Devout Catholic who was a strident voice on social and moral issues


MINE BEAN UI CHRIBIN:MÍNE BEAN Uí Chribín (84), who died this week, was a prominent campaigner on social and moral issues. She had a strong religious faith, belief in family values and a commitment to the Irish language and culture.

The former Dublin postmistress was best known in the 1970s and 1980s for her public campaigns against contraception, abortion, divorce and sex education in schools. She last came to national prominence for her support of a mother in what became known as the Roscommon incest case.

Christina Philomena Lawless was born in Santry, Dublin in 1927. She developed a love of music and played the organ in churches around Dublin. But she prized Saint Papain’s Church at Ballymun Cross above all, according to her family and played the organ at nearly all religious services there for 35 years.

After finishing in school she worked as a clerical officer in the department of post and telegraphs from 1944 to 1952. In 1954 she became assistant in Santry, where her father was postmaster. She took over this role after his death in 1963 and continued until her hospitalisation this year.

She reared six children with her late husband, Gus Ó Cribín, and tutored her family in music, singing and Irish culture, entering them in many contests. Many participants in a youth group which she founded, Óg-Eagras Naomh Papain, took awards at Gael Linn’s Slógadh, the Feis Ceoil and Oireachtas na Gaeilge and she was recognised for her community work by Dublin City Council.

Over 30 years ago she became involved with two organisations: Mná na hÉireann, founded in Cork in 1970, and the Irish Housewives Union, founded by Úna Mhic Mhathúna. Both were critical of the women’s liberation movement and campaigns for availability of contraception and legalisation of divorce and abortion.

Bean Uí Chribín and supporters disrupted public meetings during the so-called abortion and divorce referendum campaigns of the 1980s and early 1990s. She appeared regularly on RTÉ television’s The Late Late Show as a “barometer” for conservative Roman Catholic opinions. During interviews with host Gay Byrne, she compared divorce to adultery and described a woman’s right to choose as “daft”.

In an interview with this newspaper in May 1985, Bean Uí Chribín said the then government’s family planning legislation was “classic of the rottenness of our society”. On divorce, she said: “It is just a connived issue, concocted by a small group, but they have the media,” she said.

In 2009, it was claimed that a “Catholic right-wing organisation” had helped the parents in the so-called Roscommon incest case to secure a High Court injunction to prevent the children being taken into care. The Western Health Board had taken legal action unsuccessfully in 2000-2001 to remove abused children from a family home.

However, in a statement to the Irish Independent, Bean Uí Chribín denied providing any financial assistance to pursue or maintain any legal action in the case. She said any help she had provided at the time was “given in good faith”.

She said she was “since shocked to learn of the revelations that have unfolded”, and accused State authorities of seeking to scapegoat her to “deflect blame”.

She was author of several books, including a social history of Ballymun Cross and a novelised version of how her parents met, along with three books in Irish. Until this summer she was writing for An Timire and was author of a children’s column, Eoghainín.

She was pre-deceased by her husband, Gus, and one son,Mícheál. She is survived by her children Gearóid, Áine, Colm, Íde, Úna, and eight grandchildren.

Míne Bean Uí Chribín: born on December 20th, 1927; died August 6th, 2012.