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Thursday 8 December 2016

Reporter gave 'voice to voiceless'

Published 13/01/2012 | 05:00

THE partner of pioneering broadcaster Mary Raftery has claimed that she faced opposition from RTE when making her landmark documentary 'States of Fear'.

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David Waddell told mourners at the journalist's funeral yesterday that the health of his partner and that of her colleague, researcher Sheila Ahern, were affected by the lack of support for the 1999 programme.

Family, friends and colleagues of Ms Raftery packed the 17th-century Great Hall in the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham for a poignant service peppered with humour and emotion.

It was a humanist ceremony and featured several tributes to the woman responsible for some of the most powerful and influential broadcasts on RTE television.

Ms Raftery was best known for the 1999 documentary that exposed institutional abuse and led to the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologising to victims on behalf of the State.

Mr Waddell spoke of how little support she and Ms Ahern had received, with opposition from the state broadcaster and other "more powerful institutions".

"These had direct adverse health consequences for both of them," he said.

Cabinet ministers, including Labour's Joan Burton and Pat Rabbitte, were among the mourners, as well as child-abuse survivors and campaigners, including Andrew Madden and Kevin Flanagan -- whose brother Michael had been in the Artane Industrial School -- and Colm O'Gorman, founder of the One in Four group.

RTE director-general Noel Curran and his predecessor Cathal Goan were also present, along with writer Roddy Doyle, journalist Nell McCafferty and broadcasters Miriam O'Callaghan, Joe Duffy and Mary Wilson.

In an eloquent eulogy, Mr Waddell spoke of how his partner gave a "voice to the voiceless".

"While she was an objective, brave and analytical journalist, she was motivated by the ideals of socialism, social democracy and respect for human rights," he said.

He joked about how there was a need to highlight some of her flaws, including her cooking and the fact that she was a "theoretical gardener" who liked to "direct the labour force".

Her colleague and close friend Sheila Ahern, who worked with her on 'States of Fear', described her as the "bravest person" she had ever met.

She spoke of difficulties the pair faced within RTE over the programme.

"She knew if she backed down it would have jeopardised the impact the series had," Ms Ahern said.

Ms Raftery's niece Isolde recalled how her aunt told them stories about the world and she finished her tribute with moving words from Ms Raftery's mother Ita, who said the world would be an empty place without her.

'Irish Times' columnist and friend Fintan O'Toole spoke of how Ms Raftery had given up two college courses, in engineering and music, after being "led astray" by various mat- ters, including politics and agitation.

"The two Marys that never were -- Mary the engineer and Mary the musician -- came together to create the Mary Raftery who will inhabit the history books as the most important and influential journalist of late 20th and early 21st-century Ireland," he said.

Ms Raftery is survived by her partner David, son Ben, mother Ita and sister and brothers Iseult, Adrian and Iain.

Irish Independent

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