Christine Buckley for Freedom of Dublin City

I will bring this to the Fine Gael Group and propose the granting of this signal honour to a remarkable woman. I will ask Enda Kenny to support this also.

I urge you to please read this:

I would like to nominate Christine Buckley for THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY AWARD and am not sure what procedures and measures I need to take to ensure that this may be possible; although I am aware as Lord Mayor you can nominate people for Freedom of the City. Christine will be 65 years old next year and I think it would be very fitting for her to receive this most prestigious award after 26 years fighting for justice for the most marginalised in Irish society; survivors of institutional abuse.

Last year Christine won the Ireland Involved Award which is part of a European-wide initiative to recognise the work of volunteers. Christine as Irish Volunteer of the Year then went on to represent Ireland at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Saturday 5th December 2009 on International Volunteer Day. She was awarded the Trophee Europeen du Benevolat in the European Parliament in Strasbourg along with the title “European Volunteer of the Year” in recognition of the years of work to raise awareness of institutional child abuse. She gave a most powerful speech and I was very proud to be part of that most momentous occasion.

As you are aware Christine has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of victims of institutional abuse for more than 26 years and is truly a remarkable selfless woman. Christine spoke privately about these atrocities in 1984, and then went public in 1992. Dear Daughter (Louis Lentin) was televised on 22nd February 1996 and yet again Christine spoke of the horrors. In 1999 we had States of Fear (Mary Raftery). Prior to this Christine had attended meetings with Bertie Ahern and the then Minister for Education, Micheál Martin.

Further meetings followed which culminated in An Taoiseach’s (Bertie Ahern)apology on behalf of the State and the people of Ireland to all victims of institutional abuse on the 11th May of 1999. This was followed by the establishment of a nationwide counselling service, a Commission of Inquiry into Institutional Abuse and the establishment of the Redress Board. From that first meeting with the former Taoiseach, it was obvious that not only did Bertie Ahern listen but more importantly, he believed everything Christine had said.

In 2000 during a further meeting with An Taoiseach, Christine explained the difficulties survivors were encountering in trying to access records to help them find their parents, siblings and extended families. Again, Bertie Ahern listened attentively and in 2001 Origins- a tracing service was set up by Barnardos. This has led to numerous survivors being reunited with siblings who poignantly were separated at the time of their incarceration. In some cases, survivors have been reunited with their mothers.
Centres have been established such as Aislinn Education and Support Centre in Dublin and Right of place in Cork together with others in the UK and again Bertie Ahern played a pivotal role in that regard.

In 2004 following another meeting with An Taoiseach Christine expressed concerns about vulnerable survivors receiving compensation without adequate supports, Bertie Ahern provided the solution when he advised the Redress Board to institute measures with the Money Advice & Budgeting Services (MABS) centres to assist survivors in vulnerable situations on how best to use their monies. I strongly believe without Christine’s intervention none of the above would have happened. I do believe it is high time she is recognised for her pivotal role in changing society hopefully for the better. We as survivors are so lucky that she is such an advocate working on our behalf, and we should acknowledge her role as a person who always puts fellow survivors before herself. (Neither myself or Christine have had time to get our papers ready for Redress)

There aren’t many people in Ireland who wouldn’t recognize Christine particularly in the current climate since the Ryan Report. She has devoted so much time and effort to this cause to the detriment of her health, family and not forgetting her education. She had been attending University and had to leave before she completed her degree. This was not an easy decision but things became so hectic in the last few years she had no choice but to abandon her love and desire to pursue a degree. I am sure you can empathise with Christine’s dilemma. (I also found myself in the same situation I was attending Trinity Access Programme and I too had to abandoned because of pressures running our centre,

My own sister died 3 years ago aged 50 years. It was shocking and I am still trying to come to terms with it. I have now lost 3 members of my family due to so called institutional care. We know only too well the scale and extent of institutional abuse in Ireland has not been properly addressed, it has scarred almost an entire generation and must be acknowledged. There isn’t enough money in the world to reclaim our stolen childhoods! But I think if Christine was to receive THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY it would certainly make all of her efforts worthwhile, and it would be a way that her husband and children could celebrate her huge achievement and bravery for telling her story over 26years ago. I think it is important that she receives her award while she is in relatively good health.

As children our innocence was stolen, we were robbed and deprived of our childhoods, so many of us were told every day that we were worthless nobodies and unwanted, beaten, sexually abused and tossed out on the streets when we reached16. So many of our people left these hell-holes were illiterate and Christine has always had this passion to have a centre were fellow survivors could meet and feel a sense of belonging.

She fought doggedly to get a centre to enable survivors’ avail of an opportunity to get the education they so justly deserve, and in the early days she battled cancer and still continued to be actively involved in the centre. She would attend the centre attached to her drip! What a women were does she get her inner strength? I sincerely hope it does not go unrecognized.

Christine’s courage has enabled thousands of people to feel free – free from untruth, free from the cowardice that characterised relations between church and state. There is a huge sense of freedom from the scarring of the emotional – the physical and sexual abuse, at last the awful shame so many feel is slowly shifting. I think the time has come when we have to award Christine the accolade she so justly deserves THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY.

Redress to be Extended/Magdalene’s to be Included

On another note I would urge that the Redress Date be extended in the light of the revelations of The Ryan Report. We have had so many who have asked us why was there a closing date before the report was COMPLETED, some didn’t know anything until after Report, so many are illiterate and so many fled this country and did not know about The Commission until it went out on international news. The Magdalene Laundries should have been included as some of these women were incarcerated for years and years against their will.
I anxiously await your reply.

Yours sincerely

Carmel McDonnell-Byrne

(Fellow Survivor and Co-founder & Director of The Aislinn Centre)