RTE to screen ‘Dear Daughter’ documentary tonight

Highly influential programme recalls childhood of the late Christine Buckley


One of the most significant documentaries ever broadcast on Irish television, Louis Lentin’s Dear Daughter , will be shown again on RTÉ 1 television at 11.05pm tonight.

Dealing with the childhood experiences of the late Christine Buckley and others at the Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin, it was originally broadcast on February 22nd 1996. It provoked an unprecedented furore which would, in time, lead to the setting up of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse four years later, in 2000.

Ms Buckley died on March 11th last following a long battle with cancer.

Dear Daughter was a forerunner to the late Mary Raftery’s ground-breaking three-part States of Fear series, broadcast by RTÉ in 1999 and with which Ms Buckley assisted, on the abuse of children in residential institutions in Ireland.

Before that series concluded then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologised on behalf of the Irish people to all who had been in such institutions as children. He also announced that a commission would be set up to investigate the treatment of children in such institutions and a redress board be established to compensate them. The commission’s report, known as the Ryan report as it was chaired by Justice Seán Ryan, was published in May 2009.

Such was the controversy which followed the original screening of Dear Daughter that producer Louis Lentin entered the fray in an article for this newspaper published on April 5th 1996 where he wrote “I feel the matter has now got totally out of focus, with so much doubt being generated.”

He referred to “the pain and suffering inflicted in Goldenbridge Orphanage, not only on Christine, but on hundreds of other unfortunate children who were betrayed by their parents, betrayed by the State, betrayed by those in whose care they were placed. But these people are now being betrayed once again by a seeming inability or unwillingness to believe and accept that these things happened.”

He warned against “the usual Irish danger that events exposed by Dear Daughter may become a nine day wonder. The silencing strategy, perpetrated in the past to prevent abused children from being listened to, now appears to be repeating itself.”

He concluded that, “instead of casting suspicion yet again on those who have already suffered, I urge that a Government appointed public inquiry be established immediately to take evidence and report on the whole situation of past events in orphanages during a defined period.

“Given that the State was no less guilty, an independent fund should also be established with substantial contributions both from the State and the Sisters of Mercy to reimburse people for any counselling they have received and to pay for whatever treatment may be necessary in the future. Only if this is done and the present damaging denials cease, will the healing process be allowed to begin.”

A month’s mind Mass to mark the death of Christine Buckley will be celebrated by the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin in the Pro Cathedral next Friday evening, April 11th, at 5.45 pm