Tuesday 26 March 2019

Hundreds bid farewell to Eileen Flynn Roche

Eileen Flynn Roche on her wedding day in 1997
Eileen Flynn Roche on her wedding day in 1997

HUNDREDS OF mourners gathered in the Church of the Assumption in Rosbercon on Friday morning to bid a fond farewell to Eileen Flynn Roche.

Eileen passed away suddenly on Tuesday evening while socialising in the Three Bullet Gate, a day after celebrating her eleventh wedding anniversary with her husband Richie Roche.

Eileen was out with friends , when she collapsed and died, aged just 53 years.

A native of Co. Laois, she became an important figure in the history of the separation between the Catholic Church and the State.

She came to New Ross in 1978, when she took up a job teaching in the Holy Faith Convent, with an honours degree from Galway University.

She was quickly noted as a gifted teacher and after a probationary year she landed a full-time job, as an English and History teacher.

During her time teaching in the Holy Faith, Eileen fell pregnant. She concealed her pregnancy for as long as she could, fearing for her job. Challenged by the-then principal, Sister Pauline Leonard, Eileen first denied that she was pregnant but later admitted it.

When the school closed in June, Eileen had her baby boy five days later.

Two months after Eileen gave birth she received a letter from the school informing her that following her decision not to resign from the school her position was being terminated.

At the time she was sacked, she was unmarried with a baby son and was living with the baby’s father, Richie Roche, who was a separated man.

Eileen sought to be reinstated in her post but lost her unfair dismissal case at the Employment Appeals Tribunal and at the Circuit Court.

At the core of the case was whether her private life was her own affair, and it was a question that divided Ireland, with a huge amount of debate ensuing.

She finally lost her appeal to the High Court in March 1985.

Eileen emerged in the spotlight briefly in 1997 to address a conference in protest at a clause that allowed schools to take action against teachers who risked undermining the ethos of a school.

Eileen and Richie had to wait until the 1995 divorce laws to marry and were wed in a civil ceremony in September 1997.

In 2000, Eileen achieved her dream of returning to teaching when she got a job teaching in the CBS Primary School in New Ross.

Prior to returning to teaching, Eileen worked in the family’s two bars – Roche’s on the Quay and Byrne’s on Quay Street.

She began teaching initially in the CBS by filling in days for teachers who were out sick and progressed from that to filling a one year secondment.

She eventually reached the point where she was awarded a permanent contract in June 2006 and she was looking forward to a fulfilling teaching career at primary level.

‘Eileen was much loved and respected by parents, pupils and colleagues in the CBS. Her pupils were extremely fond of her and many ex-pupils from secondary schools in town attended her funeral.

‘The school would like to express its sincerest sympathies to the family of Mrs. Roche.

‘Eileen is in their thoughts and prayers and will always be remembered for her great contribution to the life of this school,’ said CBS School Principal Brian MacMahon.

On Friday morning hundreds turned out to say a final farewell to Eileen, who made an impression not only on all who her knew her locally but will be remembered on a national level through her high profile landmark case.

Simon Kennedy, her legal representative in the 1980s and close family friend, spoke very highly of her from the pulpit at the end of her funeral Mass.

The hymns throughout the ceremony were sung by the pupils from the CBS Primary School and a guard of honour was also formed by students from the school.

Music was played by Eddy Doyle and Hazel Clooney.

Eileen’s fondness for darts was legendary and she was laid to rest with her dart arrows in her pocket.

At her Requiem Mass she was described as a woman of spirit, who was intelligent and articulate. She loved crosswords, traditional music and all things Irish.

To the sound of ‘ Bird on a Wire’ by Leonard Cohen, Eileen was carried shoulder high by her beloved sons, husband Richie and two brothers to her resting place.

Eileen is survived by her husband Richie, their children Regina, Rebecca, Pat, Richie and Diarmuid, their grandchildren Shauna, Kai and Rachel, her brothers Ray and Sean, her relatives and many friends.

May she rest in peace.