A Proud Legacy

Yesterday an Irish journalist died. She was 54. Her name was Mary Raftery and while she didn’t live as long as most Westerners can hope to live – she did more good than most of us will probably ever do, no matter how long we live.

She is best known for a television documentary she made in 1999.  The programme – entitled States of Fear – comprehensively, shockingly and with meticulously researched evidence outlined the widespread and horrific sexual and physical abuse of children in Ireland.  In particular, States of Fear, investigated the treatment of children who had been forced to live in state residential facilities between the 1930s and 1970s.

This programme not only resulted in the establishment of The Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse but reclaimed the lives of many of these victims and caused a massive change in Irish society. For the first time, most ordinary people believed the stories told by these victims and took their side.

In 2002, she made another ground-breaking documentary – Cardinal Sins – about the cover-up of sexual abuse of children in the Dublin Archdiocese.  This programme also resulted in another government investigation – The Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese (and the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne) – better known as the Murphy Commission.

Mary Raftery as an investigative journalist was instrumental in uncovering several other serious social issues.  As recently as September last, she produced Behind the Walls – a documentary on the psychiatric system in Ireland.  In this documentary she pointed out that in the 50s and 60s, Ireland locked a higher percentage of its population into psychiatric institutions than anybody else in the world – and that includes the former Soviet Union.

Tribute after tribute has pointed out that Mary Raftery was absolutely dedicated to championing the cause of the people whose victimisation she uncovered. According to the people who worked with her, she showed these interviewees the programmes she made about them before release and welcomed their input. Fellow journalists describe her as absolutely determined but her peers also describe the fact that her determination was to work for justice – not to further her own career.

One person after another – including many senior members of the Catholic Church – had the same thing to say about Mary Raftery –

She worked for acknowledgement and justice for victims of institutional child abuse and not only did she succeed in that she also made Ireland a safer place for present and future generations of children.

What an amazing legacy.

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18 Comments

  1. Mary Rafferty, a truly saintly journalist. Very brave lady deserving much honor. I have a feeling the special angels assigned to children and to mentally ill serenade her endlessly in Paradise! I am always appalled at my own internal, split-second wishes that a pesky individual in my presence could receive “care” somewhere else, away from me. I have a neighbor like this. I am pleased to say that I am becoming much more serene in her presence when her husband brings her out to community functions every week!

  2. Mary was a force to reckon with and never took her work as something to profit from… She cared deeply about truth and transparency and getting those stories heard… Her legacy and record shines brightly. RIP Mary!
    Thank you honoring her too. 🙂

  3. Amazing woman and a great tribute! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this! How is it, that so many people that should be noticed to widely unnoticed, where as airtime is wasted on others you do nothing, but talk about their boring selves?

    1. She is a very interesting woman, that’s for sure and regardless of what one thinks about her decision she most definitely has the courage of her convictions which I find very admirable. As for the other part of your question – you’re right of course but my guess is that it happens because the media think that’s what we want to hear – the question is, I suppose, are they right? And if so why do we value celebrity and personality over courage and hard work?

      1. Well, since I don’t watch those shows, I can only guess.

        To me it’s always had something of a beggar child pressing her nose against the window front of a jewelery store.

        Maybe it’s the old grass is always greener thing – or maybe it’s pretending what you could be, if you could only stop being your ordinary self.

        Not sure.

        I remember this was this german casting show on TV that advertised with the slogan “Fame is in your reach!”

        Not sure, how / why the notion of fame has such a strong hold on people. Is it because they mistake attention for love?

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