`Irish Times' journalist Mary Cummins dies

The Taoiseach has led tributes to Irish Times journalist Mary Cummins, who died yesterday after a four-year battle with cancer…

The Taoiseach has led tributes to Irish Times journalist Mary Cummins, who died yesterday after a four-year battle with cancer.

Mr Ahern said she was "a loyal champion of women's rights from a time in the 1960s when the topic did not get much of a hearing," and added: "She understood too the need to continue to press for progress. . . even when many considered that equality for women had been all but won."

Ms Cummins was at her family home in Kerry when she died, having attended the funeral of her mother on Sunday. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer in May 1996, but as recently as July wrote with characteristic humour about her fight with the illness.

Although she was born in Castletownshend, Co Cork, her father's job as a Garda sergeant took the family to Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry and finally to Ballybunion. After an education at the town's St Joseph's Secondary School, she worked briefly in the civil service before training as a nurse and qualifying as a midwife in Dublin's Rotunda Hospital. She had always wanted to write, however, and pursued freelance journalism until she was hired by The Irish Times in December 1970.


Part of the first generation of women who broke into the traditionally male-dominated mainstream of Irish journalism, she wrote news and features in Dublin before going to the paper's London office, where in 1971 she had the world exclusive story of the pregnancy of Bernadette Devlin MP.

She left the newspaper for a time in the early 1970s, during which her daughter, Daisy was born. Rejoining the Irish Times in the late 1970s, she worked in a number of capacities before being appointed Women's Affairs Correspondent in 1991, a role she combined with coverage of the Seanad.

In October 1996, soon after the diagnosis of her illness, Marino published a collection of her About Women columns. It was launched by the then EU commissioner, Mr Padraig Flynn, who described her as one of the few journalists whose ideas "could fix themselves permanently in readers' minds".

Last night the Fine Gael leader, Mr John Bruton, said Ms Cummins "had great joy in her life and her sense of humour brought happiness to all with whom she came into contact".

He added: "A committed feminist, she was also a genuine liberal in that she respected the choices that women freely made and did not seek to impose one view of a good life on all. Her writing will be missed but her collected work is a resource upon which many will draw in the future."

Although she had suffered a long illness, "her death is a real shock," Mr Bruton said. "On behalf of the Fine Gael party, I wish to extend sympathy to Mary Cummins's daughter, who has lost both her mother and grandmother in the space of a few days."

The editor of The Irish Times, Mr Conor Brady, said she was "a writer and journalist of rare talents and gifts and a woman of the deepest generosity and humanity. She could be angry and passionate to an extraordinary degree where she recognised injustice or inequality. She loved life, her family, Daisy, her job and Kerry. The columns of The Irish Times will be greatly the poorer for the loss of her challenging spirit."

Her remains will be brought from Lynch's Funeral Home, Main Street, Ballybunion, Co Kerry, at 8 p.m. this evening, to St John's Church. Funeral Mass will be at 11.30 a.m. tomorrow followed by burial in Kilconly Cemetery.

Frank McNally

Frank McNally

Frank McNally is an Irish Times journalist and chief writer of An Irish Diary