O'Brien Accused of 'Betraying' Abuse Victims
Former Mayor 'Hurt by Vindictive Attack'
The Nationalist (Clonmel, Co. Tipperary), 20 May 2010 by Eamonn Lacey
People of the Year award winners Michael O'Brien, Clonmel and Christine Buckley with Grainne Seoige at last year's ceremony. This week Ms Buckley said she did not think she would have stood on the same platform as the former Mayor of Clonmel if she had known about a radio interview he gave ten years ago where he denied there had been sexual abuse at Ferryhouse in Clonmel.
A former mayor of Clonmel has been accused of a 'massive betrayal' of 16,000 victims of abuse for 'exalting and eulogising' the Rosminian Order for years
This week Christine Buckley, a Goldenbridge survivor, hit out at the behaviour of former Ferryhouse resident Michael O'Brien describing him as a 'perpetual apologist' for the Rosminians.
She went public after being handed a decade old radio interview by the former mayor and an anonymous letter from a person calling themselves 'whistle blower' referencing articles in The Nationalist in which the former member of Clonmel Corporation paid tributes to the Rosminians.
In an interview with 'The Nationalist' following a clash with Michael O'Brien on the Joe Duffy Show on Monday, Christine Buckley asked why Michael O'Brien, if he was protecting his family from what happened him in Ferryhouse, just said nothing rather than heap praise on a regular basis on the Rosminians.
"Nobody is disputing whether he was sexually abused or not but if he was in denial why did he just say nothing rather than praise them for all those years," asked an angry Ms Buckley.
Mr O'Brien told 'The Nationalist' that he was hurt that Christine Buckley could come out with a 'vindictive attack' on him.
"No survivor should attack another. We should work together," he said.
The former Fianna Fail mayor accused Christine Buckley of " trying to blacken his good name" because he disagreed with her over how compensation money from the religious orders was to be distributed among abuse victims.
The Clonmel man said he had hid a personal nightmare of abuse at Ferryhouse for decades to protect his family. He said that during his time as mayor and a councillor and his appearance on the Late Late Show when he paid tribute to the Rosminians, "nobody that came through the Redress Board came out before then.That was not the time or the place to say it because my family did not know and my family come first with me," he said.
The pair are embroiled in a bitter row over how some €680m in compensation from religious orders identified in the Ryan Report should be shared out among survivors of sexual abuse in religious run residential institutions.
Christine Buckley of the Aislinn Centre critiscised the decade old radio interview by Michael O'Brien where he claimed not to have been sexually abused while he was incarcerated in St. Joseph's industrial school in Ferryhouse.
This contradicts his emotional intervention on RTE 's Questions and Answers programme in May of last year where he detailed the extent of abuse he suffered, generating widespread public sympathy and anger.
During the radio interview, the former councillor expressed sympathy for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of a Rosminian brother at Ferryhouse.
He said. "But I must say, and I have to say it here and now because I had to meet my family when this came out. And say it never happened to me, I never seen it happening, I never heard of it happening in my seven years in Ferryhouse. I never seen or heard of it,"
"We were left there to those brothers and those priests to become our parents, and look after us. And as far as I am concerned, 99.9% of them done a good job... out of every group, no matter what organisation you're in, you'll find bad eggs. Ferryhouse is my home. And I will defend it to the end as long as I live because I was reared by them," went the radio interview.
"In the interview he does say he was punished and suffered from physical deprivation while in Ferryhouse but he also stated he never experienced or witnessed sexual abuse," said Christine Buckley.
The Goldenbridge survivor, who started meetings for abuse survivors back in 1984, said she was very hurt to find out after all these years that Michael O'Brien had regularly praised and paid tribute to the Rosminians.
" I remember getting a phone call from three men sobbing on the phone from England in the space of a few weeks telling me of comments made by a resident of Ferryhouse who was now a politician praising the Rosminians.These abuse victims were distraught and very hurt," she said.
She said Michael O'Brien's behaviour was a massive betrayal because a man in his position as an elected representative, as mayor of his town and as a member of Fianna Fail, could have come out and told everybody what happened in Ferryhouse and it would have helped to bring closure and an apology for the victims much sooner .
"I want to know how it could happen in such a short space of time that Michael O'Brien, after years of eulogising the Rosminians, could then to turn around and tell the people of Clonmel and the world of the graphic violation of his person. He said he was protecting his family but why was he an apologist for years without giving any thought to the survivors of sexual abuse," she asked.
"I could not doubt any victim of institutional abuse nor have I ever questioned anybody before. This is the first time I have done this," she said. "Being in denial is being in denial, but why be so vociferous in protecting the Rosminian order,"she said.
Christine said she had been given the contents of the radio interview and the letter from the 'whistle blower' in October of last year. If she had known its contents a month earlier, when she accepted a People of the Year award with Michael O'Brien, she did not think she could have gone on stage with him.
Mr O'Brien, of the Right to Peace survivors group, said he differed with Christine Buckley on how the compensation money should be distributed. He did not want the government to take the money. He did not agree that huge sums of money should go to education and counselling which Christine Buckley was promoting.
"I don't want education or counselling at this stage. A lot of us are too old for that ," said Mr O'Brien. He said he had no animosity towards Christine Buckley.
"I am working on behalf of survivors. I want nothing myself. I don't want money. I have done my best for the last ten years for everybody," said Mr O'Brien.
He said that he told the Taoiseach and the Bishops that he wanted nothing off them but that he would fight for former residents.