Funeral takes place of Solidarity Movement founder Nora Bennis
‘Woman of conviction’ promoted Catholic values and opposed abortion and divorce
The late Nora Bennis in February 2002, when she was leader of the Christian Democrats at the count for the Abortion Referendum at the RDS. Photograph: Frank Miller
The late founder of the Solidarity Movement, Nora Bennis, was a loud voice against abortion and divorce, as well as promoting Catholic and family values. However, her family said at her funeral Mass on Thursday she died “heartbroken by the problems in society”.
The 78-year old mother-of-four who was also well-known in cultural circles, having founded the Bennis School of Irish Dancing, died following a short illness, on Monday.
Despite unsuccessfully contesting three Dáil elections and one European election, she gained respect from her political peers as a formidable political opponent.
She founded Women Working at Home and the Irish Mothers Working at Home Association in the 1990s following the X case, when the State took an injunction against a 14-year-old pregnant teenager to prevent her having an abortion in the UK.
Following the 1995 divorce referendum, she set up the National Party, later renamed the Christian Democrats.
Her strident views on various contentious issues, such as abortion and divorce, made her unpopular in some circles, but she never wavered in spreading her message, her daughter, Muirne, told mourners.
In 1995, she led a 24-hour fast and a day of prayer, in protest at a sex shop operating in the Treaty city, telling reporters she wanted the public to “boycott this filth”.
“She was labelled, and sometimes ridiculed, but that wouldn’t stop her. Whether people agreed or disagreed with her, all accepted she was a woman of conviction,” her daughter added.
“She cared so much, and was heartbroken by the problems in society and wanted to make this country the safest place possible,” she said.
She highlighted her mother’s deep commitment to family values, adding she was a “superhero” to her four children and six grandchildren.
“I read somewhere that life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother. And how true that is. Mum was a guiding light in our lives. Mum truly loved her role as a mother and she loved been able to provide for our basic needs, emotional needs, and very especially, our spiritual needs.”
“It was impossible to argue against her. She always won,” she added.
The rights of a unborn foetus were always foremost in her mind.
“Mum knew the value of mothering, not just for us, but for every child, and that is why she fought for the recognition of the value of the mother, the value of the family, the value of life.”
Fr Ryan said Ms Bennis had corresponded with Jack Potts, a prisoner on death row, Georgia, in the US, who had pleaded guilty to murder.
Potts was “impressed” by Ms Bennis’s support for mothers in the home, “as he felt his problems started” because his mother was absent from the family home when he was a child. He wrote Ms Bennis a letter from jail, which sowed the seeds of a 20-year correspondence until he died of cancer.
“In the course of their corresponding he became an Irish-speaking, GAA-loving Catholic before he died of cancer,” said Fr Ryan.