Update : Mena died this week (6 August 2012). Here is a link to The Irish Times obituary.
Mena Cribben (aka Mena Bean Ui Chribin), aged 84 and mother of six, has been the postmistress of Santry Avenue Post Office for over fifty years. During this time, she has also been one of the most vocal spokespersons for the Ultra-Conservative Catholic strand of Irish politics having been active with the Irish Family League, Family Rights Group, Mna na hEireann, Irish Housewives Union and Ograchas Naoimh Papain.
Perhaps most infamously known for her role in the 2009 Roscommon family incest case, namely that she provided advice and (more than likely) funding for a legal action to stop the State from taking six neglected children into care, Cribben has been active in reactionary politics since the 1960s.
In the late 1960s, she began to write letters to The Irish Independent and The Irish Press and even managed to get published some of her own opinion pieces. Like this one on Marriage:
American television network NBC produced and broadcast a special report, entitled ‘Land Of Saints And Scholars‘, on corporal punishment in Ireland’s schools in September 1969. It featured Mena Cribben and her husband Gus who ran a private after-school programme to help students with their homework. Mena and Cribben admitted giving an “odd smack of a cane” to their several female ‘students’ and spoke in favour of capital punishment. The programme, which was subsequently broadcast on RTE, sparked massive controversy.
Gus himself was a prolific letter writer, mainly on topics of Corporal Punishment and Catholicism, from 1965 right up the late 1970s. He was also the organisers of the annual mass held on a penal-day mass-rock in Wicklow.
Mena was heavily involved in the campaign against contraception in the early 1970s. In November 1970, Irish Press journalist Mary Kenny brought together Mena Cribben and liberal campaigner and midwife Monica McEnroy for a debate on the subject.
Cribben was quoted as saying:
One can’t plan a family. God alone decides when a child is made (and) the individual … has not the right to murder and that is what the definition of contraception really is
She also admitted that she would withhold any contraceptives that came through her post office.
In August 1972, she hit the headlines again for leading a group of Irish-speaking parents to boycott the Silogue church in Ballymun after its mass became bi-lingual.
At the Irish Housewives Association ‘women’s parliament’ in November, Cribben, as ‘Shadow Minister for Justice’, called for the voting age to be raised to 25 or 30, keep press censorship and concluded that Catholics had contracted ‘to obey the law of the state and the pope’. Nell McCafferty, in the Irish Times, described it as a ‘rambling incoherent speech’.
Here’s another of Gus’ letters from the same period:
Cribben spoke out against Divorce in 1978 and was active in various conservative catholic organisations in the early 1980s.
In January 1982, Cribben along with another mother and close friend Una Bean Mhic Mhathuna were refused an injuction in the High Court when they sought to restrain the Department of Education from questioning their children or canvasing their opinions without the consent of the parents. Bean Mhic Mhathuna was also a veteran right wing campaigner. Her daughters, Niamh and Una, were founding members of the radical anti-abortion group Youth Defence.
In January 1984, an armed gang robbed the Cribben post office getting away with almost £20,000. In the process, the family, including son Michael, were locked in a bedroom.
Somewhat ironically Michael Cribben was himself arrested in 1986 and charged with aggravated burglary, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life, and false imprisonment in relation to a robbery of service station manager’s house.
In 1994, Mena Cribben insisted that the all-Irish primary school Scoil Paipin Naofa school, established the year before on lands owned by her, only teach the traditional Catholicism of the Tridentine faith. As a result, the parents of about thirty pupils withdrew them from the school
In 1998, she was one of a group of protesters who disrupted a meeting at a school in Trim, Co Meath, where parents were being given details of a new Relationship and Sexuality Programme to be taught to primary school children.
In 2000, one of her children Aine Ni Chriobin was the subject of a TG4 documentary. It was revealed that Aine was sent, at the age of 17, to the cultish schismatic Catholic Palmarian church in Spain where she spent 17 years before she finally able to escape.
She last made the papers in 2009 when it was revealed that she gave advice (and possibly financial support) to the Roscommon mother who was jailed for seven years for 10 offences including incest and the sexual assault of her young children. Mena was named in court as a person who contacted health officials to argue the family needed support not intrusion.
In court, she accused the State of “attacking families”, saying:
I won’t comment directly on this case but suppose that woman had not been married, she would have plenty of money to rear those children. An unmarried mother gets all the help they need from the State. The State is attacking families and has been for years.
As of January 2009, she was still postmistress at the Santry Avenue Post Office.
CHTM! suggests you buy your stamps somewhere else. 😉