Those who denied the truth of Christine Buckley’s story, silent since her death
Month’s mind Mass in Dublin’s Pro Cathedral on Friday next
Christine Buckley. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
‘Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again . . .”
You’ve been on my mind for four weeks now, like “a vision softly creeping . . .” Since Christine Buckley died.
I’ve been surprised. Perhaps I should not be. At her funeral, President Michael D Higgins spoke of you. He referred to “the darkness she broke open with the light of her own experience”.
She who had been, as Fr Tony Coote put it in the funeral Mass homily, “a tiny voice amid the clamour of denial and recrimination”. She of whom he said, “perhaps belief is her greatest legacy”. You have been graceless since she died. You and your cuttlefish friends. Your silence since March 11th has been eloquent.
Not a word for her family or friends. Nor for those tens of thousands on whom she bestowed a priceless gift, credibility. Immediately after Dear Daughter – broadcast by RTÉ again last night and dealing with Christine’s days in the Goldenbridge orphanage – was first broadcast in February 1996, your cuttlefish friends got to work, generating doubt. As they do.
Number 89, as Christine was known at Goldenbridge, was not to be trusted they indicated, intimated, insinuated, with wink and elbow nudge, nudge, nudge . . . As they do. It went on and on. Too much for a sickened reader who wrote to this newspaper in May of that year: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the tactics of the [s]cuttlefish are being deployed to undermine the credibility of the harrowing testimonies of Christine Buckley and many others who suffered as children in institutions run by religious orders in the past.” Patricia Wall from Ennistymon in Clare continued that when the cuttlefish is in trouble it, “blackens the water about him till he becomes invisible”. So “accusing Ms Buckley and others of conjuring up ‘improbable stories’ allows the perpetrators of their childhood suffering off the hook while greatly increasing the anguish of already traumatised victims”.
It’s what cuttlefish do.
But Christine Buckley and others should be consoled, she said, because “experience of the physical and mental punishment inflicted on many children in day schools . . . ensures that the revelations of the suffering of defenceless children in full-time care . . . is indeed very credible to the often underestimated, intelligent plain people of Ireland”.
That was 13 years before the Ryan report was published. God bless the intelligence of the plain people of Ireland.
Your friends the cuttlefish, in muddying the waters, ignored an apology from the Sisters of Mercy, who ran Goldenbridge, on the day Dear Daughter was first broadcast. Then the Sisters asked “for forgiveness for all our failures” and were “deeply concerned, saddened and distressed by the graphic accounts of life in the former orphanage in Goldenbridge”. They issued a second apology in May 2004, accepting “unreservedly” many who had been in their institutions were “hurt and damaged while in our care”. They continued: “without reservation, we apologise unconditionally to each and every one of you for the suffering we have caused”.
Christine Buckley felt they “should be congratulated” then. “Most importantly, they have believed us,” she said.
Some commenters said the Sisters had not admitted to any allegations of abuse, and pointed out that they wouldn’t have had the right to do so.
They went to work too when Mary Raftery’s States of Fear series was broadcast in 1999 and when the book, Suffer the Little Children , which she wrote with TCD academic Eoin O’Sullivan, was published. More recently they’ve been focusing again on the Murphy report, which dealt with clerical abuse in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese.
They’ve been picking at detail in hope of unravelling the lot, while ignoring its truth and the overwhelming evidence. These cuttlefish may claim to be acting out of love for the church but it’s really you they serve, darkness, my old friend.
In future perhaps you and they might allow us the gift you and they have bestowed on us with such generosity since Christine Buckley died, and remain forever “. . . within the sound of silence”.
n A month’s mind Mass for Christine Buckley will be celebrated by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in Dublin’s pro-cathedral at 5.45pm this
Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times