On a sunny Sunday morning in County Dublin in April 1972, the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Ireland was elected. The formation of the new assembly (national governing body) was a significant event for members of the nascent community of the Irish Bahá’í Faith.
The religion is administered by “spiritual assemblies” of nine members elected annually, locally and nationally. She has no clergy. Elections are held by secret ballot in an atmosphere of prayer and respect. There is no campaign or nomination and every adult Baha’i is eligible to serve.
Every year since 1972, a new election has taken place.
The formation of the new national institution required that four local assemblies exist in the 26 counties. Assemblies in the cities of Dublin, Cork and Limerick, and Dún Laoghaire provided the foundation. Bahá’í assemblies now exist in towns and cities throughout Ireland.
Attendance at the first convention was made up of nine local delegates, international representatives and any Baha’is who wished to attend. A bus was hired to transport many young people from Limerick who had recently embraced the faith.
The 1972 vote resulted in the election of three women and six men to the new assembly. Its first meeting took place during the convention. The officers of the Assembly were elected, also by secret ballot and without nomination.
The President was Iranian-born Adib Taherzadeh, an electrical engineer, academic and historian, who had immigrated to Ireland in 1948. The Vice-President was Seosamh Watson, a young man from Belfast of Presbyterian origin who was already distinguished as a scholar of the Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland.
Seosamh said he was 18 when he discovered two major aspects of his life: the Irish language in Donegal and the Baha’i faith in Belfast.
The treasurer was Philip O’Brien, a businessman, theater producer and actor, of Irish-American Catholic descent. The secretary was Lesley Gibson, a speech therapist from Belfast residing in the city of Limerick.
A humorous man, he wore a bright green jacket for the occasion. He would have had a connection with the family of Peig Sayers
Eleanor O’Callaghan of Cork City and a graduate of her university was of Catholic background. From 1976 to 1979, she volunteered in Accra, Ghana, helping the emerging Ghanaian Baha’i community.
Margaret Magill, a physician in Dún Laoghaire and of Quaker (Society of Friends) descent, was highly respected for her compassionate and professional relationship with patients. Later in life, she lived for a time in Cyprus to help her growing Bahá’í community.
OZ Whitehead was a New Yorker who moved to Ireland in the 1960s. He loved the theater and was an actor, writer and promoter of Irish playwriting. The Writers Guild of Ireland awards are named “Zebbies” in his honor.
John Turner, a young Englishman, was a graduate of the University of Cambridge. He and his parents lived in Cork. Unfortunately, in 1979 John died in a car accident.
I had “declared” my belief in 1970. In 1972 I was living in Co Wicklow with my wife, Eleanor Dawson. Until her passing in 2016, Eleanor embodied dedicated and loving service.
William Sears, Irish-American writer and broadcaster, represented the international Baha’i community at this first convention. A man full of humor, he wore a bright green jacket for the occasion! He would have had a connection with the family of Peig Sayers. During one of many visits to Ireland, Sears presented President Éamon de Valera with a copy of his book, God Loves Laughter.
Today, millions of people around the world who are members of the Bahá’í Faith, or simply drawn to its ideals, are inspired by the global vision of its Prophet/Founder, Bahá’u’lláh (a title meaning the glory of God).
Currently, the world is undergoing undesirable, unexpected and seemingly unforeseen upheavals. Confidence in humanity’s ability to deal justly and effectively with the challenges of war, disease and climate change is seriously shaken.
The world is undergoing unwanted, unexpected and seemingly unforeseen upheavals
Surely few people on our precious Earth remain indifferent to our failure to devise a transformative global agenda to protect our planet and its people. Short-term solutions to immediate challenges are vital, but humanity must also focus on deeper, long-term answers.
Oak trees don’t ripen in a day.
The main social principle of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation is: “The Earth is one country and mankind its citizens.”
As part of our progress to make this a reality, humanity must work to achieve social goals such as universal education, the adoption of an auxiliary world language, the recognition of the equality of women and men , the elimination of prejudice, the reduction of the massive wealth gap, and the creation of a global court to agree borders and uphold international commitments.
“It is incumbent on all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences and, in perfect unity and peace, to dwell under the shade of the tree of his [God’s] care and kindness. (Bahá’u’lláh)
Patrick Dawson is an actor and screenwriter who lives in Bray. He was a member of the first National Spiritual Assembly for the Bahá’í Faith in Ireland, elected in April 1972