Atheist Ireland declines invitation to State events marking 1916 rising

AI GPOAtheist Ireland has declined an invitation from the Irish Government to attend today’s State Ceremony at the GPO, and State Reception in Dublin Castle, marking the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising. We welcome the intention of the Government to be inclusive of people of all religious and nonreligious beliefs in these events.

Atheist Ireland promotes an ethical secular Ireland. The 1916 rising involved an undemocratic group killing innocent people, based on a Proclamation whose authors claimed that Ireland was acting through them in the name of God, and who added: “We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms.”

The Irish Government is reinforcing the religious connotations of the rising by marking its anniversary on the wrong date. The 1916 rising began on 24 April 1916. The Government is marking its centenary four weeks early, on 27 March 2016. The reason for using the wrong date is to make the commemorations coincide with the Christian holiday of Easter.

Nearly 100 years on, we live in a Republic where the State claims that it is constitutionally obliged to buttress religious discrimination; where 90% of our primary schools are run by the Catholic church; where you have to swear a religious oath to be President, a judge or Taoiseach; and where we have recently passed a new law against blasphemy.

Atheist Ireland continues to appreciate our ongoing involvement in the political dialogue process between the Irish Government and religious and nonreligious philosophical bodies on matters of mutual concern. We respect the right of the Irish Government and all people of any beliefs, including members of Atheist Ireland, to commemorate the 1916 rising.


The following is a clarification from Atheist Ireland in response to some of the feedback about this decision.

Atheist Ireland did not oppose the 1916 commemorations. We said that we respect the right of the Government to hold these commemorations, and the right of anyone, including Atheist Ireland members, to attend them. 

We simply declined an invitation to watch them, just as President Higgins has since declined an invitation to attend a 1916 centenary dinner in Belfast. Nobody has suggested that President Higgins has opposed the Belfast commemorations. 

Atheist Ireland is neutral between national political allegiances. We work alongside Atheist Northern Ireland and Atheism UK. We participate in an ongoing dialogue process with the Irish Government. We work with Atheist Alliance International on global issues. We spent last week briefing the UN in Geneva about secular human rights.

We do not reject either Irish nationalism or unionism, or the nonreligious aspects of the proclamation. One of our committee members had relatives involved in the 1916 rising, one of whose funerals included a Republican military salute. Another is an Irish nationalist who grew up as a Catholic in West Belfast, and brought his children to the centenary commemorations.

Nobody represents all atheists. Atheists are individual people who typically value their personal philosophical independence. Atheist Ireland is an advocacy group that acts on behalf of our members to promote atheism, reason and an ethical secular constitution, laws, education, and healthcare. We take decisions by assessing what position is most consistent with the aims in our constitution. This helps us to depersonalise our decisions.

In this case, we declined an invitation to watch a commemoration of events that involved killing innocent people in the name of God, celebrated on the wrong day to reinforce religious connotations. We would have declined a similar invitation to watch a religiously-permeated commemoration of the First World War. And there are still people today killing innocent people in the name of their Gods.

Finally, some people have said that they were offended by what we said. While we do not set out to offend people, neither would we avoid saying something because it offends people. Many religious people are offended by many of the things that we say about the harm caused by religion, and that does not stop us from speaking out on those issues.

With hindsight, we should have added these explicit clarifications to our original statement, in order to avoid confusion. We will continue to promote atheism, reason and ethical secularism, and we remain happy to clarify any misunderstandings about what we do.

Atheist Ireland declines invitation to State events marking 1916 rising

34 thoughts on “Atheist Ireland declines invitation to State events marking 1916 rising

  1. Respecting their right, not granting permission. If we hadn’t said that, we would have had people claiming that we were denying the right of people to commemorate it.

  2. I understand that it was a damned if you and damned if you don’t thing.

    However the tone of the statement is off.

    Like a child trying to cover up a failure by offering several different excuses (in the hope that cumulatively they will amount to justification) the statement throws in debating points such as the absence of a mandate, the deaths of innocent people etc, which are essentially political.

    The fact that I largely agree with those sentiments is neither here nor there.

    Atheism was represented at the inauguration of President Higgins. The ceremony contained a strong religious overtone.

    Atheists such as myself gladly present ourselves at the weddings of relatives and friends; we present ourselves at the less happy ceremonials which attach themselves to a death.

    In that context declining an invite looks unjustified and self-defeating and appears to be more based on AI’s characterisation of the Rising.

    Finally, I find it vaguely rude to decline an invitation publicly. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but to do this publicly turns the body who made a good-faith gesture into the target of your criticism.

    Criticism is warranted, but there must be times when you put differences to one side and note the past with the intent of forging a better future.

  3. I think this was a bad move by AI. Yes, the rising was undemocratic. So what. We’re now past that. You could have gone to be inclusive, without undermining your principles. Unfortunately we all have to make compromises in this world. By snubbing (yes, this will be taken as a snub) the majority of the Irish people you’ll have done the secular movement no favors at all. Me personally, I’m not interested in the commemorations around 1916, but I still recognize that it means a lot to most of the people I know. For that reason alone I would have gone if invited. You could have gone without agreeing with those that staged the rising. We’re all sick of the civil-war politicking that goes on between FF & FG and so AI should similarly be beyond grandstanding on this issue.

  4. @Citizen Wolf:

    I couldn’t agree more, and the “grandstanding” word strikes home.

    AI could have quietly and respectfully declined the invitation.

    To make the declining public is out of order.

    The Proclamation is as it was; it’s part of history. To rewrite it is revisionism. The decision to link commemorations to a movable feast rather than to the actual date – something which I’d prefer – is also a legacy of history. The issue about oaths contained in an Bunreacht is something which is the subject of debate.

    The refusal to respect thinvitation appears to me to be capricious and to be based outside the aims of persuading the State towards a more secular position. In ways it seems antithetical to that laudable aim.

    AI has fought hard for access to those who operate the levers of State. It has done wonderfully well so far in my view in gaining a voice. The decision in this case sounds a sore note, but also suggests a stance which is incalcitrant.

    It looks petty and mean-minded.

    I’ll attend a church, mosque or synagogue or temple anytime with someone with whom I am trying to reach agreement.

    This was a seriously bad decision. Publicising it was even worse.

    Sorry, MN and AI: this was a fuckup.

  5. I’m not Irish and I’m sure I’m not cognizant of all the factors, but it seems kind of ahistorical to complain that the 1916 Rising was an anti-democratic movement killing innocent people. There was no democratic framework in place at the time and both sides were killing people, with the British being far more heavy-handed in that department. But anyway, looking past the inevitable god-talk, AI of all groups should support the ideal of cherishing all the children of the nation equally.

    For an atheist group to be invited to an official state ceremony in Ireland is something that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, and shows how much AI has accomplished in normalizing atheism in Ireland. I have to agree with the other commenters, snubbing this invitation publicly comes across as petty and is a PR gaffe.

  6. A question would an Atheist in Ireland pick up a weapon and fight for his country?

    Michael you have to stop the rhetoric ‘where 90% of our primary schools are run by the Catholic church’ We have in Ireland a co-op of school government and Church. The church doesn’t run the schools 100%.

  7. Thanks for the feedback. I’ll reply to the 1916 comments when I get time to do so properly.

    With regard to the schools, the Irish courts have found that the State cedes control of the schools to the patron bodies.

  8. I think you’re spot on objecting to the religious aspect, but I think you’re off the mark by your description of the rebels as “an undemocratic group killing innocent people.” While that’s technically true, the rebels didn’t deliberately target civilians – the same cannot be said for the actions of many democratic states during wartime such as the firebombing of German cities by the the RAF in WW2.

    Also I don’t think we can judge the rebels actions entirely by today’s standards, particularly during the pointless slaughter of millions of people that was talking place on the continent at the time. The blow against the British empire in Dublin was also a blow against that slaughter.

    Many actions throughout history were organised by undemocratic groups, such as John Browns raid on Harpers Ferry. Without such actions its arguable change might come more slowly or not at all. In addition, John Brown was a religious nut.

    Oh, I’m no relation btw.

  9. The government chose to incorporate a secular holiday into the Easter Weekend Holidays, making it a quasi-religious holiday.

    Considering the over-whelming (mostly negative) influence religion (Catholicism n particular) has in modern Ireland, pushing back against further entanglements with religion (and Catholicism in particular) it is a good thing, not a bad thing, to decline to participate of this event as an atheist organization.

  10. @MosesD:

    This is a decision which was not made by this government. Easter has always been used as the time to commemorate the Easter Rising. There’s a clue in the name.

    I’d personally prefer to be faithful to the actual date, but that’s the way it has been done for the last century.

    This invitation wasn’t an invite to “further entanglements” with the RCC. The invitation was not issued by the RCC.

  11. I would hope that if AI respond to these criticisms they do so in a positive and not defensive manner.

    As an Irishman and an Atheist I have to say that I am sorely disappointed.

    Let me be frank about where I stand.

    I tend to reject activist atheism which appears to in most cases exist to pormote atheism on its own using the denigration of religion as a tool.

    There are far too many activists doing that.

    AI, however, has been acting in a different way so far as I can see. While projecting a positive view of atheism, it also has been acting in a very real sense to counteract the real manifestations of theism in daily life. The current campaign regarding equal access to education is entirely laudable and to be supported. Their other efforts in practical application of secular values are likewise of great value.

    That is why I am so very disappointed with this.

    I am an atheist. By definition, noone speaks for me or represents me.

    However, there is most definitely a need for agitation in terms of pushing the state towards a more secular position. In that respect I accept that AI *does* in a sense represent atheists beyond its membership.

    The state certainly does and requested our presence at a series of very significant state occasions.

    AI has a responsibility which goes beyond the boundaries of its committees and its membership. Much as I resent the thought of a hierarchy in atheism and by the way, unelected representatives representing us, the real politics are that AI has taken on that role and the government has decided that AI are a worthy representative team.

    I grudgingly accept that in the context that, yes, there is a need for a voice, and that while unelected, AI perform the role admirably.

    Most of the time.

    Not on this occasion.

  12. I agree with all that Nialler just said. I too am disappointed and unsettled by the position taken by AI on this. As far as most things go, AI have been a positive force for secularism in this country. However, I feel their stance on this will alienate the broader opinion against atheists and secularists. This was a bad move. I hope I’m wrong and I hope that AI’s position here will go unnoticed/forgotten in future negotiations/lobbying on more important topics such as education.

  13. I’m not sure where this position comes from.

    I get the idea that MN is a pacifist. I am too..I cannot imagine anything more dreadful than looking down the sights of a rifle and honing in on a human being.

    That said, if your rights are being deprived at the point of a rifle there may be some pragmatic justification in picking one up yourself.

    I’ve never supported physical force republicanism, but we are where we are.

    The gun has been removed from the equation but it may at some stage have been necessary to getting where we are.

    All of my impulses go towards discussions, towards peaceful resolution of issues. That doesn’t always work.

    I can’t offer solutions. I wish I could. We just have to accept that people working in different circumstances and the different ;oral frames imposed by those circumstances can’t easily be judged by us.

    I’m minded of a tiny graveyard in France. In the Loire. The previous day I’d got married and in this tint little place my wife wanted to place her bouquet on the grave of her beloved grandfather. It was a truly touching moment for me.

    There was an an annex in the graveyard; totally wild and overgrown, the gate rusted shut.

    It was where some collaborators were buried.

    I looked at the place and thought to myself that I had no right to judge them. I might have tried to run with the fox and the hounds. I cannot judge them. I cannot judge anyone. I cannot judge Pearse or his cohorts. We would have to be in their skins to do so.

    So I neither celebrate them nor denigrate them.

    If I had been asked to represent secularism I’d have accepted the invite without hesitation. Far be it for me to judge those people.

  14. I tried to leave this comment on the AI website but I’m not sure if it will be published or not, so here it is again.
    I am not a member of AI but I generally feel well represented by them in their advocacy work. But not in this decision. It smacks of the political view of a minority and not a majority. It would be interesting to know what your all members actually think. Maybe the next time you are invited to a major occasion such as this you could poll your members – this is easily done, presumably you have an email address for almost every member. It would also be interesting to know if your members agreed with this particular decision – again a poll could be quickly done – and, in the interest of transparency, publish the results.

    The fact is that the 1916 Rising happened and there is nothing we can do to change that. Hoping that the commemoration would be done in a wholly secular manner is unrealistic in a country that is still politically dominated by those that consider themselves believers. The fact that they invited you at all is almost unbelievable to me and shows how far we have come as a country. The fact that you declined is a major disappointment to me. I would have liked to have non-belief officially represented on the day.

  15. I’m not sure if Michael will thank me for citing John Bruton, but as a ‘nordie’ ex-prod, I was ignorant of the Easter Rising beyond cultural fear and loathing, not just of the Rising, but Home Rule (which the Rising wrecked), until I read this, printed in a unionist newspaper.

    His major point was the same as Atheist Ireland’s – they were undemocratic killers, and the uncritical promotion of them as martyrs is a dangerous precedent which, as a child of The Troubles, I know painfully well.

    It was earlier asserted there was no democratic framework – this is patently not true, as Bruton explained.

  16. @Colin:

    I’m no fan of physical force Republicanism, but this “undemocratic” theme is risible.

    How are any insurgents or revolutionaries supposed to establish a democratic will for their cause? Hold a referendum?

    Many popular movements and revolutions began with a small group of people detecting the wind of change and running with it. People followed.

    Yes, we can say that there are political means to progress a cause, but when that system is denying you a voice there comes a time to face up to it.

    AI are in the position where they can agitate for change in a controlled manner. What if atheists were being refused jobs, being refused engagement in the democratic process, were being actively discriminated against to the point that their actual existence was threatened/ Would they be justified in taking greater measures for their protection?

  17. Thank you for the feedback. I’ve included an update to this post, which is a clarification from Atheist Ireland in response to this and other feedback about this decision.

  18. The update clarifies nothing.

    It merely repeats the smorgasbord of rationales behind the decision, conveniently invokes Higgins and attempts to bulwark a moral high ground which you don’t yet occupy on behalf of the Irish people.

    The President’s office publishes his or her commitments, so a change in that schedule *must* be published in order that the media are aware and don’t turn up to cover a no-show. AI is not at that level where it is obliged to say where it won’t be rather than where it will be. The invitation could have been quietly ignored or discreetly declined.

    Instead it was publicised.

    The thing is this: there is an “I” in “AI”. It stands for Ireland. That means something. AI is both fighting the state (and justifiably so) while trying to engage with it. That involves a relationship based on some degree of mutual respect and tolerance of the foibles as seen by both parties in the other.

    That involves engagement; it involves turning up to the ceremonies with which you may not be entirely uncomfortable.

    You may not agree with the manner in which the State was born; but it is the State with which you must engage. You simply cannot refuse its offers on the basis of the manner of its birth. You have to deal respectfully with its fact rather than with its genesis. The word “Ireland” in your title suggests that in a forceful manner. If you are to have any representative voice for secularism, then your inclusion of that word means that you must engage in official engagements when invited.

    It may involve holding your nose, but it should be done.

    Ireland is Ireland and is what it is based on a rich, varied and sometimes regrettable history. If you wish to change it you must first engage in a totally accepting manner – accepting of what it is now, how it became so, and how it germinated. You simply cannot expect to change it from without.

    The position of AI in this is, frankly, risible. Again, it reiterates the date of the commemoration as if it is significant.There is always an arbitrary nature to these things – a date *must* be chosen, after all. It’s ridiculous to cite that as an issue; would you have accepted an invitation which happened to fall on the actual centenary date?

    I believe that there are some things happening on that day.

    I deplore our position on this and do so from some who is no republican but is instead a Republican.

    The “update” is merely a repetition rather than any form of explanation.

  19. I should add that it is ridiculous to state that this was “a commemoration of events that involved killing innocent people in the name of God”.

    Prove that outrageous statement. Killings wee never an intent, and it would appear that the overall aim was independence.

  20. **We simply declined an invitation to watch them**

    Not really. It was publically announced that you wouldn’t attend. You could just have not attended, without publicising it. I wouldn’t necessarily have agreed with thatdecision either, but it would have been preferable to the public announcement, which seemed like grandstanding to me. And doubtless (and more importantly) it will be seen in a similar manner by some of those in power with whom you’ll have to lobby/negotiate with in the future. This will diminish/damage your influence and power in any such lobbying, because it’ll be easier to dismiss you and paint you as contrarians.

    **In this case, we declined an invitation to watch a commemoration of events that involved killing innocent people in the name of God**

    Aw c’mon now. Who amongst us here wants to go out and start shooting people? Yes, people died in the rising, but that’s all in the past. It’s literally history. The commemorations aren’t about remembering how many people were killed, for Odin’s sake, or about celebrating those deaths. As I said in previous comments, I have no love for the 1916 commemorations. I personally didn’t go to any of the events over the Easter weekend. I have, and always have had strong doubts about the legitimacy of those involved in the rising. However, it’s all history now. If I was invited to the commemorations, for whatever reason, say for example something to do with my job, I would have gone because it’s beyond what I want or think about the rising. The commemorations weren’t about celebrating the deaths inflicted upon the British army. Only regressive fools enjoy such thinking. As the body representing atheists in Ireland, you have to engage (and you do regularly) with the Irish state. What you did by publically refusing to go was a slap in the face to the majority of the Irish people. By calling yourself Atheist Ireland you represent me by association. This stance, IMO, was a regressive step and only makes the cause of secularism more difficult because you’re going to make atheists seem like nothing more than contrarians. Doubtless you do have valid philosophical and ethical points underlying your decision to not attend. But to refuse, and to refuse publicly, was a major PR gaffe.

    **celebrated on the wrong day to reinforce religious connotations**

    Look, we all despise the hold that religion still has in the institutions in this country; but do you really think that focusing in on the ‘Easter’ part of the Easter rising commemorations is the way to go here? Who amongst the general populace considers the Easter rising and then thinks about Jesus? No-one I know does! C’mon, for goodness sake. And as Nialler asked – would you really have gone if it was held in April? If not, then don’t bring it up as a point.

  21. Hmm, I seem to have triggered a red-flag for your moderation system with my most recent comment.

  22. There’s been a bit of chatter on twitter about this, given that the update doesn’t do anything to allay concerns and that apparently Mick Nugent’s IT letter represents the entirety of Atheist Ireland’s official response, here are a few issues I think you might address:

    In what capacity were Atheist Ireland invited to the event in the first instance? As far as I know, official invites were severely restricted, taking in relatives and a few select groups. It seems overwhelmingly likely to me that AI was invited as a “faith” group by a well-meaning civil servant. If this is the case, and it can easily be confirmed via FOI, why did AI not simply say – as has been the response to most criticism around various issues in recent months – that it does not represent atheists in general, only its members? Would have been a perfectly reasonable ground for refusal if so.

    Was the decision to refuse taken by the Committee in its entirety? If so, on what basis, and was the statement, including the gratuitous and inflammatory reference to “undemocratic killers” also approved? Moreover, what did the latter statement possibly hope to achieve in promoting atheism and secularism in Ireland?

    This whole farrago is doing nothing whatsoever to dispel the impression that Mick Nugent is happy to hold himself out as the Pope of Irish Atheism when it suits him, and to use AI as a vehicle for his own longstanding agendas, but is equally quick to run and hide behind the contention that he doesn’t actually purport to represent atheists in Ireland, only his own clique, whenever his actions are subjected to criticism.

  23. I think we will have to agree to disagree about whether or not Atheist Ireland made the right decision. As we do with everything, we make a judgment on what we believe to be most consistent with our aims as adopted by our members in our constitution. There will always be people who would have preferred us to to have taken a different decision. The Atheist Ireland constitution recognises that not all members will agree with all of our decisions, and common sense dictates that many non-members will often disagree with us.

    The same is true of our pro-choice position on abortion and the right to die, our promotion of ESC rights, our position on secular education, our work with other social justice advocacy groups in different areas of Irish social life, our joint work with the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslims, and our specific criticisms of the beliefs and behaviours of Christian, Islamic and other religions, as well as of statutory and other nonreligious bodies.

    I recognise that the opinions expressed here are sincere, and that there is merit to some of the points. I would love to discuss this further, and if any of you want to come to one of our Secular Sunday brunches, I’d be delighted to chat with you there. If you want to discuss the internal workings of Atheist Ireland, you are welcome to join the organisation. You will find us to be a constructive, positive group of voluntary activists who are capable of working together despite differences on specific issues.

    On the question of why we were invited to the commemoration, we assume that it is because we are part of an ongoing official dialogue process between the Irish Government and religious and nonreligious philosophical groups in Ireland on matters of mutual interest. None of the groups involved in the dialogue process represent all of the people who would be encompassed by the words in the names of their organisations.

    That said, the Humanist Association of Ireland, which is also involved in the dialogue process and which was present at the 1916 commemoration, says it provides a voice to the secular community, and its director of celebrants has said they feel themselves to be a voice for all of the nonreligious in Ireland. Perhaps you might ask them about those claims, or is it okay when you agree with their decisions?

    Voodoo, I’m happy to let your comment through, but in future please use your real email address. Thanks.

  24. “Agreeing to disagree” is a weasel expression.

    It’s doctrinaire, but also implies that the other party is similarly doctrinaire and incapable of persuasion. It’s a refusal to engage. It is nearly always accompanied by an absence of argument or a cessation of any such effort.

    I’m sure that AI has democracy at the heart of its decisions. That is all fine, but counts for little with regard to the correctness of decisions reached through those means.

    You’ve ignored some serious questions:

    * Why publicise the fact that you declined the events? That is rude.

    * Why this reference: “we declined an invitation to watch a commemoration of events that involved killing innocent people in the name of God”, when that was not the aim of the exercise?

    * Why the referernce to the religiously fluid date of the commemoration? Would you have gone on the precise date? If not, then why bring it up?

    An invitation to discuss things over a brunch doesn’t cut the mustard at all. You declined the invite in public; defend that in public.

    The Irish people – through their democratically elected representatives – invited AI to state events. You snubbed them and made it public.

    Well done, you all.

  25. I’m genuinely disappointed. Even aside from the initial decision to decline, and to do it publicly, why on earth did you say in your follow-up clarification:
    **we declined an invitation to watch a commemoration of events that involved killing innocent people in the name of God**

    Yes, people died, yes, it was ‘undemocratic’, and yes, “in the name of god” was used in the proclamation. But for goodness sake, no-one I know is celebrating it for ANY of those reasons. (sorry for BOLD, I don’t know how to italicize)

    If you’re happy to engage with individuals on a personal level if they turn up to one of the AI events and explain the decision further, why not just explain it in public here? Surely you’ll be able to reach a wider audience that way….? That’s a bit odd, tbh.

    Anyway, carry on and good luck with the other good work you do, as it’s sorely needed. And I genuinely hope I’m wrong about the potential for this decision to negatively impact that work.

  26. Nialler,

    Firstly, I agree with you about the ‘agree to disagree’ point. I apologise for that.

    We often find ourselves in a position where some people disagree with us in a hostile manner, and when we address valid criticisms, they then shift to a different criticism. We therefore sometimes reach a stage where we decide to clarify things in a way that we believe should satisfy most people who interpret our integrity charitably, and we accept that others will not agree. We simply do not have the time or resources to debate individual arguments repeatedly.

    That said, I accept your sincerity, and I am happy to engage personally with you about this once more. I understand that you strongly believe that you are right and we are wrong. However, you have so far described our statements as childish, rude, capricious, petty, mean-minded, pathetic, deplorable, ridiculous, outrageous, risable, and misrepresenting things in a duplicitous way. Can you please stop doing that?

    With regard to your questions:

    We publicised our decision in order to be open about it. Also, if we had declined it privately, and it had emerged later that we had done so, I suspect the same people that are criticising us now would be criticising us for being secretive as well.

    We weren’t describing the aims of the rising. We described our objections to Atheist Ireland attending the commemoration of it. Read the proclamation, alongside other writings of Pearse, and you should see what we mean. You don’t have to agree with our conclusion, but I hope that you can agree that it is not an unreasonable conclusion for ethical people to come to.

    We don’t know whether we would have gone on the right date. We weren’t invited to go on that date, so we didn’t discuss it.

    We are part of the Irish people, and we cannot therefore snub the Irish people. I wouldn’t want to live in a State where everyone is expected to commemorate something because the Government decides, or even because a majority decides, and I suspect neither would you.

  27. @Michael:

    I don’t want to take up any more of your time on this.

    The terms I used to describe the decision are all part of the robust debate you encourage.

    FWIW, I agree that AI shouldn’t be obliged to accept every invitation from the state; that would be a supine posture to hold. A hugely significant state event, though . . .

    I also believe that you are overstating the religious connotations. God has always been invoked in struggles both as justification and possibly as a psychological bulwark. Think of the German soldiers of WWI and the belt buckles inscribed “Gott Mit Uns”.

    AI’s attitude to the event is analagous to the shameful episode which saw the Irish cabinet sitting in their cars outside the cathedral where Douglas Hyde’s death obsequies were being observed. They were too drunk on principle to allow pragmatic flexibility to enter the equation.

  28. **We are part of the Irish people, and we cannot therefore snub the Irish people**

    Of course you can. I can snub members of my family, even though I’m part of that family.

    **I wouldn’t want to live in a State where everyone is expected to commemorate something because the Government decides, or even because a majority decides**

    A very good point. I agree with this.

    Michael, I don’t deny your right not to attend the commemorations, I just don’t agree with that decision in regards to AI and the opportunity it offered for AI; and don’t fully understand the reasons behind the declination. I do wish that AI was there, but that aside, I just feel that it could have been handled better. I really wish you hadn’t used some of the wording that you did use, such as ‘undemocratic’ and the bit about the commemorations being about celebrating the deaths of innocent people in the name of god. I thought that sort of wording was kack-handed. That’s just my opinion on the way things went over this particular affair..

    As I said before; I support AI and yourself in all your efforts to promote rationalism and secularism in this state. I think you do a good job.

  29. @citizen_wolf:

    “As I said before; I support AI and yourself in all your efforts to promote rationalism and secularism in this state. I think you do a good job.”

    I couldn’t agree more, and I hope that my comments are taken in that over-riding context.

    What AI have contributed and are continuing to achieve towards a more secular Ireland is jaw-dropping. I’m on the record as expressing my repeated admiration for the way in which they fight on substantive issues. Their current battle on the issue of education is in my view of incredible importance in that respect. An atheist organisation engaging with the powers that be rather than stroking their collective beards in the corner and speaking on the subject of wheat-based airborne demons is truly a wonderful site. AI are practicing practical secularism and I doff my hat to them in that regard.

    I should add that in rejecting the idea of discussing the issue at a Sundat brunch I strayed inadvertently into the realm of publicly declining invitations. 😉 . For the record, I’d greatly enjoy a drink and a chat with MN – without reservation. I’m sure that we both agree on 99% of the issues (Leeds excluded).

    But (there’s always a but), that is the basis for disappointment with this decision. It is impossible to b disappointed unless there are expectations in place, and the expectations I have of AI are quite high – based on their record so far and their continuing engagement with government bodies on issues which are important.

    The merits of the decision are eminently debatable, and I can clearly see arguments on both sides. The real decision I object to is the decision to publicise the decision and to use some particularly disturbing language in doing so.

    AI could have quietly said “no”, and if the issue had emerged at a later stage could have easily explained it on the basis that they don’t advertise every single invitation they receive and that for simple reasons of civility they declined privately.

    If Michael chooses to respond I guarantee that I will give him the last word; I don’t want to divert his time and attention from nobler causes.

  30. @Nialler
    As to your 2nd and 3rd last paragraphs; you and I agree on those points.

    I have no idea about football, so I have no clue as to this Leeds FC of which you speak.

    As you say, I probably also agree with MN on 99% of subjects relating to atheism and secularism. We part company on cats though. Dogs are by far the more noble and intelligent creatures 🙂

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