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Sequel to Kathy’s Story Sparks New Furore - Calls for New Tale of Cruelty to be Banned

The Sunday Times, October 26, 2008 by Colin Coyle

Kathy O'Beirne
Kathy O'Beirne

IT’S Kathy’s Story, part two. But should it be filed under fact or fiction? Kathy O’Beirne, whose bestselling account of her abuse in a Magdalene laundry was described by her family as “a figment of her imagination”, is writing a sequel.

O’Beirne and a co-writer are working on Always Dancing, a follow-up to Kathy’s Story, which sold almost 400,000 copies worldwide. Although her first book (entitled Don’t Ever Tell in the UK) was dismissed as “fiction” by her family, the sequel will continue its theme of struggle and suffering. The blurb says it will chart Kathy’s anorexia, suicide attempts and the story of “hundreds of children she rescued and fostered”.

Promotional material adds that it will 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”.
The book, to be published by Hodder Headline, is set for publication next year. Breda Purdue, spokesman for Hachette Books Ireland, Hodder’s Irish associate, said it would be thoroughly vetted. “We are coming to this project with a fresh perspective. Hodder has a reputation for being very careful and meticulous in checking facts.”

Mainstream, publisher of O’Beirne’s first book, said last week that it had been outbid for the sequel. The ghostwriter of her first book, Michael Sheridan, has been replaced by Diane Taylor, a British journalist and author. Sheridan admitted in 2006 that there is no documentary evidence for O’Beirne’s claims but that he believes her account.

Hodder says the book’s publication has been delayed due to O’Beirne’s recent ill-health.

Eamonn O’Beirne, Kathy’s brother, said he had “huge reservations” about the sequel. “Kathy has no credibility,” he said. “There is no evidence that she spent her childhood in a Magdalene laundry. Last time her target was the church and the book came out at a time of revelations about nuns and priests,” he said. “When I saw her complaining about the health service in The Irish Times, I thought, here we go again. This time it will be the hospitals, doctors and nurses.”

Eamonn said she had never fostered a child and had a history of instability. “Who on earth would allow her to foster a child? I would call on the publishers to speak to Kathy’s family before going ahead.”

Florence Horsman Hogan, founder of Let our Voices Emerge (Love), a charity to reflect the positive experiences many had in industrial schools, said: “Those of us who have been in the industrial schools in Ireland and have been genuinely abused as children, and those who have been falsely accused of abuse, are extremely angry with Ms O’Beirne.”

O’Beirne had told “horrific and highly improbable tales” that had “damaged many innocent people”, she said. Records showed she was in school until almost 13, despite claims to have been savagely abused in industrial schools and a Magdalene laundry since eight, she added.

Hermann Kelly, who wrote Kathy’s Real Story, a rebuttal of O’Beirne’s first book, said he is “disgusted” that O’Beirne is publishing a sequel. “I have just written to Hodder Books in the UK sending them a copy of my book and requesting that they “cease from publishing what could be another work of fiction masquerading as fact,” he said.

O’Beirne contends that she was abused by her father and raped in a Magdalene laundry, after which she had a baby who died aged 10.

The Sisters of Charity, which ran the laundries, says it has no record of O’Beirne.

Her family say she spent time in a hostel for homeless girls in Dublin, St Loman’s, a mental institution, and Mountjoy jail, where she was imprisoned for petty theft.