independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Demonised Irish nanny a 'gentle' girl who helped feed poor

LIKE many young Irish in America's most Irish city, Aisling McCarthy Brady lived in the shadows. That all changed on Monday when she was charged with injuring a one-year-old girl who later died.

In an instant, Aisling McCarthy Brady (pictured below) went from anonymous immigrant to notorious defendant.

Her photo was splashed across front pages and TV screens, a stunning transformation for a 34-year-old who arrived here from a small town in Co Cavan, hoping to follow in her sisters' footsteps of making a life in America.

Unlike her sisters, who are legal residents, Aisling arrived in 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks. If it was hard to legalise one's status before 9/11, the security crackdown that followed the terrorist attacks made it even harder to earn a living in America. It was impossible for non-legalised immigrants to get a social security card, making it impossible to get driver's licences.

Like many young Irish women in the metropolitan Boston area, Ms McCarthy Brady started work as a nanny. It is a job that many undocumented immigrants seek because with a dearth of child care, desperate parents are rarely put off by a prospective nanny's immigration status.

On a website called Sittercity, the Irishwoman said her babysitting experience began as a 13-year-old back in Lavey. She noted that she was the fourth of 10 children, endowed with childminding expertise.

She told prospective employers that she was a hands-on nanny who didn't believe in using the TV as a childminder. Instead, she liked to occupy her charges with board games inside, and active play in parks outside.

Her friends say she seldom lacked work, and her former bosses spoke well of her. But even as she worked regularly with children, she had troubled relationships with some adults. A former boyfriend, David Furey, took out a restraining order against her in 2005 after they broke up and she allegedly attacked him in a pub.

Mr Furey said she hit and scratched him and threw a beer bottle at a woman he was talking to. He claimed she threatened to make his life "hell".

In 2007, after a night of drinking, Ms McCarthy Brady and her roommate got into a fight in their apartment in the Dorchester section of Boston where many young Irish live. The roommate told police she bit her. Ms McCarthy Brady told police her roommate had bit her too. Both were arrested but the charges were eventually dismissed.

Last year, an Irishwoman sought a restraining order, alleging that Ms McCarthy Brady set up a phoney Facebook page to harass her and her boss. She accused her of posting a message on a parenting website claiming she (the woman) had abused children in her care. She also said she was contacted twice by a funeral director looking for obituary information, implying that Ms McCarthy Brady had maliciously sent the undertaker her way.

None of these incidents resulted in a conviction, but the reporting of them has quickly tarnished Ms McCarthy Brady in the court of public opinion. A woman who lost her temper so regularly with adults, the implication goes, could do so with a baby.

The ' Boston Herald' regularly highlights the criminal exploits of immigrants. But it noted that even Furey, who took out a restraining order, does not believe his ex-girlfriend is capable of harming a child. This was after the 'Boston Herald' described her as "a brawling, beer bottle-tossing Irish illegal alien with a history of run-ins with the law".

If the stereotypes in that summary harkened back to when the newly-arrived Irish were dismissed by Boston Brahmins as drunks, the present portrayal of Ms McCarthy Brady as a vindictive woman capable of violence raises more serious questions, including whether she can get a fair trial.

Friends say she settled down last year when she married a house painter from Cork, and had talked about having children. The couple shared an apartment in Quincy, south of the Dorchester section where she had lived.

About six months ago, shortly before she was married, she was hired to look after the baby daughter of Sameer Sabir and Nada Siddiqui. Mr Sabir, from London, had helped create start-up companies on both sides of the Atlantic. His wife returned to work after maternity leave, leading them to hire Ms McCarthy Brady.

While their Irish nanny's previous legal problems have received much attention, less has been paid to what her friends say is her kind side. She volunteered at a local food pantry for the poor. Neighbours who saw her with Rehma Sabir, the baby she is accused of killing, said she was nothing but attentive and gentle with the child.

Dao Lee, who runs a laundromat near the apartment where the Sabirs lived, said he saw Ms McCarthy Brady with Rehma almost daily. He said that when his wife tried to cuddle the child, the nanny stepped in, worried about germs that could make the baby ill.

Irish Independent

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