Northern Ireland marriage and abortion rights campaigners win 2018 Humanist of the Year Award

26 November, 2018

Steve McQuitty, Andrew Copson, Ciaran Moynagh, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Janet Farrell, Laura Lacole, and Eunan O’Kane.

A group of Northern Ireland Humanists campaigners have won the 2018 Humanist of the Year Award for their work in legalising humanist marriages in Northern Ireland and campaigning for the human rights of women, including access to legal abortions.

2018 has been a successful year for humanist campaigning in Northern Ireland with the introduction of the first legal humanist marriages and significant progress on abortion and same-sex marriage reforms.

At a ceremony on Saturday a group of seven campaigners were awarded the 2018 Humanist of the Year Award. The winners were: Laura Lacole, Eunan O’Kane, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Janet Farrell, Ciaran Moynagh, Steven McQuitty and Sarah Ewart.

Laura Lacole, Eunan O’Kane, Steven McQuitty and Ciaran Moynagh were awarded for their work to legalise humanist marriages. Supported by Humanists UK, couple Laura and Eunan last year won a legal bid to have a humanist marriage that reflected their beliefs. Then in June the Belfast Court of Appeal ruled that humanist marriages would now be legally recognised in Northern Ireland.

Ciaran and Steven represented Laura and Eunan in their case at both the High Court and Court of Appeal, and have been working through the courts to secure legal same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland as well.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Janet Farrell and Sarah Ewart were awarded for their work in legalising abortion and working to strike down the abortion ban in Northern Ireland. Caoilfhionn and Janet have represented Humanists UK in multiple interventions in legal cases on the matter as well as advocating on abortion rights more widely. Caoilfhionn has also represented Humanists UK in multiple cases focused on assisted dying in England and Wales. Sarah is now taking her own case after she was denied an abortion in spite of a fatal foetal abnormality.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC said:

‘Women and girls in Northern Ireland have been silenced for too long and Humanists UK has amplified their voices and fought for their rights. We will continue to advocate for the rights of women to make their own choices about their own bodies.’

Laura Lacole said:

‘We are honoured to be able to influence real chance in Northern Ireland through our court case. This historic decision ensures that couples now have the right to have a humanist marriage.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘We congratulate these humanist campaigners who have made huge strides in advancing human rights and working to bring about real change on some of the most important issues affecting the people of Northern Ireland.

‘It was too difficult to only award one winner this year so for the first time we decided to give the Award collectively to a group that has helped to legalise humanist marriages, fought for same-sex marriage, won a Supreme Court verdict for women’s abortion rights, and soon, we are confident, they will see those basic rights enshrined for everybody across the UK.’

The Humanist of the Year Award is held every year by Humanists UK and awards individuals who have made a significant contribution to advancing the rights of humanists and the non-religious.

Previous winners of Humanist of the Year include Pakistani human rights activist Gulalai Ismail, evolutionary biologists Richard Dawkins and Alice Roberts, author Sir Terry Pratchett, hero of child refugees Alf Dubs, and most recently broadcaster Joan Bakewell.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

For more information about our campaign work in Northern Ireland, visit

Humanists UK recently intervened in a Northern Ireland abortion case. Read more:

Read more about our work in legalising humanist marriages in Northern Ireland, visit

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.