The Shame of Ireland

The Shame of Ireland

Archbishop Martin leads tributes to journalist Mary Raftery who lifted lid on clerical abuse

By Sarah Stack

Tuesday January 10 2012

ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin has led tributes to a groundbreaking journalist who lifted the lid on clerical and institutional abuse in Ireland.

Mary Raftery's fearless investigations to uncover generations of abuse led to the setting up of several State inquiries which shocked the nation.

She died this morning at the age of 54 following an illness, and is survived by her husband, David Waddell, and their son, Ben.

Archbishop Martin said work by the late broadcaster and journalist contributed to the Church being a better place for children.

"Bringing the truth out is always a positive thing even though it may be a painful truth," he told RTE.

"I believe that through her exposition of sins of the past and of the moment that the church is a better place for children and a place which has learned many lessons."

The award-winning broadcaster was best known for 1999 RTE documentary series, States Of Fear, which unveiled the extent of physical and sexual abuse suffered by children in the Irish childcare system during the 20th century - particularly in industrial and special schools run by religious orders on behalf of the Irish state. It was followed by a co-authored book on the issue.

The Irish Government responded with the setting up of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

Published nine years later, the Ryan Report revealed the church hierarchy and Irish Government covered up almost four decades of sexual abuse and beatings by priests and nuns on thousands of children in state care, with serial abusers moved from school to school.

Ms Raftery also produced and directed Prime Time Investigates: Cardinal Secrets in 2001, which led to the Murphy Report into child sexual abuse in Dublin and, later, in Cloyne.

It found the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland was granted immunity to cover up child sex abuse among paedophile priests in Dublin.

RTE director-general Noel Curran said Raftery's journalism was defined by determination and fearlessness.

"Her record in broadcasting is extraordinary, and not just in current affairs, with which she is most associated," he said.

"She has left an important legacy for Irish society, particularly for some of our most vulnerable citizens."

Andrew Madden, a survivor of child abuse and a leading campaigner, said he will be forever grateful to Ms Raftery for exposing the scandals.

"Mary was instrumental in helping many of us as we sought to expose the truth about what the Catholic Church and others knew about the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Ireland," he said.

"Mary understood that the Catholic Church's concealment of the sexual abuse of children was systemic but that it could best be exposed by helping survivors share personal experience and through her work provided a way for some of us to do that.

"Mary Raftery has contributed hugely to helping survivors receive some semblance of justice."

Colm O'Gorman, a survivor who set up the One In Four support group, said in Ms Raftery the country has lost one of its finest journalists.

"She was such a gentle, warm woman, but one of the most principled people of the highest integrity that I've ever been fortunate to meet," he said.

"She has done this society and this country an extraordinary service."

After leaving the staff of RTE in 2002, Raftery wrote a column for the Irish Times, became a frequent contributor to several other stations and taught in the Centre for Media Studies at NUI Maynooth.

In April 2010, her play No Escape, based on the Ryan Report, was staged at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin.

Her last documentary, Behind The Walls, was broadcast last September and charted the history of Ireland's psychiatric hospitals, their appalling conditions and the resulting damaged lives.

John Kelly, of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, said news of Ms Raftery's death is a cause of deep sadness for all survivors who remember her enormous contribution to the revelations of historical child abuses in Ireland's enclosed institutions.

"We each owe a great deal to Mary's steadfast courage that brought hope where there was despair and vindication when it was sorely needed," he added.

- Sarah Stack

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