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Bride Rosney a formidable advocate but also generous and kind, funeral told

The late Bride Rosney believed in people’s capacity, regardless of title or wealth, to come together to challenge the status quo, Mary Robinson has said.

At a celebration of the life of Ms Rosney, who was Ms Robinson’s principal adviser during her term of office in Áras an Uachtaráin, the former president said she invested generously in people.

“Her great skill as a strategist and advocate came from her understanding of people. Bride knew how to motivate people, as individuals and as a collective,” she said.

The event in memory of Ms Rosney was held in the RDS in Dublin and was also attended by President Michael D Higgins. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was represented by his aide de camp, Commandant Claire Mortimer.

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Ms Robinson was one of three people who shared reflections on Ms Rosney, who died at the age of 74 on September 22nd. The chief mourners were her partner Peter MacMenamin, her sister Mary, her brother Michael and her extended family.

Ms Rosney was born in Kerry but brought up in Dublin. She was a teacher and activist before becoming Ms Robinson’s special adviser in 1990. She subsequently worked with Ms Robinson in the United Nations, as director of communications for RTÉ and as a director and adviser of many organisations.

In her reflection, President Robinson said she wanted to capture five dimensions of Ms Rosney: as mentor, as an empathiser, as a change-maker; as an achiever and as a supporter behind the scenes.

She said she was a formidable advocate but also generous and kind.

“Bride is living in the people she nurtured and connected … She also nurtured me.

“We began as colleagues who failed to stop the disruption of the Viking settlement at Wood Quay in Dublin [in the early 1970s]. Many of you will recall how the Reverend Professor FX Martin was out in front, a very good advocate. But Bride was secretary of Friends of Medieval Dublin. She was the organiser. She organised the marches. She organised the litigation, she retained Nick [Robinson, the former president’s husband] and myself to be barrister and solicitor, and she organised subsequently the occupation.”

Ms Robinson told the audience that during the presidency, Ms Rosney was strategic about visits around the country. “She had a large map of Ireland with red pins for actual locations, and other pins, other colours, for the different kinds of events. It was a very colourful map at the end seven years,” she said.

“Words will be spoken about Bride for generations, because of the people she nurtured to have the courage of their convictions.”

She concluded: “Thank you Bride for all the words, ideas, courage and love”.

Ms Rosney’s partner Peter McMenamin said she was the rock in so many areas of life for individuals and organisations.

“So many here and elsewhere will record her as their rock, their mentor and in many ways their inspiration. She was also my rock for the last 30 years,” he said.

He said that Ms Rosney had a reputation for her toughness but she was also a sensitive and extremely perceptive person “with an extraordinary sense of what is right and what isn’t.”

Ms Rosney’s niece, Elaine Rosney, also paid a public tribute. She said that thanks to her aunt’s convictions she and her sister, Michell, grew up in a world that was directly shaped and influenced by what she had done for many underrepresented groups, especially women.

“Bride worked tirelessly to ensure that boundaries were removed, opportunities were made equitable and that women’s voices were not just heard but listened to … She shattered glass ceilings and she opened doors for women.”

Broadcaster and musician Philip King, alongside fellow broadcaster and uilleann piper Peter Browne, played a selection of tunes, songs and readings, including Port na bPúcaI and Seamus Heaney’s The Given Note.

The celebrant was Brian Whiteside of the Irish Humanist Association. The readers were Ms Rosney’s niece Michelle Roseny and her friend Geraldine English.

Among those who attended the ceremony were former Labour Party leaders Joan Burton and Ruairí Quinn; former Labour Party TD Liz McManus; the Attorney General Rossa Fanning SC; former senior European Union official Catherine Day; Ms Robinson’s husband Nick, and their children, Aubrey Robinson and Tessa Robinson.

Former RTÉ broadcaster Charlie Bird attended with his wife Claire Mould.

Other former RTÉ broadcasters and executives present included former director general Cathal Goan, Adrian Moynes, Olivia O’Leary, Flor McCarthy and Peter Feeney.

Others in attendance included TUI president David Waters, TUI secretary general Michael Gillespie; Dave Brannigan, Cyril Byrne and Brendan FitzGibbon of the Professional Photographers Association of Ireland, Parole Board chief executive Cairn de Buis; Brian Sheehan of Women for Election; Susan McKay on behalf of the Press Ombudsman and Press Council; former special adviser Michael Ronayne; Mark Garrett, director general of the Law Society; Carol Haney, former chief executive of the Education Training Board; and former Irish Times environmental editor Frank McDonald.