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Added to on September 3, 2006

Louis Lentin's documentary "Dear Daughter" broadcast by RTE in February 1996 was a predecessor to Mary Raftery's "States of Fear" series in April/May 1999. It focused on Christine Buckley and her allegations against the Sisters of Mercy in Goldenbridge Orphanage. While "Dear Daughter" was subjected to criticism at the time, it helped to create a climate of hysteria in which any allegation, however ludicrous, would be believed as long as it was made against a Catholic religious. "States of Fear" brought that climate to a head.

In June 1999, Nora Wall (formerly Sister Dominic of the Sisters of Mercy) was convicted of raping a child more than a decade before. Her conviction occurred during the month after the broadcast of the final episode of "States of Fear". One month later in July 1999, the conviction was overturned ; remarkably that reversal did nothing to stem the witch-hunt against Catholic religious.

Louis Lentin also produced some programmes which followed up and amplified the hysteria created by "States of Fear" .Notable among these was the documentary "Our Boys" concerning the Christian Brothers. First broadcast by TV3 in October 1999, it contained an allegation by Gerry Kelly that boys had been killed by the Christian Brothers in Artane. No boy died of any cause during Gerry Kelly's time in Artane.

Louis Lentin had every reason to suspect that Gerry Kelly was lying. A few months before, Kelly had attempted to orchestrate ANOTHER rape allegation against Nora Wall. (See Ireland on Sunday on 25 July and 1st August 1999). This attempt was only abandoned because Nora Wall's conviction was overturned. Yet Lentin allowed TV3 to go ahead with the broadcasting of "Our Boys" in October 1999 with Gerry Kelly featuring as one of the main witnesses against the Brothers. The programme was repeated by TV3 in November 2000. There is no conceivable way that either Lentin or TV3 can have believed the allegations at that stage. Evidently they feel that in the atmosphere of hysteria that prevails in this country, they can get away with anything. And so it has proved.

(Just before the initial broadcast of "Our Boys", TV3 had libelled the Bishop of Cloyne and were forced to broadcast an apology to him on 21st September 1999. The sincerity of their repentance can be gauged from their transmission of "Our Boys" a month later!)

SUMMARY: The second half of 1999 saw our Irish Salem in full flow. Nora Wall was convicted in June, Gerry Kelly attempted to orchestrate another rape allegation against her in July. In September TV3 were forced to apologise to Bishop Magee for a sexual slander. Also in September the Irish Times published Patrick Walsh's allegations of child killing against the Christian Brothers in Artane. October saw TV3 broadcast Louis Lentin's "Our Boys" with Gerry Kelly ALSO claiming that he had attended the funerals of Artane boys who had been killed by the Christian Brothers. No boy died in Artane while Patrick Walsh or Gerry Kelly were there. ( I refer to these as "Murder of the Undead" allegations. "Victimless Murders" is another possible description).

The immediate cause of this descent into lunacy was Raftery's "States of Fear" series. However these programmes could not have achieved such an effect if the ground had not been well prepared. Louis Lentin and Christine Buckley did a great deal to barbarise public opinion in this country and to pave the way for the conviction of Nora Wall and the vicious witch-hunt that followed. This Witch-Hunt continues to the present day.

The following article refers to Louis Lentin's documentary about Christine Buckley ("Dear Daughter"). It consists of two extracts from my essay "THE PASSION OF NORA WALL". (Vincent Browne invited me to submit an article on Nora Wall for Village magazine. However he doesn't seem to have liked the result!).

Rory Connor
2 September 2006

The following are 2 extracts from "The Passion of Nora Wall"


In February 1996 RTE broadcast the documentary Dear Daughter made by TV producer Louis Lentin. It told the story of Christine Buckley and other women who spent their childhoods in Goldenbridge Orphanage in Inchicore, Dublin that was run by the Sisters of Mercy. Ms. Buckley was born in 1946. Her mother was a separated woman who had an affair with a Nigerian medical student. Christine was put into care as an infant and sent at four years of age to.

The programme focused on the brutal regime which was said to have been operated by the Sisters and in particular by Sister Xaviera Lally who was in charge for a decade. One of many beatings is supposed to have left Christine Buckley with a scar that ran the length of her thigh. She was treated in casualty, she believed she received about 100 stitches and was sent back to the orphanage without being admitted to hospital. It was also alleged that young children were left in charge of babies. Babies were strapped to chamber pots. There was a furnace room - a dark dungeon of a place where punished children were locked away.

In the months that followed the Dear Daughter broadcast, people who had been in orphanages and industrial schools told their stories in newspapers and on radio. Most of the stories were negative but a number of women who had been taken care of by Sister Xaviera rushed to her defence. More typical however was the horror story told to Marion Finucane on Liveline (RTE Radio) about an 11-month-old baby who was left into Goldenbridge in 1955 while her mother was ill and her father was working in the UK. The baby died after a few days. Against the advice of the nuns the father came to see the body in St. Ultan's hospital, he found the baby's legs so badly burned "he could put two fingers right through both of them". According to the father, the nuns did not explain how the baby had died, the parents got no post-mortem results and the gardai refused to get involved.

2.1 Counterclaim - regarding Christine Buckley
As with Pat Rabbitte's claims in 1994 however, certain difficulties became evident with the Dear Daughter narration. It was not just that a number of girls raised by Sister Xaviera disputed the allegations. This can be explained by saying that people will interpret similar experiences in different ways. Sister Xaviera denied the allegations of serious abuse but agreed that she had been strict and apologised for any pain caused. So perhaps both sides were telling the truth?

No not really!

Testimony of Doctor Pendiville
Doctor J.B. Prendiville was a senior surgeon at Dr. Steevens Hospital where children from Goldenbridge were treated during the 1950s and was in charge of the Casualty Department. In an interview with the Sunday Times in April 1999 he said that he could not corroborate the description of the alleged assault on Christine Buckley. Prendiville said that he cannot ever recall treating a Goldenbridge child with a lacerated thigh. He said an injury requiring such extensive stitching would not have been treated in casualty. Standard medical practise would have necessitated that such an injury would require extensive surgery under a general anaesthetic and a child would have been detained as a patient in the hospital.

As a specialist in soft tissue injuries and burns Prendiville said that such an injury would have been referred to him by medical staff. However he has no record or memory of any such case. Neither he nor three other medics who worked at Dr. Steevens in the 1950s, can recall anything suspicious among the Goldenbridge children who attended the hospital with typical childhood ailments..

2.2 Counterclaim - the Death of Baby Howe
The post-mortem on baby Howe stated that she died of dysentery but the Howes have never been satisfied with the official response. Dr. Prendiville recalled that St. Ultan's was established largely for dealing with bowel complaints such as dysentery or gastroenteritis, a common illness among children at that time. He speculated that Marian Howe was more than likely admitted to St. Ultan's with a bowel complaint. "I wouldn't say that burns of that size on a child's legs would have been the cause of death. They didn't treat burns in St. Ultan's. If the baby died from a burn, there would have to be an inquest. But failure to communicate information is a defect in many hospitals, he said.

2.3 Effects of Dear Daughter
Christine Buckley had originally told her story to Gay Byrne on his morning radio programme in 1992. One of the people listening was Louis Lentin who went on to produce Dear Daughter and saw it broadcast by RTE in February 1996. The enormous impact of the TV broadcast was an indication of how far things had developed in the intervening 4 years. However opposing voices could still be heard and the claims of Christine Buckley could come under hostile scrutiny.

Buckley and Louis Lentin were very displeased with a Prime Time programme in March 1996 which Lentin claimed was "reverential" to Sister Xaviera and did not put the facts to her "in a strong investigative manner". In fact the allegation that a baby in her charge had died of burns was not put to her because, according to an RTE source, Prime Time could find no evidence to support it.

The difference between Gay Byrne's broadcast in 1992 and Dear Daughter four years later was the Father Brendan Smyth affair. There was a kind of muted hysteria in the air. On the one hand it was understood by 1996 that Cardinal Daly, Albert Reynolds and Harry Whelehan had done nothing wrong in 1994; however this did not lead to any re-appraisal of the grotesque charade that brought down a Government. There was a stalemate in which opposing viewpoints could be heard in the media and in society at large. Three years later Mary Raftery was to put an end to this situation and initiate the only major Witch-hunt in the history of this State.

There was a more immediate development. Regina Walsh spent two periods in St. Declans Mental Hospital in Waterford in 1996. She first made her allegations against Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe around this time and the Gardai first questioned Nora Wall in October of that year. Things were moving!

Rory Connor


The years 1994 to 1999 saw a gradual escalation of hysteria in relation to the child abuse issue in Ireland:

In the former year a Government fell because of bogus allegations of a conspiracy between Church and State to prevent the extradition of Father Brendan Smyth. On the plus side (!!) it was soon recognized that the accusations were false - not that this was any help to Albert Reynolds or Harry Whelehan.

IIn 1996 vile allegations - up to and including the killing of a baby- were made against Sister Xaviera Lally. Again there was a compensating factor; the media noted that there were problems with the allegations and that Xaviera had her defenders. Thus vicious and lying accusations could be made in the public arena (only against Catholics of course) but they could also be rebutted. I have described this as a stalemate.

In 1999 the broadcast by RTE of the States of Fear series ended any pretence of objectivity on the part of the media and hysteria reigned supreme. It was quickly established (for example by journalist Breda O'Brien), that many of Raftery's accusations were gross distortions of the truth and that some were logically impossible. It was as useless as trying to rebut accusations of witchcraft in the middle of a Witch-Hunt. This was the atmosphere in which Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe were convicted.

The situation is largely unchanged to this day. Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe had their convictions reversed due to sheer luck and the extreme idiocy of their two accusers. The media recorded the court decision and dropped the issue like a shot. Mary Raftery and her acolytes are still riding high.

Rory Connor
December 2005