summoned the Council of State to meet with him to advise him over whether or not to refer the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill (the Bill to legislate for the 1992 X case on abortion) to the Supreme Court. (He decided not to refer it, but to immediately sign it into law).

At this meeting of the Council of State, an instance of the problems arising from the religious content of these declarations became public.

The Constitution says that the Tánaiste is automatically (“ex officio”) a member of the Council of State. Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore had said well before his election in 2011 that he does not have a definite belief in a god. Newspapers said in July 2013 that he got legal advice that he had a duty to go to the meeting of the Council of State, and that he should make the declaration including mentioning God.

This appears to mean that Article 31 of the Constitution has just directed or strongly encouraged the second in command of the executive branch of our government to speak dishonestly in public.

This part of the Constitution appears to encourage people to think is is okay for government ministers to be less than fully honest with the people:  this is likely to reduce people’s faith in the institutions of state and destabilise the democratic form of our government.

The Mid West Humanists’ submission on Secular Declarations of Office gives the above account and argues strongly that the religious parts of the declarations for a President, a judge, and a member of the Council of State must be removed.

UL Law Society has invited Mid West Humanists to talk on their Submissions to the Constitutional Convention

Kevin Whooley who is President of the Law Society for students in the University of Limerick recently invited the Mid West Humanists to give a talk to the Society, with an account of their activities, and of their submissions to the Constitutional Convention on Blasphemy and on a Secular Constitution.

I understand from Kevin that the UL Law Society is for law students, but open to all students, and that they value having an instructional talk from an outside person or group each year or each semester. The talk to the Society is likely to be on a Wednesday, early in the afternoon, in October 2013.

It will be best if several members of the Mid West Humanists come to the Society’s meeting. As spokesperson for public occasions, I will go to the Society’s meeting if it is on a Wednesday or other afternoon. If some other MWHs can make such a time that will work well. Kevin told me that meetings may be in the early evening, but fewer students attend then than in the early afternoon.

We await further news about the date. Send any observations you have about the date to info@midwesthumanists.com.

UCD L+H Society have invited Mid West Humanist representative to speak on “This House would believe in a God”

On 06 August 2013 Valerie Tierney who is Debates Convenor for the Literary and Historical Society (L+H) of University College Dublin (UCD) invited the Mid West Humanists to send a representative to their debate on Wednesday 23 October 2013 on the motion –

“This House would believe in a God”.

I replied that we would send a representative to speak, against the motion.

The debate is sure to be in UCD, but we await instructions on the exact place, and on the time. The time is likely to be in the early evening. When we know we will post the time and place here.

Student debating societies are usually open to the public as well. So any Mid West Humanists can attend.

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