Bestselling author Kathy O’Beirne forced to shelve plans for second book
The Sunday Times by Colin Coyle
July 26, 2009
Her first book was described by her family as a “figment of her imagination”. Now Kathy O’Beirne, the bestselling author whose account of her abuse in a Magdalene laundry sold 400,000 copies, has been forced to shelve plans for a sequel after her publisher cancelled the contract.
Hodder Headline had planned to publish Always Dancing, a sequel to Kathy’s Story, later this year, but decided against going ahead with the book after “failing to resolve legal issues” with the author.
Last week the publisher said that it had initially pushed the publication date back to 2012 to allow time to resolve matters with O’Beirne, but had now decided against publishing the memoir at all.
While her first book was dismissed as “fiction” by her family, O’Beirne planned to return to her childhood suffering in Always Dancing. The blurb promised that it would chart the author’s anorexia, suicide attempts and the story of “hundreds of children she rescued and fostered”.
It also promised to recount “Kathy’s ‘care’ by the nuns, cruelty by her father, lonely years in foster homes and a terrifying ordeal in a psychiatric hospital in which she was used as a human guinea pig in ECT experiments”.
Eamonn O’Beirne, Kathy’s brother, said he wrote to Hodder Headline to inform the publisher that the O’Beirne family had dissociated itself from the writer’s first memoir.
Hermann Kelly, the author of Kathy’s Real Story, a rebuttal of O’Beirne’s first book, wrote to the publisher as well urging it not to bring out a sequel.
Kelly also sent Hodder a copy of his book, which claims to highlight inconsistencies in O’Beirne’s account of her childhood.
O’Beirne stands over her story and claims to have taken a number of lie-detector tests proving that she is telling the truth.
The new book was to be co-written by Diane Taylor, a London-based journalist and writer. Last week Taylor, through an agent, said she had no comment to make about the book’s cancellation. O’Beirne could not be contacted for comment.
Mainstream, the publisher of Kathy’s Story in 2005, bid for the rights to publish the sequel but lost out to Hodder. It also refused to comment last week, saying that O’Beirne was no longer one of its writers. It has been steadfast in its support of O’Beirne’s first book. “We have made our own investigations and are convinced this is a legitimate account,” it said last year.
O’Beirne contends that she was physically and mentally abused by her father and raped by priests during a 14-year stay in a Magdalene laundry. She also recounted in Kathy’s Story how she had given birth to a baby while living in the laundry but claimed that the child died at the age of 10.
The Sisters of Charity, which ran the laundries, claims to have no record of O’Beirne apart from a six-week stay in a reformatory school for young people.
Her family say she spent time in St Anne’s Children’s Home, Kilmacud, St Loman’s psychiatric hospital and Sherrard House for homeless people, describing her as a “troubled child”. She also spent time in Mountjoy, where she was imprisoned for “petty theft”. Her family also deny O’Beirne’s claim that she was adopted.
After the publication of Kathy’s Story, her family held a press conference where they described the book as “a horrific miscarriage of justice ... in the interests of financial gain” and criticised its publisher, Mainstream, for not carrying out “the necessary rigorous checks”. “If they had,” the family said in a statement, “this book would never have been published.”