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"Dear Daughter" - 1996

In February 1996, RTE broadcast Louis Lentin's documentary "Dear Daughter" about the alleged experiences of Christine Buckley in Goldenbridge industrial school during the 1950s. UK cultural historian Richard Webster includes a description of the documentary in his essay "States of Fear, The Redress Board and Ireland's Folly" which is itself an extract from his book "The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt"

In 1996 the producer and director, Louis Lentin, made a television documentary about abuse in children’s homes which was shown by RTE, the main public service broadcasting station in Ireland. It focused on the brutal regime which was said to have been operating during the 1950s at St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, one of a network children’s homes or detention centres which were funded by the state and run by the Catholic Church.

The documentary featured allegations made against Sister Xavieria, one of the nuns belonging to the Sisters of Mercy order which ran the home. The woman ‘survivor’ at the centre of the film claimed that, on one occasion, she had been caned by Sister Xavieria so severely that the entire side of her leg was split open from her hip to her knee. She says she was treated in the casualty department of the local hospital and believes that she received 80 to 120 stitches. No medical evidence has ever been produced to substantiate this bizarre claim. The surgeon who ran the casualty department at the hospital in question has given evidence which renders it highly unlikely that such an incident ever took place. Apart from anything else, the surgeon points out that caning would not have caused a wound of this kind, which would have required surgical treatment under a general anaesthetic and not stitches in a casualty department.

Yet although the evidence suggests that the woman’s memory was a delusion, her testimony was widely believed at the time. In the wake of the broadcast, atrocity stories about Goldenbridge and other industrial schools began to proliferate.***

***  Sunday Times (Ireland), 28 April 1996, citing the views of the surgeon, J. B. Prendiville.


Synopsis of "Dear Daughter" - broadcast by RTE in February 1996

Christine Buckley and Sister Xavieria:Prime Time Programme in April 1996

Christine Buckley - The Historian's View, "Alliance Support" - 3 December 2007