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Sunday 21 January 2018

Taoiseach pays tribute to 'warrior' Christine

Christine Buckley. Picture: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Christine Buckley. Picture: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Cormac Murphy

CHRISTINE Buckley, who died yesterday aged 67, has been remembered as a pioneer in the fight to expose Ireland's institutional abuse scandals.

Paying tribute to Ms Buckley, Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the campaigner as "a person of immense courage".

Ms Buckley, was raised in Inchicore's notorious Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin, run by the Sisters of Mercy, in the 1950s and early 1960s.

She worked tirelessly first to expose the abuse in institutions and later to help the survivors.

And she sent shockwaves through Irish society in 1992 when she spoke publicly about her harrowing experiences at the hands of the nuns.

Her husband, Donal Buckley, described his wife as a warrior.

"She was a warrior for people's rights, a warrior for education, a warrior for people trying to trace their parents. She was a warrior against injustice," he said.

Ms Buckley, who co-founded counselling service the Aislinn Centre, was particularly passionate about the rights of survivors of Ireland's industrial schools.

"She felt that people needed to listen because for so long they had been disbelieved and dismissed. For people tracing their parents, for so long they had also been disbelieved and dismissed," Donal said.

"She passed away at 5am. She was in St Vincent's Hospital. She had been battling illness for a long time. She had been battling cancer on and off for the past 30 years but the fight was toughest in the last 12 years (when she had breast cancer) and got tougher still in the last year," added Mr Buckley, former deputy property editor with the Irish Independent.

Christine is survived by her husband and three children, Cliona (36), Darragh (34) and Conor (33).

Conor wrote a poignant Facebook post earlier this week thanking Ireland rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll for a kind gesture towards his mother.

"He heard my mum was in hospital and he rang her up to cheer her up," Conor wrote.

"Four months ago he surprised her and called up to our house to have a cup of tea and a chat. Both these gestures completely transformed my mum's spirits."

Louis Lentin – who made the groundbreaking 1996 documentary 'Dear Daughter' in which Christine tells of the horrors of Goldenbridge – recalled the occasion when she was conferred with an honorary Doctor in Laws by Trinity College.

"She was very, very happy and we all were happy for her. We met afterwards and we had a few drinks. That was the last time I saw her," Mr Lentin said.

Christine first spoke to the nation about Goldenbridge on 'The Gay Byrne Show' in 1992.

She had contacted Gay in the wake of the death of 15-year-old Ann Lovett who died after giving birth beside a grotto in Granard, Co Longford, in 1984.

"She came on and did a fantastic interview about her experience. Other people came in and also did interviews. That was the beginning of the uncovering of what was going on in Ireland that we didn't know about or pretended we didn't know about," Mr Byrne said.

Speaking outside Number 10 Downing Street following a meeting with David Cameron, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday: "I think she was a person of immense courage, who was responsible as a pioneer in bringing to public awareness the question of institutional abuse.


"You would not have had a redress scheme to bring some closure, some comfort to people who were abused were it not for Christine Buckley."

Justice Minister Alan Shatter added: "I believe the work and dedication of Christine Buckley was pivotal in changing Irish perceptions of institutional abuse and led to a new era of child protection in this State."

Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop, chief executive of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said: "Her contribution to breaking that silence is immeasurable."

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said Christine was a woman of courage. "Her life's work contributed to a vast improvement in child protection in the church in Dublin and in wider Irish society," he said.

Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four, commented: "She was instrumental in persuading the Government to apologise to survivors and to set up the Ryan Commission."

High Court judge Mr Justice Sean Ryan, who chaired the commission, said Ms Buckley was an "indefatigable champion of those who were abused as children and disbelieved as adults".

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said Christine "led the charge to lift the veil on Ireland's dark past and shameful legacy of child abuse".

Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin added: "I believe Christine will have a lasting place in Irish history as someone whose bravery and commitment to justice led to significant and permanent change."

Irish Independent

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