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Sunday 17 November 2019

Her desperate fight to be heard began as a teen in orphanage

Christine and her son Conor Buckley. Picture: Mark Condren
Christine and her son Conor Buckley. Picture: Mark Condren

Cormac Murphy

CHRISTINE Buckley was the daughter of a 31-year-old separated Dublin woman and a 20-year-old Nigerian medical student.

She was raised in the Goldenbridge orphanage in Inchicore from the age of four in 1950 after being in foster care for a number of years.

Run by the Sisters of Mercy, it was one of a network of institutions for children funded by the State and overseen by the Catholic Church.

As a teenager, she tried to smuggle a letter to newspapers exposing cruelty at the orphanage but she was found out.

Her punishment was a beating by a "sadistic" nun that left her needing 100 stitches in her leg.

"She had a cane . . . and she used to shine and polish that and that went on night after night. Kids in their beds shaking, kids on the landing shaking," Christine later recalled. She left Goldenbridge in 1964, having completed her Leaving Cert, and went to Drogheda to study nursing.

She married Donal Buckley in 1977 and they had three children. In 1983, following an illness, she began the search for her parents.

Speaking subsequently about meeting her mother, Christine said: "I had looked forward to this day and I thought that we would be able to become friends and I thought we would be able to have many an hour sipping coffee in Bewleys . . . as I looked at this woman I knew it could never be like this."


After tracing her father three years later in 1988, she received a letter from him which opened with the words 'Dear daughter'. This was later the title of a harrowing documentary about Goldenbridge.

In 1992, she became one of the first people to speak out publicly about the abuse of children in institutions in Ireland.

She was interviewed by Gay Byrne on RTE Radio 1 after sending a letter outlining the abuse she suffered in Goldenbridge. It began a process of uncovering the truth of what went on in Ireland's Catholic Church-run orphanages, industrial schools and reform schools.

Along with friend Carmel McDonnell Byrne, she set up the Aislinn Centre in 1999 to help the survivors of institutional abuse.

The same year Mary Raftery's 'States of Fear', which dealt with institutional abuse, was broadcast on RTE.

Irish Independent

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