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Dublin: 14 °C Friday 19 September, 2014

Column: ‘For abuse victims like me, Mary helped expose the truth’

Clerical abuse victim Andrew Madden tells TheJournal.ie about his memories of journalist Mary Raftery – and how she exposed a corrupt system.

Andrew Madden

Andrew Madden is a clerical abuse victim, who has campaigned for justice since the 1990s. He collaborated with Mary Raftery on the 2002 documentary Cardinal Secrets, which exposed cover-ups of abuse in Dublin.

It emerged this morning that Raftery had passed away at the age of 54. Here, Madden speaks to TheJournal.ie about his memories of her.

I WAS VERY saddened and shocked by Mary’s death. I’d known she was unwell for some time, but I’d hoped she was making a recovery.

Mary approached me in 2002. She would have been aware of my own case; that I had been campaigning, and that I had asked the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 1998 to set up a review of the Catholic Church’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse, and he had declined. But during that time she had been carrying out her own investigations, and she had learned a lot more about what the diocese knew.

By the late 90s you had the Ivan Payne case, and you had Brendan Smyth convicted. And Mary Raftery understood what I was asking at that time: How many other Ivan Paynes and Brendan Smyths had the Church covered up, and where were they now? Nobody else seemed interested enough in that question. But that is what her investigation revealed – the extent to which the Church had covered up, and the extent to which priests had gone on to abuse more children. Within days of that Cardinal Secrets programme, the then justice minister Michael McDowell agreed that an inquiry would be set up. It became the Murphy Commission, and it produced the Murphy report. So good was that programme, that it made a lot of people very, very angry.

‘She had an instinctive desire to uncover the truth”

What you’ve seen in the Ryan report, in the Ferns report, in the Murphy report and in the Cloyne report, is that very few of the priests were ever convicted. And none of the bishops ever saw the inside of a courtroom, despite their acts of concealment having led to the abuse of more children. So for many of the victims, the only justice they ever received was the placing on the public record of their experiences. Thanks to Mary, the Murphy report and the Ryan report are now on the public record of this country, and will continue to inform us for many years.

Mary had a desire to do something about injustice. She was a fantastic investigative journalist, so she had an instinctive desire to uncover the truth – particularly when other people didn’t want her to. And to shine a light when it wasn’t wanted. People like myself – we had something to say at that time, but we needed the help of other people.

When I was speaking in the mid-90s, Catholic bishops were telling lies. Catholic priests had nothing to say. The people going to Mass on a Sunday morning had nothing to say. And the Government wanted to turn a blind eye, because the Catholic vote was more important than the welfare of a child. So the only people who were of any assistance were the media, key people like Mary Raftery. I’m very grateful to her for all the work she’s done over the years.

On a personal level, I found her very warm, very easy to talk to. I met her from time to time for lunch or for coffee, and just to have a chat about what was going on for her, and for me. And I always found her a real pleasure to meet. She’ll be greatly missed.

But in terms of abuse victims, I think even people who didn’t work with her will have known that she played a huge part in helping to expose the truth about what happened to them. So like me, I’m sure people will be forever grateful to her, for her diligence and determination. A huge gap has been left in the field of investigative journalism in this country.

As told to Michael Freeman. Andrew Madden is the author of Altar Boy: A Story of Life after Abuse, and writes a blog which can be found here.

Byline photo: Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland

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