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Louis Lentin

Louis Lentin

Theatre, film and television director, Louis Lentin, has been named one of the twelve new members elected to the Aosdána, an affiliation of creative artists in Ireland established by the Arts Council. [16 February 2006]

Louis Lentin's TV 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.

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! However TV3 repeated the broadcast in November 2000.

"Dear Daughter" - broadcast by RTE in February 1996
UK cultural historian Richard Webster includes a description of the "Dear Daughter" documentary in his essay "States of Fear, The Redress Board and Ireland's Folly" which is itself an extract from his book "The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt"

In 1996 the producer and director, Louis Lentin, made a television documentary about abuse in children’s homes which was shown by RTE, the main public service broadcasting station in Ireland. It focused on the brutal regime which was said to have been operating during the 1950s at St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, one of a network children’s homes or detention centres which were funded by the state and run by the Catholic Church.

The documentary featured allegations made against Sister Xavieria, one of the nuns belonging to the Sisters of Mercy order which ran the home. The woman ‘survivor’ at the centre of the film claimed that, on one occasion, she had been caned by Sister Xavieria so severely that the entire side of her leg was split open from her hip to her knee. She says she was treated in the casualty department of the local hospital and believes that she received 80 to 120 stitches. No medical evidence has ever been produced to substantiate this bizarre claim. The surgeon who ran the casualty department at the hospital in question has given evidence which renders it highly unlikely that such an incident ever took place. Apart from anything else, the surgeon points out that caning would not have caused a wound of this kind, which would have required surgical treatment under a general anaesthetic and not stitches in a casualty department.

Yet although the evidence suggests that the woman’s memory was a delusion, her testimony was widely believed at the time. In the wake of the broadcast, atrocity stories about Goldenbridge and other industrial schools began to proliferate.***

***  Sunday Times (Ireland), 28 April 1996, citing the views of the surgeon, J. B. Prendiville.
[The text of the Sunday Times article is contained in two separate articles on this website linked to below i.e.
Christine Buckley - The Historians View and
Sister Xavieria and Child-Killing in Goldenbridge ]

Aftermath of "Dear Daughter" (1) - Blood Libel
In the wake of the broadcast, atrocity stories about Goldenbridge and other industrial schools began to proliferate - as per Richard Webster. And amongst them was the first allegation of child murder made against Catholic religious. Although the "documentary" itself did not claim that the Sisters of Mercy were responsible for killing children, this claim was made shortly after the broadcast and the target of the claim was Sister Xavieria Lally - the nun against whom the most serious allegations were levelled by Louis Lentin and Christine Buckley. Both Buckley and Lentin then supported the accusation.

This is what the above-mentioned Sunday Times article had to say about this particular "atrocity":

One of the more chilling allegations to surface was that an 11-month-old baby died four days after she was put into Goldenbridge. When the infant's father, Myles Howe. returned from England and went to St Ultan's hospital, he was told by a nurse that his baby had burns on her knees but the staff had got her too late to save her. The postmortem said the child died of dysentery.

The Howes have never been satisfied by the official response.

[Doctor] Prendiville recalls that St Ultan's was established largely for dealing with bowel complaints such as dysentery or gastroenteritis, a common illness among children which at that time could reach epidemic proportions in Dublin. 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.

But if the burns were not the cause of Marian's death, asks Howe, why was he told by Xavieria that it was an "accident" and not dysentery that killed his child? Why, on his arrival at St Ultan's to see his dead child, did a nurse indicate to him that his daughter had died of burns? And why could nobody explain to him the large burn marks on the sides of her knees?

The outrage that followed the Prime Time programme *** was directed as much at Xavieria's denials of abuse as at an apparently "soft" line of questioning. The allegation that a baby in her charge died of burns was not put to her on the programme. The reason was that after researching the allegation, the Prime Time team could find no evidence to support it. according to an RTE source. The reporter did ask Xavieria about the incident, he said, but her response was edited out of the programme.

Both Buckley and Dear Daughter producer Louis Lentin, regard the Prime Time report as an effort by RTE to undermine the documentary. "Sister Xavieria is perfectly entitled to any right of reply, but this programme bent over backwards to be reverential," said Lentin. "The facts were not put to her in a strong, investigative manner." [My emphasis. RC]

*** A Prime Time special broadcast by RTE in April 1996 highlighted some discrepancies in the tale of horror contained in the "Dear Daughter" documentary.

Aftermath of "Dear Daughter" (2) - False Allegations of Child Abuse - and Convictions
Within a year of the broadcast - and a ludicrous apology by the Sisters of Mercy - Ireland experienced a series of fake child abuse scandals. In the course of the 12 month period the initial accusations were made against the following:

Nora Wall (formerly Sister Dominic of the Sisters of Mercy) and Paul (Pablo) McCabe
Michael Fitzpatrick
Michael Feichin Hannon
Patsy McGlinchey

These are only the allegations that were subsequently exposed as fraudulent. It is notable that only one case - albeith the most notorious - that of Nora Wall, involved a (former) member of a religious congregation. Her co-accused Pablo McCabe was a homeless man who was drawn into the case by her accusers in order to make an allegation of rape appear more plausible. Michael Fitzpatrick was a businessman, Michael Hannon a farmer and Patsy McGlinchey a teacher.

Hysteria about child abuse started as part of an attack on the Catholic Church but quickly spread to endanger the whole of society.

"Our Boys" - Broadcast by TV3 in October 1999 and November 2000
While RTE's broadcasting of "Dear Daughter" in 1996 inspired the first allegation of child-killing made against Catholic religious, this type of hysteria did not really get going until our national television authority broadcast Mary Raftery's three-part "States of Fear" documentary series in April/May 1999. Naturally Louis Lentin got in on the act. "Our Boys" was one of the three-part "Stolen Lives" series first broadcast by TV3 in October 1999. The programme was repeated by TV3 in November 2000 and the Christian Brothers responded.

In a letter to the Irish Times on 25 November 2000, Brother J. K. Mullan a province leader of the Christian Brothers wrote as follows:

On Sunday, November 12th, TV3 broadcast a one-hour documentary entitled "Stolen Lives: Our Boys" which had first been shown on the station in October 1999. The programme repeated a number of serious allegations against members of the Christian Brothers by former pupils of industrial schools.

One particular past pupil claimed that he had attended the funerals of boys who had died while in Artane. It was further implied that these boys had died following beatings administered by the Brothers. This allegation is completely untrue. The records show that no boy died in Artane during this person's time there. [My emphasis. RC] This is a matter of verifiable fact.

In addition, this same past pupil claimed that a particular Brother who allegedly had been abusing him made certain lewd comments during Mass, as a result of which the pupil fainted and had to be transferred to the infirmary. Versions of this story have been repeated elsewhere, to the extent that the Brother is easily identifiable. However, the record shows that the Brother was not teaching in Artane at the time in question. That is also a matter of verifiable fact.

Elsewhere in "Stolen Lives", certain comments, said to have been made on radio, were attributed to a named spokesperson for the Christian Brothers, claiming that the Brothers rejected all allegations made against them. Such comments were never made.

This most recent airing of a programme containing unfounded, uncorroborated allegations is a matter of great concern to the Christian Brothers. It is deeply worrying that a national broadcaster chooses to deal with very sensitive matters in such a way

Louis Lentin and Gerry Kelly
Louis Lentin should have suspected the credibility of Gerry Kelly even before "Our Boys" was first broadcast in October 1999. Following the conviction of Nora Wall for rape in June 1999, Gerry Kelly attempted to get a "close family friend" of his to make ANOTHER rape allegation against the former Sister of Mercy. This attempt come to a sudden end after the collapse of the case against Nora Wall. Gerry Kellys actions were depicted in articles on "Ireland on Sunday" dated 25 July and 1st August 1999.

Louis Lentin and Aosdana
In February 2006 Louis Lentin was named a member of Aosdana, "an affiliation of creative artists in Ireland established by the Arts Council" and fully funded by the State. The potted biography supplied by the Irish Film and Television Network at the time, credits him with "Dear Daughter" but does not mention "Our Boys" or the trilogy of documentaries entitled "Stolen Lives" of which it was part. (Curiously Mannix Flynn, who also published allegations that the Christian Brothers had murdered boys, had been elected a member of Aosdana in February 2003.)

According to Wikipedia Louis Lentin was also involved in founding Israeli television.

Rory Connor
updated 3 June 2011

Louis Lentin and Christine Buckley: "Dear Daughter" - February 1996

Christine Buckley - The Historian's View (includes part of Sunday Times article dated 28 April 1996)

Sister Xavieria and Child-Killing in Goldenbridge (includes remainder of Sunday Times article dated 28 April 1996)

Louis Lentin and Gerry Kelly: "Our Boys" - October 1999

Louis Lentin Elected To Aosdána, 16 February 2006