Northern Ireland

'States of fear' journalist Mary Raftery dies

Mary Raftery
Image caption Mary Raftery's documentaries brought seismic change to Irish society

Journalist Mary Raftery who was instrumental in challenging the Irish state and Catholic Church on clerical child abuse has died.

She 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."

Image caption The Murphy Commission investigated clerical abuse in the Dublin archdiocese

Following the documentaries, the government set up the Residential Institutions Redress Board which has compensated about 14,000 people to date.

And her 2002 documentary "Cardinal Secrets" with Mick Peelo for RTE led to the setting up of the Murphy Commission into clerical abuse in the Dublin archdiocese.

Ms Raftery worked for RTE from 1984 to 2002.

She wrote a column for the Irish Times and taught at the Centre of Centre of Media Studies at NUI Maynooth.

RTÉ Director General Noel Curran said her journalism was defined by determination and fearlessness, and that she had left an important legacy for Irish society.

Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said her death was a "significant loss".

"She will be mourned by all who knew and respected her as a fearless journalist who was always willing to ask awkward questions, to seek out uncomfortable facts and to shine a light in the darkest corners of Irish society," he said.

"Mary will be best remembered for her ground breaking documentaries, 'States of Fear' and 'Cardinal Secrets', but her contribution to Irish journalism was multi-faceted.

"Her passion for social justice informed Mary's journalism at In Dublin, in Magill and in RTÉ. Her work was always challenging, always provocative yet always sensitive."

Summing up her work in a newspaper interview last September, she said: "The most important thing you can do is to give a voice to people who have been silenced. And …what else would I be doing?"

Mary Raftery is survived by her husband, David Waddell and their son, Ben.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites