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Friday 29 August 2014

Christine Buckley's husband: 'She was a warrior against injustice and for people's rights and dignity'

Her proudest achievement was people 'turning their lives around' at the Aislinn Centre

Published 11/03/2014 | 12:30

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Christine Buckley
Christine Buckley
Christine and her son Conor Buckley photographed in their garden.

Christine Buckley, the courageous campaigner for victims of institutional abuse, has passed away after a long illness.

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This morning, her husband said his beloved wife's proudest achievement was her work with the Aislinn Centre.

Christine campaigned tirelessly on behalf of victims of institutional abuse for more than 25 years.

Donal Buckley told Newstalk's Pat Kenny that Mrs Buckley helped many people to gain a basic - or in some cases third level - education through the centre, which she co-founded.

"From the people that attended the Aislinn Centre, she could see how so many of them were able to turn their lives around," Mr Buckley told Pat Kenny.

"Some of them were so grateful for the support she had given them in getting proper homes, for some cases, going onto university education in a couple of cases, and basic literary skills in other cases because people weren't able to read and write."

Mr Buckley said his wife had battled cancer for many years, but it returned again last September.

"She'd been battling with shingles and then battling with the return of cancer after remission again since September."

"Before that, she'd had cancer over 30 years."

"She was in remission until 13 or 14 years ago until she got breast cancer. She was in various stages of remission since then but unfortunately she wasn't able to fight anymore."

Mr Buckley described the late campaigner as a warrior against injustices.

She spoke privately about her own personal experiences in 1984, and then went public in 1992.

"She was a warrior for people to try and trace their parents. She was a warrior for injustice. She was a warrior for education and the benefits education can bring to people."

"She was a warrior for, most of all, people like her who spent time in industrial institutions."

Mrs Buckley was conferred with a Doctor in Laws (LL.D) from Trinity College last December.

"She was thrilled with that because her father had gone to Trinity."

"She had always wanted to be either in the medical profession or the legal profession, and Trinity gave her a doctorate of laws so she had the best of both worlds in a way." "She was called a doctor - not that she used the title - but she was thrilled with it."

Mrs Buckley was the daughter of a Nigerian medical student and a married Dublin woman. She was abandoned at three weeks old and subsequently brought up in the Goldenbridge orphanage.

She was one of the first people to go public about her experience of abuse, and she campaigned tirelessly for more than 25 years on behalf of other survivors of institutional abuse.

"She did a lot to highlight the injustices that were there. Though there was one nun there that she had a good rapport with and she spoke fondly of her."

"She suffered a lot in there and that way in which she recalled the suffering."

"It touched a lot of people who had been in the same situation and they opened their hearts, and then Christine felt she wasn't just fighting for herself - she was fighting for other people."

Mrs Buckley's story featured in a powerful documentary Dear Daughter.

Donal told Pat Kenny how she was eventually able to find her parents.

"She had to go through the back roads and to do it by stealth but she was able to find her mother, and eventually was able to find her father...and he welcomed her with open arms, as did her mother."

"Her father was Nigerian and his Nigerian family welcomed her as well."

Christine's father passed away two years ago.

RTE Radio 1 today played an excerpt from the Gay Byrne Show in 1992 of Ms Buckley speaking about her ‘horrific’ experience at Goldenbridge.

Director of Dear Daughter, Louis Lentin said: “It’s very sad. I’ve just heard [the news of her death] in the last half hour. She was an amazing woman, an emphatic fighter. She protested about her time in Goldenbridge and once she made up her mind she just kept on protesting.

I met her shortly after her interview with Gay Byrne. Because of her background she didn’t click with everyone immediately. But we remained until her death close friends.

“She took everything in her stride.”

He spoke about some of the negative feedback Christine had gotten as a result of her campaigning: “They accused of us of being anti-Semitic at times.”

Children's Minister Francis Fitzgerald said Ms Buckley was instrumental in exposing the history of child sex abuse in the country's Catholic institutions.

"Christine Buckley was a courageous and consistent campaigner for child protection and children's rights," she said.

"As a survivor of institutional abuse, Christine led the charge to lift the veil on Ireland's dark past and shameful legacy of child abuse."

The minister sent her condolences to Ms Buckely’s family and to the staff and supporters of the Aislinn Centre which the Dublin woman established to provide support for survivors of institutional abuse.”

Irish Independent

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