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Party leaders unite to welcome fifth anniversary of Northern Ireland Humanists

The report, Five Years of Northern Ireland Humanists, is available to download.

Northern Ireland’s party leaders sent messages of support and congratulations as Northern Ireland Humanists marks its fifth anniversary this week.

Northern Ireland Humanists celebrated its fifth anniversary on Tuesday 31 August with a special event hosted by Tim McGarry, Northern Ireland Humanists patron, and Boyd Sleator, Northern Ireland Humanists’ Coordinator. To mark this significant milestone, Northern Ireland Humanists has released a report, Five Years of Northern Ireland Humanists, on its campaigns and community services achievements over the past five years. Further, cross-party leaders offered their congratulations.

Paula Bradley MLA, Deputy Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, commented: ‘Congratulations to Northern Ireland Humanists on your fifth anniversary. You’ve achieved so much over these past five years, and I’d like to thank you for the enormous contributions that humanists have made to Northern Ireland in that time.’

Michelle O’Neill MLA, Deputy First Minister and Leader, Sinn Féin, commented: ‘I would like to congratulate Northern Ireland Humanists on your fifth anniversary. During that time, we have seen major changes in society and important steps towards equality here in the north. I would like to commend you for being part of this change through your important campaigning and wish you all the best for the future. Ádh mór!’

Colum Eastwood MP, Leader, SDLP, commented: ‘In the last five years, Northern Ireland Humanists has boldly shaped the agenda in Northern Ireland, fearlessly standing up for human rights and equality. Wishing you many congratulations on your anniversary.’

Doug Beattie MLA, Leader, UUP, commented: ‘Congratulations to all those who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to help Northern Ireland Humanists reach their fifth anniversary this year. This marks an exciting new chapter for the year ahead. Wishing you all the best for the future ahead.’

Naomi Long MLA, Leader, Alliance Party, commented: ‘Thank you for all of your endeavours towards an inclusive and equal Northern Ireland, and congratulations on your fifth anniversary. We look forward to working with you on many more campaigns including repealing Northern Ireland’s blasphemy laws.’

Gerry Carroll MLA, People Before Profit, commented: ‘I congratulate Northern Ireland Humanists on all the important work they have done over the last number of years around issues such as abortion rights, same-sex marriage and giving a voice to people who are normally excluded from political discourse here. I wish them well on their anniversary and I look forward to seeing the work they complete over the next five years and beyond.’

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented:

‘I am incredibly proud of the changes we have seen in Northern Ireland over the last five years and how humanists have been heavily involved in that progressive change. Watching a community grow, seeing people able to celebrate their lives in a way that is meaningful to them, and watching more and more people stand up for secular values, has all been hugely rewarding. Here’s to many more years of progress to come!’

Humanists UK has had members and branches in Northern Ireland since 1896 but in 2016 re-organised them into Northern Ireland Humanists – a new section. Over the last five years Northern Ireland Humanists has seen numerous successes. This includes rapidly increasing membership from 230 members and supporters in 2016 to nearly 3,000 today. In parallel, the share of the Northern Ireland population that says it belongs to no religion has ballooned from 12% in 2009 to 27% last year.

Its campaign successes include gaining legal recognition of humanist marriages in 2018 following a ruling by the Belfast Court of Appeal. This brought Northern Ireland into step with the Republic of Ireland and Scotland and ahead of England and Wales which are yet to grant legal recognition. Northern Ireland Humanists also helped to see through the legislation enabling same-sex marriages and legal abortions.

As well as extensive lobbying, it also intervened in all the legal cases on abortion. And it has become a major provider of community services. This includes weddings, namings, funerals, pastoral care in Maghaberry Prison and elsewhere, and in education. It is also heavily involved in dialogue work with religious communities.

But there is still much to be achieved. In the coming years, Northern Ireland Humanists will be focusing its efforts on reform of the education system, repealing Northern Ireland’s blasphemy laws, shifting the system of organ donation from opt-in to opt-out, and securing a ban on conversion therapy.


For further comment or information, please contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at or phone 07918 975795.

Read the Five Years of Northern Ireland Humanists report: 

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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