Institutional abuse campaigner Christine Buckley dies

Activist instigated revelations of institutional abuse scandal two decades ago

Christine Buckley (67), who was the of the first people to speak out publicly about the abuse of children in institutions in Ireland, died at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin this morning after a long battle with cancer.

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 13:22

Christine Buckley (67), who was one of the first people to speak out publicly about the abuse of children in institutions in Ireland, died at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin this morning after a long battle with cancer.

A long-time campaigner for survivors of institutional abuse she first spoke of her own abuse as a child in Dublin’s Goldenbridge orphanage to Gay Byrne on RTÉ Radio One in 1992.

In 1996 the Louis Lentin documentary Dear Daughter dealt with her experiences at Goldenbridge where she was sent after being given up for fostering shortly after birth.

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In 1999, with her close friend Carmel McDonnell Byrne, she set up the Aislinn centre in Dublin’s city centre which has been helping survivors of institutional abuse and their families through therapy and education ever since.

In March/April 1999 Mary Raftery’s three-part series States of Fear, partly inspired by Dear Daughter and dealing with the abuse of children in orphanages, reformatories and industrial schools, was broadcast on RTÉ.

It led to then taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologising on behalf of the State to people who had been in such institutions as children. He has said since he was also inspired to issue the apology after many meetings with Ms Buckley.

He also announced then the setting up of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (now known as the Ryan Commission) and the Residential Institutions Redress Board which has paid compensation to approximately 15,000 to date, to people who had been in such institutions as children.

The 2,600 page Ryan report was published in May 2009 and vindicated the abuse allegations made by Ms Buckley and others.

Speaking to The Irish Times this morning her husband Donal Buckley described Christine her as “a warrior against injustice and for people’s rights and dignity.”

He said “the Ryan report vindicated everything she said though she felt it didn’t go far enough, that it was too gentle on witnesses of the religious orders,” involved.

She had been “battling illness for 30 years, and breast cancer for the last 12/13 years.” It returned again last month. “She fought not just for herself but for others, for their dignity and self worth,” he said.

One of the achievements she was most proud of was the Aislinn centre, he said, “it helped so many people turn their lives around.”

He also recalled how she was “thrilled” to receive the Doctorate of Laws from TCD in 2012. Her father attended there as a medical student and, while being a nurse herself, she was always interested in law.

She is survived by Donal, and their three adult children, daughter Cliona and sons Darragh and Conor.

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