Rival Writers in Live TV Dust-Up - Misery Memoir Sparks Sofa War
Irish Independent, Wednesday November 07 2007 by Ciaran Byrne
It was more 'Jerry Springer' than 'Questions and Answers'. A TV debate between rival authors ended in chaos yesterday with both sides jostling and trading angry insults.
Kathy O'Beirne, the author of a book purporting to be an account of a clerical abuse survivor, appeared on live television with Hermann Kelly, who claims the book is a fraud.
'Kathy's Story' claims to be an horrific account of an Irishwoman raped and beaten at the hands of the clergy in an infamous Magdalene home.
Her family have always insisted the story is a lie, as have the religious orders involved -- but sales of the book have flourished, reaching almost 350,000 sales globally.
Now the "misery memoir" hit is being itself challenged in a new book by Mr Kelly, who claims 'Kathy's Story' is nothing more than a literary fraud.
Kelly took out a credit union loan to self-publish 'Kathy's Real Story', a book that he says demolishes the central claims of O'Beirne's account. He also covers what he calls a "culture of false allegations" made against the Irish clergy.
Both authors came face to face yesterday on TV3's 'Ireland AM' to debate the controversy but it soon descended into a bickering match with each accusing the other of deception.
Ms O'Beirne's book has been the subject of fierce debate about the veracity of its central claim that she was abused -- or that she was ever resident in a so-called Magdalene laundry.
On Monday, members of Ms O'Beirne's family delivered a letter to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's office demanding new laws to deter people making "false" allegations of abuse.
Ms O'Beirne was joined yesterday on the show by ghost-writer Michael Sheridan, who accused Mr Kelly of writing a book which he said was "lies, hearsay , and innuendo."
Mr Kelly repeated his belief that O'Beirne's book was largely fictitious and said: "I have documentary evidence ... and I have top-grade witnesses".
The show ended in acrimony as Ms O'Beirne and Mr Kelly both stood up to retrieve notes from a table in front of them.
'Ireland AM' presenter Sinead Desmond told Ms O'Beirne to sit down as Mr Kelly tried to stop the author taking a number of documents from the table.
As co-presenter Mark Cagney shouted "stop now, wooah, wooah," Mrs O'Beirne jostled with Mr Kelly and shouted: "Don't you dare hit me, how dare you, he's taking my stuff Mick."
As TV3 staff rushed onto the set, the programme cut to an unscheduled commercial break. A spokesman confirmed that a heated row continued off-air.
Industry sources believe UK publisher Mainstream has recouped a conservative estimate of £1.5m (€2.22m) on what sources say was an approximate €20,000 advance to O'Beirne.