Several years ago I renewed my Mensa membership.
So for the last few years I’ve been getting the odd email from Mensa, as well as the magazines. I hadn’t ever attended any events, as my previous hectic travel schedule meant I was on the road a lot of the time.
This year, however, with the various restrictions in place Mensa, in common with just about everyone else, was forced to go digital.
In practical terms that meant that I was able to attend the AGM for Irish Mensa and vote on a number of motions that made important changes to Irish Mensa’s Constitution.
Which brings me to the current weirdness.
Irish Mensa is a strange animal. It has its own constitution and members vote to select who should be its committee. It’s all explained in the Constitution.
It is, however, linked and, in many respects, subservient to British Mensa. In light of Brexit that situation is far from ideal and you’d think that an organisation whose sole criterion for membership is IQ would have taken all necessary steps to address the issues with Brexit and the Irish members.
This is incredibly frustrating and the legal situation of the Irish entity has caused quite a bit of confusion.
British Mensa has tried to explain it all away, though their explanation leads to more questions than answers.
Here’s their latest missive:
We recently sent you a communication about your membership as part of Irish Mensa. In light of information that has recently been circulated by other sources we would like to clarify some points for you.
In 1973, members of British Mensa who resided in Ireland took the decision to work together and unite as one territory with the title Irish Mensa. The name served to distinguish its location and its people, as an all-island part of the Mensa society in a time of considerable political conflict.
Irish Mensa was, and still is, part of British Mensa. However, Irish Mensa operates its own committee, organises activity and promotes Mensa to encourage new members in the island of Ireland. As such, it has successfully functioned as a region within British Mensa for many years.
A constitution was created in 1988 for Irish Mensa, intended as a guideline defining how the committee operated on behalf of the membership. There has never been any expectation that Ireland operated independently of British Mensa and this has been the situation since Irish Mensa was formed. To avoid any potential for ambiguity, it is considered that a constitution is no longer appropriate, with relevant tenets instead incorporated into the operating procedures of the Irish Mensa committee.
There have been questions from a small number of members to clarify if Irish Mensa is operating as an unincorporated association. This is not the case. Irish Mensa has no obligations to any company or third-party organisation, nor any contractual arrangements with any third-party company or organisation. There are no liabilities attached to Irish Mensa. Insurance for major events such as IMAG are covered by policies arranged by British Mensa. Smaller events organised by members are not covered by any insurance, which is the same throughout all British Mensa regions. As previously advised, the situation is being monitored in light of Brexit and appropriate arrangements will be put in place, as necessary and to ensure that members are not adversely affected.
There has recently also been some discussion among a few members about a separate National Mensa group for the Republic of Ireland. Mensa International recognises that the British-Irish arrangement predates Mensa International itself, and respects it accordingly.
The current arrangement works well to provide a basis for an all-Ireland membership for the members resident there. Any other solution would create a division where none currently exists. However, if there was sufficient support from the membership there, British Mensa would, of course, respect the wishes of the members in Ireland.
We are very proud of Irish Mensa. The arrangement in 1973 saw members in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland come together in harmony at an exceptionally difficult time to enjoy each other’s company and friendship, and to create a unique network that truly reflected the ethos, principles, and philosophy of Mensa. Mensa International was very happy to recognise that unique relationship which means that Irish Mensa operates as part of the wider British, and International, Mensa family.
If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions about anything on this matter please e-mail email@example.com
Or write to
The Chairman, British Mensa Limited, St Johns House, St Johns Square, Wolverhampton WV2 4AH.
I’m not a shy timid quiet little thing. I have absolutely no issue raising questions and queries with pretty much anyone. So I did respond to the email several days ago:
I acknowledge receipt of your most recent email and I believe it raises more questions than it addresses questions.
A few points and queries:
Mensa Ireland uses the domain name mensa.ie which is registered to an Irish company Mensa (Ireland) Ltd. Yet you ignore that company’s existence repeatedly in the various communications that are sent out.
Irish Mensa’s constitution – what is happening with it? As a member I voted on amendments to it recently, yet it now sounds like you are unilaterally and without any consultation with members removing it?
It is now September 2020 yet it’s pretty clear that British Mensa has not taken any steps to address Brexit. I find that very hard to understand.
A separate Irish Mensa would have to respect Irish law, which incorporates things like the Good Friday Agreement. Many Irish organisations operate on an “all island” basis and people are free to join either the Irish organisation or a UK equivalent.
Your assertion that “any other solution” would create a division is quite offensive and tone deaf.
You do, however, assert that would respect members’ wishes to constitute a national Irish Mensa, but it’s not clear under what circumstances.
I am yet to receive either an acknowledgement or a reply.
However I am aware that the Chairman of Irish Mensa has been in communication with other members and has confirmed that Mensa has unilaterally removed the constitution.
That is not permitted in the constitution which clearly states:
This Constitution may be altered, varied, amended or rescinded, only at a General Meeting providing notice of the proposed alteration, variation, amendment or rescission has been given, and that it is passed by two-thirds of those in attendance
In my mind this leads to a very simple conclusion:
Without the Constitution, which formed the basis of the election (or selection) of the current Committee that Committee is no longer legitimate.
Of course there is the much broader issue of how they think it’s acceptable to unilaterally remove the constitution which forms the basis for Irish Mensa without consulting anyone or even respecting language in the constitution, as cited above.
There are many other issues with how British Mensa and Irish Mensa interact and the way that the membership is treated leaves a lot to desire. But the last few communications from them have really annoyed me and others. To now simply remove the constitution without even telling anyone is really the final straw.
Owen Harrison says
Hi Michelle. You have obviously been reading Mensa HQ missives more assiduously than I. However, it seems you accept without evidence or query the assertion that “To avoid any potential for ambiguity, it is considered that a constitution is no longer appropriate, with relevant tenets instead incorporated into the operating procedures of the Irish Mensa committee.“ It might be useful if the they for whom all of the passive sentences are written could be identified, so that we (those of respected but not to be heeded views) knew to whom we should respond.
I also do not see the need to accept an opinion that a constitution is not appropriate as a legitimate means of its removal.
Sam Webb says
I must confess that I find the current split being considered and latterly promoted can be summed up in one word and that is sad. I also believe that should the separation be achieved that it could be quite rightly described as divisive.. What other word could describe the consequences of dividing an organisation into two distinct parts? So I have difficulties in understanding your description of the term as being offensive or in any way not listening to concerns. From what little I have learnt of the trigger for this situation is that there was some dispute over a bar bill at the AGM last year and whatever way it was handled by the IM was considered improper. Despite a couple of direct requests for more detail of the incident and its management I have not as yet had any answers or information of any value provided.
I have always been an advocate of the old adage that “You change no organisation from the outside” but until I have sufficient factual information on how we arrived at this stage in proceedings I’m taking the stance of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Michele Neylon says
I’m not sitting by and simply accepting anything. However it’s pretty clear that neither the current committee of Irish Mensa nor the Board of British Mensa have any interest or desire in responding to most people’s queries and have opted for this top down approach. I’m not sure what our options are but will be looking at it more closely time permitting.
Michele Neylon says
I’ve no idea about what may or may not have happened at a bar during an event I didn’t attend. I’ve made absolutely zero references to that incident, as I wasn’t there.
However the way things are at the moment is far from ideal.
I do not think it’s acceptable that the committee of Irish Mensa and board of British Mensa unilaterally pull the constitution of Irish Mensa.
If they’re not even bothering to reply to queries then I don’t see how anyone can achieve anything from the inside.
The emails from them to members recently are real and speak volumes. I’m not sure what else you could possibly want.