Remembering Noelle on the 8th anniversary of her passing.
Noelle Ryan was a remarkable human being who always saw the good in people.
She dedicated her life to the service of the people of Belfast.
Originally from Dublin Noelle joined a Domician convent in Drogheda, it was an enclosed order that had no direct communication with the outside world, a life of contemplation and prayer. For anyone who knew Noelle that was never the order for her. She left after 6 years and became a street sister working in Lourdes, Liverpool, Dublin before arriving in Belfast.
She met Fr Des an knew Springhill Community House was the place for her, over the next 40 years Noelle brought work opportunities, education and health awareness to the people if West Belfast and beyond, her work continues today.
She chose to live and work in Springhill and was a great advocate of Bach Flower remedies.
I know that she would be out on the front line during our current crisis advising people of the benefits of the remedies
“We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers”
This quote from fellow angelic troublemaker Bayard Rustin reminded me of our own angelic troublemaker Noelle.
Bayard Rustin was an American civil rights activist who was an adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr., and who was the main organiser of the March on Washington in 1963.
There are many stories of her civil and human rights activism, but a couple stand out.
While driving in Belfast city centre she crossed a one-way system and the police fined her, she took the opportunity to raise awareness of strip searching in Armagh gaol. She refused to pay the fine in the hope it would go to court and she would be sent to Armagh. Either the authorities got wind of her plan or someone unknown paid the fine, but the penalties were dropped and she didn’t get her day in court. But this just demonstrates what she was prepared to do to highlight human rights abuses.
On another occasion she started a boycott campaign against M&S who were making substantial donations to the tory party. On different days she would go to all the stores in Belfast, fill the trolley with non-perishable goods and proceed to the checkout, when all the goods went through the till she would refuse to pay and ask for a manger. In a loud voice she would tell the manager and anyone in close proximity that M&S were implicit in all that the tory government were doing as they were major donors.
In a similar vein she and others started a boycott of the Northern Bank, the slogan at the time was “the bank that doesn’t like to employ Catholics”. As part of the equality campaign business who had an atrocious record of employing Catholics were targeted and the Northern Bank was one of them. Individuals and community organisations were asked to close accounts with the bank in protest at their unfair employment practices and they did. After a lengthy international and domestic campaign fair employment legislation was introduced, although not perfect it was a start in the reversal of unfair employment practices against Catholics.
So you can’t get any more angelic than a former nun who gave a life of service to the people of Ireland and beyond, some might call her a troublemaker, I prefer revolutionary.