No time for ‘likes’ when you’re fighting for a cause

Christine Buckley was the great whistleblower of our time

‘Christine Buckley  was an implacable fighter, not because she wanted to be,  but because she was forced to be. Once you become a whistleblower or an inconvenient truthteller, once you utter a profound truth and they isolate you and call you a liar, what else do you do?’ Photograph: Arthur Carron/Collins

‘Christine Buckley was an implacable fighter, not because she wanted to be, but because she was forced to be. Once you become a whistleblower or an inconvenient truthteller, once you utter a profound truth and they isolate you and call you a liar, what else do you do?’ Photograph: Arthur Carron/Collins

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 01:01

A golden autumn morning in south Dublin. Puffing a cigarette with one hand, Christine Buckley used the other to slip an apple into the microwave to produce an impressively speedy puree – “for a healthy breakfast”. It was funny at the time. As ever, she was sharp, irreverent, scathing and never in danger
of leaving an awkward silence. But beside us on the table lay a thick file containing a complex story – the purpose of the meeting.

Christine never lost sight of her mission. That day, it was about the alleged exploitation of vulnerable people who had received redress payments.

She was an implacable fighter, not because she wanted to be – who chooses a life like that? – but because she was forced to be. Once you become a whistleblower or an inconvenient truthteller, once you utter a profound truth and they isolate you and call you a liar, what else do you do?

“She protested during her time in Goldenbridge,” said Louis Lentin, the courageous director of the ground-breaking Dear Daughter . “Once she made up her mind actually, she just kept on protesting.”

In fact, Christine Buckley was the great whistleblower of our time.

We don’t say it out loud too often but fighters can be draining, demanding and a bit scary. They ring at odd hours, hardly pausing to say hello before hurtling into a monologue. They talk – oh lord, how they talk – and barely notice when the listener fearfully points out that the kids are setting fire to the dog.


Glory and burden
Some might even be mistaken for bitter, self-righteous bores. Some people who shift a society’s axis are like that. That singlemindedness, that blocking of peripheral vision, that leading with the chin, is both their glory and their burden. As fully fledged members of the Awkward Squad, they must override the primal wiring that governs nearly all of us (with the possible exception of Alan Shatter): the need to be liked.

It is no accident that social media is driven by “likes” and retweets and “favourites” and followers. Followers can even be bought (3,000 for $3.50) by the truly desperate. Even to be seen to be liked is a visceral need. So how must it feel to hear your actions described as “disgusting” in the national parliament by the bossman who holds all the cards? What must it have felt like for Christine to be called a liar, repeatedly, by the people she grew up with, the nearest thing to family?

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