Celebration of Buckley’s ‘amazing legacy’

Survivors of institutions should not feel stigmatised, says Aislinn co-founder


People who still felt stigmatised because they grew up in a residential institution for children were advised to "let go", at a tribute to the late Christine Buckley in Dublin yesterday.

“We did nothing wrong. We were the ones ill-treated,” said survivor Carmel McDonnell-Byrne.

She also referred to those who cast doubt on the 1996 documentary Dear Daughter in which Ms Buckley, she, and five other women recalled their abuse as children at the Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin. But for others the programme meant "they felt free to tell their story, [it meant] freedom from secrecy and from the stigma of being reared in an institution, still felt by some".

The event in Dublin's Aislinn Centre was held to celebrate Ms Buckley's life and work on a day which also marked the fifth anniversary of publication of the Ryan report.

The centre was co-founded in 1999 by Ms Buckley and Ms McDonnell-Byrne.

Readings were by clients of the centre with music by the Aislinn Singers. The large crowd included her husband Donal, their children Cliona, Darragh and Conor who paid tribute to his father "who gave structure and focus to Mom's passion" and "Carmel, a true inspiration . . . an unsung hero in many ways".

Cliona Buckley thanked Ms McDonnell-Byrne and Aislinn Centre manager Ann Marie Kennedy. She presented the centre with scrolls of the prose poem Desiderata: "One of Mom's favourite poems."

Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn spoke of Ms Buckley's "amazing legacy" and her "bravery" in first telling her story on RTÉ radio's The Gay Byrne Show in 1992, after which "it took the State many years to react".

Master of ceremonies Conal Kearney said “the Ryan report would never have happened without the courage and honesty of one person, Christine Buckley”.

He recalled how then president Mary McAleese had said she was "a woman who has changed the course of Irish history", and he spoke of her winning the Irish and European Volunteer of the Year awards in 2009 as well as the doctorate conferred on her by Trinity College Dublin in 2012.

Yvonne McKenna, chief executive of Volunteer Ireland, announced that their annual award would be now be known as "The Christine Buckley Volunteer of the Year Award."

Documentary film-maker Louis Lentin said: "It was a privilege to be allowed to work on Dear Daughter. A privilege and honour to work with Christine."

She had, he said, “transformed a nightmare into a dream. Aislinn is that dream.”

At the event Bette Browne launched her book Stolen Lives, which had been arranged with Christine.

It includes the stories of 10 survivors, aged between 54 and 87, and proceeds from it will go to the centre (bettebrowne.com).

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times