Category Archives: News and Events

Quaker Service Features in Scope NI Magazine

Scope Northern Ireland magazine has published an interesting article about the work of Quaker Service and the appointment of its new Chief Executive Shane Whelehan.

The article, which is titled ‘Friends To All: The Remarkable Story of the Quakers in Ireland’, also includes a brief historical overview of The Religious Society of Friends in Ireland.

You can read the article in full on the Scope Northern Ireland website.

You can see the Quaker Service website here.

EcoQuakers Letter re EU-Canada Trade Agreement

EcoQuakers Ireland sent the following letter to Irish newspapers in May 2021. It was published in The Irish Times and The Irish Examiner:

Sir, – The Religious Society of Friends in Ireland has great concern regarding the Ceta (EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) trade agreement. The ISDS clause (investor-state dispute settlement) element of the agreement would allow foreign investors to sue a nation state for amending legislation that would infringe on corporate profits. The tribunals in which the ISDS process is adjudicated are a private procedure, without any system of appeals, in which the potential lost profits are the central subject of focus.

The EU intends to update this process by making it public and calling it the investor court system (ICS). In the ICS, however, the tribunal can still be held in private if the investors insist, thus calling this a “court” is misleading. A court of law would balance the lost profits against the public good, but the ICS will not. It is worth noting that 90 per cent of the largest recent ISDS suits have amounted to more than $1 billion each and have been taken by fossil fuel and mining industries against countries that have endeavoured to make moves towards a more sustainable future.

Quakers hold that we are all equal, and that sustainability and care for God’s creation is of vital importance for our common future. We view that the creation of a separate court system for corporations, where profits are seen to be more important than the wellbeing of a nation’s children, is incompatible with Christ’s teachings, and the ISDS element within international trade agreements is morally indefensible.

By contrast we hold the vision for a better future that allows for the evolution of national legislation to help create a more equitable, sustainable and beautiful world, where both trade and international cooperation are founded on a firm base of mutual respect and care. As such we must drop the ISDS clause from Ceta and other international agreements. – Yours, etc,

BRÍAN Ó SÚILLEABHÁIN,

EcoQuakers Ireland

A Friendly Podcast!

COMING SOON! A new podcast series made by Irish Young Friends exploring the voices and sounds that make Ireland Yearly Meeting what it is today.

These Young Friends would love to hear from Friends (of all ages) who would be interested in helping produce future episodes, or who would like to contribute or suggest potential interviewees.

To find out more, or to be put in touch with the podcast team, please email office@quakers.ie

We look forward to hearing from anyone interested in contributing to this exciting new venture!

A personal account of Ireland Yearly Meeting, 8th – 11th April 2021

The main theme of this year’s Ireland Yearly Meeting (IYM) was ‘A Time to Act Together in Faith and Hope’.

A wide range of subjects was explored during the online gathering, from peace and resurrection to sustainability, advocacy on contemporary Quaker concerns, and the positive and negative aspect of new technological innovations. There were illuminating reports given on the good work of Quaker Service in Northern Ireland and on the projects supported in Ireland and in other countries by Irish Quaker Faith in Action (IQFA).

Friends differ in their views on the kind of ‘God’ we should place our faith in but we could, at least, confidently put our faith in the new ‘Zoom-world’ … or could we?

The Special Interest Groups held in advance of the historic online IYM, were stimulating, rewarding and technically very successful. The new ‘Zoom-world’ seemed to working fine in our home in the countryside.  All was going smoothly. 

On Thursday afternoon, however, on the eve of the main programme, a large delivery lorry brought furniture, and disaster, by pulling down our broadband cable from the skies. Having agreed to report on Yearly Meeting, my heart sank like that cable, and we had a new kind of Covid isolation.

In the magical ‘Zoom-world’ though, miracles do happen. A temporary hub was promised the next morning and BT engineers would later arrive to climb poles, fix cables, and re-connect us promptly.  I was disappointed to miss the Ministry and Oversight session on Thursday evening but was really looking forward to re-connecting for the sessions on Faith in Action and Connecting with our Neighbours on Friday.

The BT technical stars amazingly arrived on Friday morning and had ‘fixed it but not quite fixed it’. Sadly, the engineer for the telegraph poles, who had come and gone, needed to return again the next day. Our faith and hope were tested.

We listened to the Public Lecture on my mobile phone that evening. Eoin Stephenson of Limerick Meeting was once a Trappist monk at Mount Melleray Abbey. Now a Quaker with a family, he spoke on the topic ‘Resurrection and Personality’ and posed the challenging question: ‘Can we cope with the resurrection?’.  His considered, engaging delivery and lucid presentation made his personal interpretation of this question, and his response to it, very accessible.  

Eoin used vivid images and measured words in his interpretation of the different biblical references to the resurrection and wore his considerable learning lightly. He described the experience of encounter, recognition and presence in an individual as elements of resurrection in our lives and went on to say that, “for some it is a clear moment of explicit recognition. For others, recognition grows slowly over time into a sense of personal presence”.

Eoin described his ideal of a healthy ‘whole personality’. He said that individuals could have a closed or open personality and spoke of fear and anger closing down the open personality. Having an open personality was essential, he felt, for responding to resurrection and living as fully as we can.

Other resonant ideas and phrases still echo for me: ‘Do we embrace life as it unfolds in all its challenging newness, or do we stand with the certainties we have established in our lives?’ and ‘The love that brought us into existence will hold us in death so that we share in this new life.’

Eoin related his ideas on resurrection and personality to his religious experience as a Friend. Silent Meeting for Worship, he said, was a ‘place of encounter with Divine Presence’ and ‘in this encounter our personality grows.’

We were operational again in time for Session 3 on Peace and Social Justice.It was a most revealing session for many Friends. We heard about the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. It illuminated a frightening innovation in warfare: the development of fully autonomous weapons.  Clare Conboy Stevenson, of the campaign, talked about concerns, such as flaws in facial recognition being accurate on all ethnic groups, and explained her fear that moral judgements that should reside in human beings would be delegated to robots.  Leading powers are presently devoting millions to these weapons. Quakers were urged to support the international campaign to ban their use that now includes 66 countries, and this was recorded in the final epistle of IYM. IYM also agreed to sign an interfaith statement against killer robots “A Plea for Preserving our Shared Humanity”.

We also heard in this session about the ‘Stop Fuelling War’ campaign. This French lobbying charity, set up in 2017, aims to raise awareness of the arms trade in France and to oppose one of the largest arms fairs in the world, Eurosatory, which is held every two years in Paris. Karen King talked about how the campaign lobbies to re-direct the huge amount of money and jobs tied up in this industry into alternative uses, such as peace building and prevention, and sustainable industries. The words ‘defence’ and ‘security’ need a complete re-think and a new approach. I was glad to hear Karen stress the importance of addressing the causes of conflict, which, though complex, are often fuelled by poverty, deprivation and feelings of abandonment and hopelessness. The present troubles locally on the streets of East Belfast offer proof of what happens when this is not done.

A particular highlight for me was the session on Sustainability.  Four Friends spoke from the heart about their personal experiences of working for sustainability.  A young Friend, Kate Harty, spoke passionately about the campaign, Fridays for Future.  She has found a caring community in this activist group.  I liked the idea of the mental health check-in system they use online, selecting a coloured digital heart to indicate how they are feeling.

Kate Fletcher shared some of the challenges she has faced in working on environmental issues over the years.   She said that the environmental crisis is fundamentally a spiritual one and spoke about the importance of maintaining hope.  She said that hope was the decision not to give up when faced with the learned helplessness of despair, but to keep going anyway. 

Brian O’Suilleabhain said that there was hope for the future in that more people are beginning to say, “yes”.  People may not know what to do, but know they must do something.  They may not know what to say, but know that they must say something.  He asked, “What canst thou say?”

Oliver Robertson of Britain Yearly Meeting spoke lucidly and thoughtfully.  He said that we bring the whole of ourselves to our closest relationships and wondered what it would be like if we brought all parts of our selves to caring for the environment.  He maintained that we need people at every step of the journey towards living sustainably, so that we can see what comes next. 

The session was peppered with interesting statistics; we learnt that the US military produces more CO2 emissions than some countries.  There was advice to lobby politicians and a reminder not to forget the importance of civil servants and party members. There was also a welcome dose of optimism. We were told ‘there is nothing so energizing as doing something’, asked to counteract a resignation that the problems are too overwhelming, and recognise that ‘times are changing’.

Friends at IYM always look forward to the report from Young Friends and this year, as ever, it filled us with inspiration and hope.

The Sunday session allowed time for Friends to reflect on IYM and on the benefits and drawbacks of meeting online.  There was discussion about how Friends could use their experience of this way of doing things in the future.

I missed meeting in person, but still felt that strong sense of belonging, identity and community that IYM always represents for participants. Seeing and hearing old friends lifted my spirits again.

And the promised ‘next morning’ mini-hub that could provide instant internet access to IYM for us?  It eventually arrived on the Monday after Yearly Meeting! We live in faith and hope.

Rachel Kirk-Smith, South Belfast Meeting

Ireland Yearly Meeting 2021

It was wonderful to see so many faces from near and far for Ireland Yearly Meeting, which took place online from 8 – 11 April 2021.

The theme was ‘A Time to Act Together in Faith and Hope‘ and many different topics were explored, including faith, peace, social justice, migration and sustainability.

It was encouraging to hear how Meetings across Ireland have adapted during the pandemic to online meetings for worship, business meetings, coffee mornings and socials. Friends of all ages have conquered technical challenges and discovered that spiritual comfort, fellowship and community can take place online or via platforms like WhatsApp. It takes more than a pandemic to stop the Spirit at work!

It was also heartening to hear how Sunday Schools, youth clubs and other get-togethers for younger Friends have all adapted to the world of Covid-19 .

We heard updates from Quaker Service and Irish Quaker Faith In Action (IQFA) and from two campaigns that reflect our Peace Testimony – Stop Fuelling War and the Campaign To Stop Killer Robots.

We agreed to sign an inter-faith statement that urges UN member states and all people of goodwill to commit to preserving meaningful human control over the use of force, and to enact a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons.

To quote from the IYM Epistle agreed on the last day: “Our gathering is testament to the way we have adapted to changed circumstances since the cancellation of 2020 IYM last April and demonstrates the many positives we have been able to draw from adversity. While we agree that online meeting cannot replace the fellowship of meeting in person, it has allowed many more to join us at Yearly Meeting and has saved many hundreds of carbon miles of travel!”

You can read the Epistle here.

The Public Lecture, which was delivered by Eoin Stephenson of Limerick Quaker Meeting, was on the topic ‘Resurrection and Personality’. You can read the script and watch a recording of the lecture at this link.

‘Resurrection and Personality’ – IYM Public Lecture

Thank you to everyone who attended the online Public Lecture ‘Resurrection and Personality’ delivered by Eoin Stephenson of Limerick Meeting on 9 April 2021.

In the lecture, Eoin explored the intriguing question, ‘Can we cope with Resurrection?’

You can read the full script of his lecture here.

A recording of Eoin’s webinar is available here.

This is a snippet from his talk to whet your appetite:

“Our lives are a brilliant sparkle set in the vastness of distant stars and the aeons of time. We have come into existence and will go out of existence. The promise of the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is that the love that brought us into existence will hold us in death so that we share in this new life. Living as fully as we can helps us become aware of this promise of new life.”

Eoin comes from a Roman Catholic home where thinking and reflection on religion were as normal as regular attendance at Mass.

He studied Philosophy at NUIG, and later studied Theology at Trinity College Dublin. Between the degrees he spent 11 years as a monk in the Trappist community of Mount Melleray Abbey. He worked for a period on social projects and in adult religious education in inner city Dublin.

He is married with three adult children, and a brand new beautiful granddaughter. He came to Quakers in Limerick in 1992 and has served on Inter Church and Interfaith Committees for Irish Quakers.

He has just returned to Limerick following six years in England where he was a sojourner member of Surrey and Hampshire Border Area Meeting.

He serves as an Elder with Limerick Quaker Meeting.

Victor Bewley’s Memoirs 2nd edition published

A second edition of Victor Bewley’s Memoirs has been published by Veritas. The memoirs, which Victor recounted to his granddaughter Fiona Murdoch, several years before his death in 1999, give a fascinating insight into his life.

Victor became director of Bewley’s Cafés at the age of 20 and, the following year, managing director – a position held by his father and grandfather before him. He never felt he was a natural businessman but, as the eldest son, he knew from a young age that he was expected to take over the running of the popular Dublin cafés. He was thrust into this role following his father Ernest’s untimely death in 1932.  

There was far more to Victor’s life, however, than the successful running of the cafés for 45 years. Although a shy and sensitive man, he had a quiet determination to improve people’s lives in any way that he could.

His memoirs reveal why in 1972 he and his brothers, Alfred and Joe, handed over Bewley’s cafés to the staff and what drove him to dedicate great time and energy to improving the lives of many, especially Travellers. Also, how he initiated cross-border reconciliation talks, including with loyalists and republicans, and how, on one occasion, he ended up carrying secret messages from the IRA to the British government.

One section of the book, which is dedicated to his faith and spirituality, gives an insight into his firm belief of ‘that of God in everyone’ and the Quaker values that underpinned the way he led his life – equality, honesty, fairness, integrity, peace and community. He certainly put his Quaker faith into action and always sought to understand people and why they behaved the way they did.

The book is available from Veritas at this link >> https://bit.ly/3f0P1Vb

All welcome to the launch, which will take place on Zoom on Monday 29 March at 6.30pm. To get the link, email events@veritas.ie (for those who receive the weekly IYM notices, the Zoom link is in the notices issued on 19 March 2021).

New Website for Irish Quaker Faith in Action – www.iqfa.net

The Irish Quaker Faith in Action (IQFA) Committee has set up a new website, in order to be able to directly update and renew information about projects supported by IQFA and ways to donate to IQFA.

The purpose of IQFA is to give practical and spiritual help and support to the Christian concerns of Irish Friends desiring to be guided to do God’s work in helping build His kingdom on Earth. The IQFA Committee includes representatives from each of the Quarterly Meetings, as well as a representative from Yearly Meeting Committee and the Ireland Yearly Meeting Clerk, Ex-Officio. When funds are restricted, IQFA will generally focus on funding relatively small projects that might have difficulty finding funding elsewhere, and that have a direct Quaker connection. How much support IQFA can provide depends on how much income is received from donations, fundraising events, etc.

Please have a look at this new website, www.iqfa.net, and feel free to send any comments or suggestions about the site to iqfawebmaster@gmail.com.  It is still a work in progress and will be updated and expanded over the coming weeks.

We hope you’ll also consider making a donation to IQFA using the newly installed PayPal buttons!

Quakers and Ethical Investment booklet

Eco Quakers Ireland and the Ireland Yearly Meeting (IYM) Investment Committee has produced a booklet to promote an ethical investment policy for Quaker Meetings in Ireland and for IYM Funds.

The Quakers and Ethical Investment booklet, which arose out of a widespread concern among Friends in Ireland about the investment of funds under Friends’ care, is designed to give broad guidance on investment within the ethical framework which Friends have set.

In a letter accompanying the booklet, the Investment Committee and Eco Quakers Committee urges Friends responsible for the investments of Meetings and Funds to view afresh the strategy that is being pursued.

“Monies are only useful if they are used for a purpose which is well thought out,” the letter states. “If, as a result of a review exercise, you do plan to change some of your investments, do take into account that stock markets can be very volatile as we have seen in early 2020.

“We are investing for the long term and should not be over affected by short term movements. Advice is available, both from within the Society and from outside – do seek it and take it into consideration!”

The letter may be read in full here and the booklet at this link.

The booklet is initially being launched in digital form and hard copies have been made available to all Meetings. A small number of hard copies are still available on request by emailing ecoquakersireland@gmail.com.