Remembering… Mary Raftery

“The Church thinks in centuries, do you think your paper has the resources to take that on?”

Stanley Tucci’s pithy lawyer puts it up to Mark Ruffalo’s investigative reporter early on in Spotlight, the deft dramatisation of The Boston Globe’s incendiary exposure of the systemic cover-up of widespread child abuse by the clerical elite. For decades. Sound familiar?

Hollywood thinks in blockbusters, but did it have the resources to take it on? Whatever about the availability of budgets, its success is due in no small part to an experienced cast willing to resist any scenery-chewing righteousness. The ever reliable Ruffalo captures the tenacity and flightiness of a truth vigilante on the verge of something big; but it takes Michael Keaton’s restrained editor to reign him in, having at one time been too eager to get over the finish-line himself. There’s big. But there’s bigger.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”

Sound familiar? The axis of blind eyes and indifference kept on turning. Tucci can be trusted to deliver another unequivocal truth.

The audience of the Dublin cinema I’m in knows where the conclusion is headed. As does the rest of the Western world familiar with the story of Vatican corruption. Despite the multitude of spoiler alerts revealed over recent years, a reminder can still leave them sitting silent until the last of the credits roll. After the written updates on what happened next disappear; and the flashing lists of destinations revealed as locations where clerical child abuse investigations have taken place.

Ferns, Ireland. Gortahork, Ireland. And the rest. Counties are an irrelevancy.

RTÉ deals in small investigative departments, but did it have the resources to take it on? It had Mary Raftery.

“Mary was best known for her 1999 ground-breaking “States of Fear” documentaries. They revealed the extent of abuse suffered by children in Irish industrial schools and institutions managed by religious orders. It led to taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologising on behalf of the state.

Her work also led to the setting up of the Ryan Commission, which reported in May 2009, and to the setting up of a confidential committee which heard the stories of victims of institutional abuse.

Speaking about her findings to the BBC in 2009, Mary Raftery said: “There was widespread sexual abuse, particularly in the boys’ institutions.

“Extremely vicious and sadistic physical abuse, way off the scale, and horrific emotional abuse, designed to break the children.

“We had people talk to us about hearing screams… the screams of children in the night coming from these buildings and really not knowing what to do.

“They didn’t know to whom they could complain because the power in the town was the religious order running the institution.”

Following the documentaries, the government set up the Residential Institutions Redress Board which has compensated about 14,000 people”  Source: The BBC

mary raftery

Mary Raftery

Spotlight is a reminder of the power of Mary Raftery’s investigative journalism, and her fearless tenacity that served the village truth in the face of wilful blindness. In an era in which RTÉ doesn’t appear to be over-endowed with such resources, her contribution, and premature death, still has the power to pin the viewer to the seat for just a few seconds more.

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