THE JOURNALIST AND documentary-maker Mary Raftery has died following an illness. She was 54 and her death was confirmed by RTÉ this morning.
Raftery was best known for the 1999 States of Fear documentary series in which the extent of abuse suffered by children in State schools that were run by the church was revealed.
Her work was widely viewed as having led to the establishment of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse which reported its findings in May of 2009.
One of four children, she worked as a sub-editor and journalist for In Dublin magazine before going on to write for the current affairs publication Magill in 1984.
It was there that her investigation into the background of a prominent Dublin family of professional criminals first alerted her to the effect of industrial schools on the lives of the children committed to them and would lead to her later work.
Her 2002 Prime Time Investigates documentary Cardinal Secrets led to the establishment of the Murphy Commission of Investigation into child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
After she left RTÉ in 2002, she wrote a regular column for the Irish Times and was a frequent contributor to radio and television. She also taught at the Centre for Media Studies at NUI Maynooth and continued to produce TV programmes for RTÉ.
Her last documentary was broadcast in September of last year. In the two-part series Behind the Walls she charted the history of Ireland’s psychiatric hospitals, their appalling conditions and the resulting damaged lives.
Her work was recognised with two Irish Film and Television Awards in 2003 and 2005, the Justice Media Award in 2004, the Larkin Award in 2010 and in November of last year she received the Irish Tatler Woman of the Year Media Award.
RTÉ has paid tribute to Raftery. Director General Noel Curran said this morning: “Mary Raftery’s journalism was defined by determination and fearlessness. Her record in broadcasting is extraordinary, and not just in Current Affairs, with which she is most associated. She has left an important legacy for Irish society particularly for some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Irish Times foreign affairs correspondent Mary Fitzgerald tweeted: “The Irish media has lost a giant with the untimely passing of Mary Raftery. She shone a light into so many dark corners of our society. RIP.”
Broadcaster Joe Duffy also tweeted this morning, saying: “The untimely death of investigative journalist Mary Raferty – honest, dignified, determined , good humoured-RIP.”
Raftery is survived by her husband David Waddell and their son Ben.