Email Us My Blog


Tuesday, 4 December, 2007 1:18 AM

From:"Rory Connor"

Ladies, Gentlemen and Scholars

[ It is clear that this allegation was made against Sister Xavieria as a result of the broadcast of "Dear Daughter" on RTE in February 1996. It was then supported by Christine Buckley who said she was "angry at the failure by the Sisters of Mercy to admit liability for what had happened to [baby] Marion Howe." 

This was probably the first allegation of child killing made against the religious orders in Ireland. In this case there was a real baby who died. However, as the accusers realised that journalists would accept any story, no matter how ludicrous, they started to make what I call "Murder of the Undead" claims i.e. accusations of child killing that relate to times when no child died of any cause! (The Christian Brothers, rather than the Sisters of Mercy became the main targets here).

Rory Connor
3 December 2007]

(A)  "Medical View 'Inconsistent' with Goldenbridge Abuse" - extract from article in The Sunday Times (Irish Edition) 28 April 1996

One of the more chilling allegations to surface was that an 11-month-old baby died four days after she was put into Goldenbridge. When the infant's father, Myles Howe. returned from England and went to St Ultan's hospital, he was told by a nurse that his baby had burns on her knees but the staff had got her too late to save her. The postmortem said the child died of dysentery.

The Howes have never been satisfied by the official response.

[Doctor] Prendiville [1] recalls that St Ultan's was established largely for dealing with bowel complaints such as dysentery or gastroenteritis, a common illness among children which at that time could reach epidemic proportions in Dublin. He speculated that Marian Howe was more than likely admitted to St Ultan's with a bowel complaint. "I wouldn't say that burns of that size on a child's legs would have been the cause of death. They didn't treat burns in St Ultan's. If the baby died from a burn, there would have to be an inquest. But failure to communicate information is a defect in many hospitals," he said.

But if the burns were not the cause of Marian's death, asks Howe, why was he told by Xavieria that it was an "accident" and not dysentery that killed his child? Why, on his arrival at St Ultan's to see his dead child, did a nurse indicate to him that his daughter had died of burns? And why could nobody explain to him the large burn marks on the sides of her knees?

The outrage that followed the Prime Time programme [2] was directed as much at Xavieria's denials of abuse as at an apparently "soft" line of questioning. The allegation that a baby in her charge died of burns was not put to her on the programme. The reason was that after researching the allegation, the Prime Time team could find no evidence to support it. according to an RTE source. The reporter did ask Xavieria about the incident, he said, but her response was edited out of the programme.

Both Buckley and Dear Daughter producer Louis Lentin, regard the Prime Time report as an effort by RTE to undermine the documentary. "Sister Xavieria is perfectly entitled to any right of reply, but this programme bent over backwards to be reverential," said Lentin. "The facts were not put to her in a strong, investigative manner."

[1] Doctor J. B. Prendiville was a senior surgeon who worked at the hospital where children from Goldenbridge  were treated during the 1950s.

[2]  A Prime Time special broadcast by RTE in April 1996 highlighted some discrepancies in the tale of horror contained in the "Dear Daughter" documentary.

(B)  Orphanage Orders Face Fresh Claims
Irish Times, 10 October 1997 by Padraig O'Morain

Religious orders who ran orphanages face the prospect of a sharp rise in compensation claims from former residents following a High Court settlement in Dublin yesterday. The Sisters of Mercy agreed to pay £20,000, without admission of liability, to the parents of a baby girl who died in hospital some days after being placed in the Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin in 1955.

Several dozen claims for damages for physical injury and mental trauma are already being processed by lawyers on behalf of former residents of Goldenbridge.

Claims have also been lodged by former residents of a Sisters of Mercy orphanage in Booterstown, Co Dublin, and of some other Sisters of Mercy establishments around the country.

Legal sources said last night they believed more people who had been in orphanages run by various religious orders would now come forward.

In the case settled yesterday, an 11-month-old child, Marion Howe, was admitted to the Goldenbridge orphanage for two weeks in 1955 while her mother recovered from an illness. Her father was in England. Her family has always maintained that Marion was in good health and cheerful when she was brought to the orphanage.

The child was certified as having died of dysentery, but her family has maintained that she had suffered burns and has demanded an explanation.

While the order admitted yesterday that there was a burn on the child's leg, it could offer no explanation for what happened.

The £20,000 payment to Marion's now-elderly parents, Mr Myles and Mrs Christina Howe, of Bride Street, off Kevin Street, Dublin, is being made as recompense for any distress they suffered but without any admission of liability, Mr Justice Kelly was told.

The Howes will also be paid their costs.

In a statement read to the court yesterday, the Sisters of Mercy said: "We, the Sisters of Mercy, accept that Marion had a burn to her leg at the time of her death and died of acute dysentery infection. We have been unable to establish how this burn occurred."

The statement continued: "We, the Sisters of Mercy, wish to express our deep sorrow to Myles and Christina Howe for the anguish and distress they experienced on and since the death of their baby daughter, Marion, while in our care in May 1955."

"We also wish to express our sorrow and regret if there was any lack of courtesy and compassion at that time," it added.

The Howes initiated proceedings against the Sisters of Mercy after seeing the Louis Lentin television programme, Dear Daughter, last year. The programme examined the experience of some of the inmates of Goldenbridge orphanage during the 1950s when it was run by Sister Xaviera. She has denied any wrongdoing.

A sister of Marion, Ms Christine Howe, yesterday said the family had had to settle because of the absence of witnesses to what had happened, the lapse of time and her parents' advanced age. Her parents, she said, were "very distressed."

"They got no justice 42 years ago and they got no justice today," she added.

Ms Christine Buckley, on whose experiences much of Dear Daughter was based, said last night that she was angry at the failure by the Sisters of Mercy to admit liability for what had happened to Marion Howe.

What she and other former residents who had suffered institutional abuse wanted ABOVE ALL ELSE [my emphasis] was for the Sisters of Mercy to say the abuses had happened, and that they were sorry they had happened. ***

*** The Sisters of Mercy have now apologised on a number of occasions for any hurt suffered by people in their care. So perhaps Christine Buckley - or one of her followers -will reject compensation from the Redress Board. Such an action would demonstrate  that they are NOT motivated by any desire for money.