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'I Didn’t Understand How the Big People Never Shouted Stop’ - Christine’s Journey
Roscommon People Friday 12 March 2010

“My journey really started in December 1950, when I was told I was going to see Santa and I didn’t get to see Santa. That was my first day in Goldenbridge and the brutality started within ten minutes of arriving.

“Going out to the yard and watching children bashing their heads against the wall, mumbling, taking hunks out of their hair and eating it, eating faeces, eating animal food and animal faeces – and that was day one.”

“I knew that something was terribly, terribly wrong and I could not understand, I didn’t know, I was four, I didn’t understand how the big people never shouted stop.

“I left a the age of 17 years and ten months and came back thinking I could make a difference by bringing kids out. I would bring them into town and they ran wild and I didn’t give a toss. But leaving them back was all too much. I did try to tell somebody once and her response was ‘Christine, you really wouldn’t want to be saying this, people will think you’re mad’.

“In carrying this, yes I had breakdowns, yes, I suffered with bulimia and anorexia and no psychiatrist believed it. We see Tracey Fay and how her life ended at 18 … and that’s why it is so important for all of us women, because it’s usually women that say stop, forus to be so aware if we see something that’s not right with a child.”

She recalled telling her husband on New Year’s Eve 1980 about her childhood and deciding to find her parents and talk about what happened to her in Goldenbridge.

“I discovered my mother only lived three < miles away from me. I travelled to Africa to find my father and he returned to Ireland in 1992. I said ‘once you land on Irish soil, I am going public’. We label people in Ireland. If dad had been a bread man or a coal man or a postman, and there is nothing wrong with any of those jobs, but Ireland is so snobbish and dad is a psychiatrist in Nigeria. I said the powers that be will listen to him. I am a woman and I am a nobody.

“I spoke on radio with dad about Goldenbridge … I went on my own. My own husband couldn’t cope and he left the house at 7 am and said you are going to bring utter shame on me and our three children.”

She recalled driving to the radio studio and doing the programme. “By 11.15 am, the switchboard was jammed. I couldn’t believe it. I never realised there were 216 other hellholes in Ireland. I knew about Goldenbridge and Artane, that was really the beginning of the journey, looking for justice and trying for justice and being knocked down by successive Governments.

“While Bertie Ahern may not be flavour of the year, I can say that without Bertie Ahern we would never have received justice.

He was the fi rst politician to sit down and listen and say ‘Christine, I believe you’. He apologised on behalf of the state to victims of institutional abuse on May 11th, 1999, ten years before the Commission published its findings.”

Ms. Buckley said that the nuns and Christian Brothers spent a fortune trying to undermine the veracity of the stories of survivors of institutional abuse. “No wonder we the people have lost complete faith in religion … Yes, there are some very good nuns and priests and Christian Brothers, but the flawed ones have damaged the whole church because of what they have done.

“It has been a hell of a journey and I think it’s terribly important to remember that it was women who changed the course of history here, it wasn’t one man.”

Ms. Buckley said that a memorial is now needed for those who attended such institutions, which was the first recommendation of the Ryan Report. “It is terribly important because it will be a constant reminder that these things did happen. It will be a continual reminder to people working with children, don’t abuse, you will be found out and you will be punished. It will be a constant reminder that we the victims are vindicated, and will be a constant memorial to children being abused, it will give them a beacon of light to one day stand up and confront their abusers.”

She spoke of the ongoing work in the Aislinn Centre for survivors of institutional abuse and recalled some of the individual stories involved.

“Has it been worth it? In the overall picture,yes. At times I might have said ‘I don’t know’, but I would like to see the Magdalen women, who have been left out in the cold, included in a trust fund scheme and the people with disabilities and much more effort being put in to people with disabilities and more money going to counselling and education funds and the tracing funds. Until you know your identity, I didn’t know who I was. Waking up in Nigeria that morning in February 1988, I remember jumping up and saying ‘I’m home, I now know who I am’.”