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KILDARE OBITUARY: Remembering passionate social justice campaigner, Hilda Dunne

The late Maynooth lady was involved in several campaigns

KILDARE OBITUARY: Remembering passionate social justice campaigner, Hilda Dunne

The late Hilda Dunne

Hilda Dunne (1938-2018), from Clonfert, Maynooth, was recently laid to rest at Mainham Cemetery in Clane.

Hilda passed away at Moyglare Nursing Home in Maynooth and leaves behind husband Loughlin, daughters Mary, Louise, Pauline and Celine, sons-in-law Tommy, Ger and Brendan, and grandchildren Maeve, Thomas, Oscar, Aaron, Louise and Claudia, among others.

Born in June 1937, Hilda came from Dublin and moved to Kildare relatively early in life when she married Loughlin in 1958.

Her mother was from Glasnevin and “history was in the blood,” her daughter, Mary, said.

At her funeral mass at Rathcoffey church on January 8, Michael Quinn, on behalf of Hilda’s colleagues, said it was honour to present a short tribute to her contribution to civil society.

“Hilda had a powerful sense of local and national history, of community activism, and justice.

It was because of a justice for Irish prisoners issue that Hilda became involved in Maynooth community when the Winchester Three Support Group was formed in 1989.

The Three — who had been unjustly tried and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in Britain on conspiracy charges – included a young man from Maynooth, Finbar Cullen.

Hilda immediately joined in the the Group’s work to help create a public awareness about the case, and to support legal efforts around a court appeal.

This was a time, prior to the release of the Birmingham Six and the ceasefires in Northern Ireland, when it took a strong sense of moral conviction to speak out on such issues.

Proudly to the fore

In the event, the appeal judge squashed the original verdict and sentences on the Three, and Hilda was proudly to the fore in organising the Fáilte Abhaile celebration in the town for Finbar.

“Thereafter, Hilda, and a number of us from the Group, set out on a journey of successive local initiatives, which included the establishment of: Maynooth Miscarriages of Justice Group, which supported the international campaign to release the Birmingham Six; Maynooth Peace, Reconciliation and Justice Group, which supported the unfolding peace process in Northern Ireland ; the Maynooth branch of Reclaim of the Spirit of Easter 1916, that marked the 75th anniversary of the Rising in 1991, and honoured the Maynooth contingent that fought in 1916; and the 1798 Bicentenary Commemoration Group,” he added.

Michael said that Hilda was really in her element in this group, as its events dovetailed with her earlier work.

This was with the ANCO team that restored Ladychapel Cemetery — the cemetery that holds her own Mooney family plot, and the remains of two soldiers from the ranks of the United Irish who had been killed at the battle of Ovidstown in 1798.

Hilda’s poem The Unmarked Grave was included in the Group’s booklet 1798 and Maynooth.

She was involved in launching the Maynooth Local History & Civic Forum, which continues to this day to operate as the Maynooth Local History Group.

Hilda also went on to work on the Community Council and a number of other groups until very recently.

Michael went on to say: “Hilda’s style on committees was not to push her views or herself forward, but rather she knew how best to get things done, with a quiet word, and the best approach.

“Yet, she could act decisively! Perhaps her finest achievement was one that she largely undertook herself — to thwart plans to transfer the remains of the Presentation Sisters from their Cemetery located behind their school in Convent Lane, to another graveyard, to make way for building development.

“Now, Hilda cherished a special pride for her aunt, Sr Philomena Mooney, who was buried there in 1958. She embarked upon a one-woman publicity offensive in the print and radio media.”

Suffice it to say, said Michael, the graveyard remains untouched and intact to this day.

Michael added that Maynooth society has lost a favourite daughter. May she Rest in Peace.

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