God rest Padraigin Drinan

Posted By: August 01, 2022

“God rest Padraigin. I had the honor of meeting her some years ago at a Congressional Hearing in Washington. She stayed in touch by email until her eyes failed her. She was singularly dedicated to justice and solidarity.”

—Fr. Sean McManus

Respected human rights solicitor Pádraigín Drinan was “the finest person”


Suzanne Breen. Belfast Telegraph. July 24, 2022

A human rights solicitor who was involved in the civil rights movement and represented rape victims, nationalist residents’ groups, and ethnic minorities during her lengthy career, has died.

Pádraigín Drinan (75) was one of only four women in a class of 74 when she studied law at Queen’s University, Belfast in the late 1960s.

Ms. Drinan was a friend of murdered solicitor Rosemary Nelson, and at times worried about her own security due to the cases she took on. She was the solicitor for Belfast Rape Crisis Centre, and for Ormeau Road and Garvaghy Road residents who opposed Orange Order marches in their area.

In later years, she focused on cases of racial discrimination. She said ethnic minorities here were now being treated “the same as Catholics” had been in the late 1960s.

Ms. Drinan had intended to become an academic lawyer because she thought the law in practice was “corrupt”. But, with the introduction of internment in 1971, she believed the best way of helping people was to practice.

A hippie, she walked into her first job interview in bare feet, wearing beads. Solicitor Barbara Muldoon, who worked with Ms. Drinan more recently, said: “Pádraigín was the finest person I have ever known.

“Some solicitors are well suited and booted. Pádraigín was dressed from head to toe in integrity, and it never came off.

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“She was quirky and she didn’t do small talk. She had a fine legal brain and a way of cutting through crap. The world is a far poorer and more boring place without her.”

Ms. Drinan was born into a family of three on Glen Road in west Belfast. Her father Maurice was an Irish language activist and teacher at St Malachy’s College. On the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising, she joined Gerry Fitt’s Republican Labor Party, becoming its secretary while a schoolgirl. She joked that she was “probably the only person to bunk off school to go to Stormont”. Ms. Drinan went on to join People’s Democracy.

She later told the US blog Tallgirlshorts: “I find that I am continually being classed as a nationalist lawyer, a lawyer for nationalist and Catholic causes and on behalf of nationalist and Catholic people.

“And this may be the case, but it is the case because these are the people who are having their rights trampled upon. These are the people requiring defense.”

Ms. Drinan also worked with women’s groups in loyalist areas. In the 1970s, she was part of the Equal Opportunities Commission’s legal unit involved in tackling sexual discrimination in the workplace.

She was constantly frustrated by the failure to prosecute in rape cases, and by the low sentences handed out to sex offenders.

Ms. Drinan battled cancer and heart problems for the past 14 years. She suffered from diabetes and was registered blind. Throughout her career, the overwhelming majority of her cases were pro bono.

A committed socialist, she lived a modest life in a flat in Clonard, off the Falls Road, Belfast. She suffered a cardiac seizure in the Royal Victoria Hospital on Saturday.

Her friend Fiona McCausland said: “Every week without fail, Pádraigín gathered a bag of groceries for the food bank. After she died, I went to her flat. There was a shelf of food to be donated — all expensive items. Then, there was her own shelf of food — the cheapest brands. It was so typically Pádraigín.”