Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Mary Raftery dies aged 54

Ireland is a country that has never benefited from a surfeit of conscientious, campaigning journalists.  People who dedicate their careers to fighting injustice and speaking out for the most voiceless and vulnerable.

Mary Raftery was one such rarity, however, and her death at the age of 54 signifies a sad loss for journalism and Irish society in general.

The following is taken from  BBC news:

'States of fear' journalist Mary Raftery dies

Journalist Mary Raftery who was instrumental in challenging the Irish state and Catholic Church on clerical child abuse has died.

She was best known for her 1999 ground-breaking "States of Fear" documentaries.

They revealed the extent of abuse suffered by children in Irish industrial schools and institutions managed by religious orders.

It led to taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologising on behalf of the state.

Her work also led to the setting up of the Ryan Commission, which reported in May 2009, and to the setting up of a confidential committee which heard the stories of victims of institutional abuse.

Speaking about her findings to the BBC in 2009, Mary Raftery said: "There was widespread sexual abuse, particularly in the boys' institutions.

"Extremely vicious and sadistic physical abuse, way off the scale, and horrific emotional abuse, designed to break the children.

"We had people talk to us about hearing screams... the screams of children in the night coming from these buildings and really not knowing what to do.

"They didn't know to whom they could complain because the power in the town was the religious order running the institution."

Following the documentaries, the government set up the Residential Institutions Redress Board which has compensated about 14,000 people to date.

And her 2002 documentary "Cardinal Secrets" with Mick Peelo for RTE led to the setting up of the Murphy Commission into clerical abuse in the Dublin archdiocese.

Ms Raftery worked for RTE from 1984 to 2002.

She wrote a column for the Irish Times and taught at the Centre of Centre of Media Studies at NUI Maynooth.

RTÉ Director General Noel Curran said her journalism was defined by determination and fearlessness, and that she had left an important legacy for Irish society.

Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said her death was a "significant loss".

"She will be mourned by all who knew and respected her as a fearless journalist who was always willing to ask awkward questions, to seek out uncomfortable facts and to shine a light in the darkest corners of Irish society," he said.

"Mary will be best remembered for her ground breaking documentaries, 'States of Fear' and 'Cardinal Secrets', but her contribution to Irish journalism was multi-faceted.

"Her passion for social justice informed Mary's journalism at In Dublin, in Magill and in RTÉ. Her work was always challenging, always provocative yet always sensitive."

Summing up her work in a newspaper interview last September, she said: "The most important thing you can do is to give a voice to people who have been silenced. And …what else would I be doing?"

Mary Raftery is survived by her husband, David Waddell and their son, Ben.

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Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am wrong, but the use of the word, "State" implies complicity by all the people. It seems to take the focus away from the actual perpetrators. The word "Government" seems more appropriate as they were responsible along with their masters in the Catholic Church. The close relationship that existed between politicians and the hierarchy needs to be exposed more.

Dakota said...

Terribly sad, a great loss and one less good person in the world.

The Gombeen Man said...

Hi Anon. I suppose the State is the government, the courts and its apparatus such as the police force. The Catholic church was another component, as it formed much of government policy and controlled the schools and what where effectively workhouses. And I imagine there were more than a few good burghers who knew what was going on too... was this the society they wanted, I wonder?

I heard on radio this morning that Mary claimed Ireland put more people in mental "hospitals" per head of population than even Soviet Russia. And its prison conditions are appalling.

@ Dakota. Yes, such people are few and far between.

John said...

State ,as defined in political science is an organized political community, living under a government. But not to detract from the great work Mary did on behalf of the abused, as one commentator said you can be sure that the issue of child abuse can never be covered up again.

anna said...

from www.magdalenelaundries.com
JFM extends deepest condolences on the death of journalist and broadcaster, Mary Raftery

Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) was deeply saddened today to learn of the death of renowned journalist and broadcaster, Mary Raftery. Mary's exposure of the circumstances surrounding the High Park Magdalene Laundry exhumations acted as a major catalyst in the rejuvenation of the Magdalene Memorial Committee and ultimately, the foundation of Justice for Magdalenes. Her words, "The most important thing you can do is to give a voice to people who have been silenced. And...what else would I be doing?" will resonate with us, and that voice will be sadly missed. We pay tribute to a brave and tireless journalist and thank her for her extraordinary work on behalf of thousands of survivors of Ireland's 'architecture of containment
....Irealnds's ILLEGAL Magdalene prisons- have a look at this large site- the truth about this - and justice foe its sad women prisoners is only JUST beginning to come out- Anna

Anonymous said...

Sorry GM, forgot to sign:

This is depressing on several levels. The loss of a person with courage enough to look at this society and to say clearly what they see is bad enough, as we produce very few such people, and hold onto even fewer.

Depressing too because without her occasional reminders, we would all be confused like anon here, imagining that the many debacles of the Free State and Republic were done to us by outsiders, and not something we did to each other.

She made us look, however briefly, at who we are, while we all tutted conspicuously. "How disgraceful," we whispered. But now we've said our ten Hail Marys and five Our Fathers and it's time to put it all behind us, just more of the many secrets that we must keep from ourselves.

Her death makes our denial that much easier.


The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks for the link Anna.

Yes Thomas... everything is grand now, don't you know.