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Jan 14 2012

Mary Raftery

RTÉ remembers Mary Raftery.

Ms Raftery was best known for her ‘States of Fear’ documentary series, which revealed the extent of physical and sexual abuse suffered by children in Irish industrial schools and residential institutions.

It led to the creation of the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse.

In 2002, her ‘Cardinal Secrets’ programme for RTÉ’s Prime Time led to the setting up of the Murphy Commission of Investigation into clerical abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese.

So did survivors of abuse.

Andrew Madden, the former altar boy abused by a senior Dublin cleric, said Ms Raftery had understood that the Church’s concealment of child sexual abuse was systemic, but that it could best be exposed by helping survivors to share personal experiences.

He said that her work had provided a way for some survivors to do that.

The organisation Survivors of Child Abuse said all survivors will forever remember her enormous contribution to revealing historical abuse in the country’s enclosed institutions.

Its spokesman, John Kelly, said each survivor owed a great deal to her steadfast courage that brought hope where there was despair and vindication when it was sorely needed. He said their hearts and prayers were with her family.

So did politicians.

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin said she had given a voice to the voiceless, including victims of abuse and, more recently, to those who suffered in psychiatric institutions. He said she had forced governments to act.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald said Ms Raftery had played an essential role in the alerting the country to its child protection duties.

She said her ground-breaking documentaries such as “Cardinal Secrets” brought home to viewers the squalid prevalence of child sexual abuse while emphasizing the life-long damage it could inflict on those abused.

So did journalists.

Seamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said Ms Raftery ”will be mourned by all who knew and respected her as a fearless journalist”.

He said she was someone “who was always willing to ask awkward questions, to seek out uncomfortable facts and to shine a light in the darkest corners of Irish society”.

The Irish Times Editor Kevin O’Sullivan said Ms Raftery’s journalism ”fearlessly exposed the gross failures of Church and State in looking after some of the most vulnerable and damaged of people in Irish society”.

He said her work lifted ”so many layers of institutional secrecy”.

Ireland needed her.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Pteryxx

    If there’s a “Fearless Journalist” award, it should be named after Raftery.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Or, better (since other journalists are in much more danger – see the Committee to Protect Journalists for examples), a “Taking the Lid off Festering Secrets About Religious Cruelty to Children” award…

  3. 3
    'Tis Himself

    Ms. Raftery’s disclosures helped Ireland become less entangled with the Catholic Church. While officially the closure of the Irish embassy to the Vatican last year was for economic reasons,* there’s no doubt the child rape coverups by the Catholic hierarchy had an effect on the embassy closing.

    *As Reuters put it:

    Dublin’s foreign ministry said the embassy was being closed because “it yields no economic return” and that relations would be continued with an ambassador in Dublin.

    The source said the Vatican was “extremely irritated” by the wording equating diplomatic missions with economic return, particularly as the Vatican sees its diplomatic role as promoting human values.

  4. 4
    Grendels Dad

    It is heartening that all of those groups remember her. The big question is: Will the church remember her?

  5. 5
    Scotlyn

    Thanks, Ophelia, for highlighting the work of a journalist who died far too young, but left an amazing legacy, for us in Ireland.

    Certainly ‘Tis Himself is correct in pointing out that her work played a huge role in disentangling church and state here. Indeed, it paved the way for this speech which I call Ireland’s second “Declaration of Independence” – this time, independence from the Church.*

    It might seem a run of the mill speech in a country that prizes and enshrines the separation of church and state, but for us it was a truly historic speech that will long be remembered when, hopefully, all the austerity nonsense trumpeted by this Taoiseach, and his economic mismanagement, is long forgotten.

    *We will soon need a third Declaration of Independence in relation to the EU, but that is another story.

  6. 6
    Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin

    Pteryxx says: January 14, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I concur with the sentiment.

    Thanks OB for highlighting media coverage of untimely death of Mary Raftery R.I.P.

    I mentioned before the very informative book that she co-authored with Eoin O’Sullivan, called Suffer the Little Children. I wonder has anyone read it at all? It will give one great insight into the Irish industrial *school* system.

    Undoubtedly, there are children in third world countries suffering so much due to religious weird practices. Take for example the work Leo Igwe does in Nigeria with children who are abandoned, due to witchcraft and sorcery. He is another kind of Mary Raftery. These are the brave people, whom one will find will not attract too many hits in the blogosphere. I expect the truth is too much to bear sometimes.

  7. 7
    the grem

    still no words except ‘thanks’ who in God’s name will fill those shoes.

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    I haven’t read the book but I just put in a request for it at the library.

  9. 9
    Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin

    Suffer the Little Children is already university reading material. Here’s a tiny synopsis of review. http://www.culturevulture.net/Books/SuffertheLittleChildren.htm

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