It was a guiding principle in her own life — a life spent fearlessly fighting for the rights of those who got lost in the crowd.
The victims of institutional child abuse were for years smothered by ignorance, apathy and antipathy. Christine, recalled her younger son, Conor, at her funeral Mass yesterday, liked to smother him with love, hugs and kisses.
Joined on the altar by their sister, Cliona, the siblings spoke of their mother’s huge devotion to her children, an instinct they marvelled at given that she had no parents to show her how a child should be cherished.
Describing her legendary protectiveness, Conor recounted an occasion when she watched him play rugby and he was floored by an opponent.
“It was a fair tackle but mum didn’t think so. She ran over and beat the guy with an umbrella, shouting ‘leave my baby alone’. I had just turned 22.”
She was, he said, equally devoted to “her other family”, the countless former children’s home residents who received inspiration and courage from her fight, and love and support from the Aislinn Centre which she co-founded.
It was her work for that other family that brought Christine to public prominence. She had shone a light on the failures of Church and State in their duty of care to vulnerable children, said chief celebrant Fr Tony Coote, and that was not an easy path to choose.
“Initially her’s was a tiny voice amid the clamour of denial and recrimination,” he said of the backlash she faced for speaking out. “But her voice won freedom and vindication for herself and for others who had been abused.”
“It was the power of one against many — proof that when you demand to be heard, often at the beginning you will receive a deaf ear and even hatred, but eventually others will listen to you and, as Christine always said, not just listen but believe.
“As we know, in the terrible stories and the horror of the abuse of children, people did tell their story but no-one believed. Perhaps belief is one of Christine’s greatest legacies.”
She never held back, in her determination, energy, commitment or passion. Said Fr Coote: “She has given everything she had and that is a powerful way to have lived.”
Around 1,000 mourners, led by Christine’s husband, Donal, gathered for the Mass at the Church of St Therese, Mount Merrion, Dublin, among them President Michael D Higgins.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by his aide-de-camp, Commandant Kieran Carey, and Minister for Health James Reilly also attended. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin received Christine’s coffin into the church, describing her as “our great friend”.
Throughout the service, some of Christine’s favourite music was played, including ‘The Rose’ and Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ while stage star Rebecca Storm joined the musicians and singers to perform a poignant, ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’.
Her coffin left the church to the singing of ‘Lean On Me’ and, in keeping with her African heritage on her father’s side, the traditional African-American spiritual, ‘I’m A Rollin’.
Christine, who died aged 67 last Tuesday after a long battle against recurring cancer, was buried at Shanganagh Cemetery.
Her family said she told them she wanted a party, not a funeral, and they promised to try to fulfil her wish when they gathered to celebrate her life last night.