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Saturday 30 August 2014

Archive: Christine Buckley named European Volunteer of the Year in 2009

"Sadly so many have died. This is our Grand Slam. This brings it on a global footing," she said when she got the award

Published 11/03/2014 | 11:47

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Christine Buckley was presented with the European Volunteer of the Award in 2009

For the 165,000 victims of institutional child abuse, this was their Grand Slam.

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Christine Buckley, a survivor of abuse at the infamous Goldenbridge Industrial School and director of the Aislinn Centre, a group for abuse victims, was named European Volunteer of the Year at a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 2009.

Speaking to the Irish Independent at the time, a thrilled Christine said: "I just thought for the 165,000 children, yes."

"Sadly so many have died. This is our Grand Slam. This brings it on a global footing."

Despite being the resounding winner -- she secured over 58,000 votes compared to her nearest competitor, a Cypriot with almost 45,000 -- Christine had no inkling she would emerge triumphant.

"I was saying to myself 'God Almighty, I would have thought we'd have got a plaque (given to fourth and fifth places) at least'. There was a pause and he said 'Irlande' and I wondered did I get that right? I just jumped up and down screaming, it was fantastic," she said.

The winner was selected through a combination of internet votes from members of the public and votes from the members of the EU Parliament before whom each of the finalists delivered a presentation outlining their volunteer work.

Many of the politicians were moved when they heard of the horrific abuse suffered by Irish children through the years.

Looking back on a landmark year which saw the publication of both the Ryan and Murphy reports into institutional and clerical abuse respectively, Christine said those who have abused and attempt to abuse children have received a "wake-up call".

"There's no place for people to hide now. We've been vindicated and the diocesan victims have been vindicated. From all this, in time, it will serve to protect our children," she said.

Breda Heffernan

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