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Stolen Lives brings us the voices of 10 abuse survivors from Baltimore in Cork, to Tralee in Kerry, to Artane in Dublin and in London and Liverpool, who suffered in Ireland’s religious-run industrial institutions, abandoned by courts of the State and in many cases by their families in one of the darkest chapters in Irish history.
Stolen Lives grew from the aftermath of the first national March of Solidarity with survivors on June 10, 2009, which the late Christine Buckley and the author organised with support of Barnardos, One in Four and the Children’s Rights Alliance after publication of the Ryan report.
It focuses on 10 survivors, ranging in age from 54 to 87, and breaks new ground in its chilling level of detail on the effects of the abuse on their lives as adults.
“We cannot re-write those stories, nor can we write a happy ending to them. But it is our clear and inescapable duty to reach out and rescue, to listen and to learn and to create something out of this catalogue of cruelty in which, as a nation, we can take some pride.” - Enda Kenny (now An Taoiseach) speaking in the Dáil Éireann debate on Ryan Commission report, June 11, 2009.
"A sinister collusion between Church and Sate consigned unmarried mothers and thousands of others to Magdalene laundries while children suffered horrific abuse in other institutions across the country."
Children like Pat Lambert who was savagely abused in a sacristy, in a confessional and in a dormitory in the Christian Brothers industrial school in Artane in Dublin.
“I was in the dormitory. Every night, I could hear two boys a night being brought into Brother K’s room.You’d hear bits of whinging and crying. I was only three beds from the room. I used to pray every night he’d pass by my bed, I’d pray that it wouldn’t be me. Not that I knew what was going on. But eventually I did find out. He did it to me.
"He called me. I went in. He put me lying face down on the bed. He massaged the left side of my hip, then the right side, massaging, massaging, then this unmerciful pain. My left leg shot up. I must have kicked him. 'How dare you kick a man of the cloth,' he shouted, 'you’ll suffer for this, you pup.' This was August 1947 in a Catholic school in the heart of the capital city of a very Catholic country."
Valentine Walsh tells how he suffered similar abuse a decade later in St Joseph's Industrial School in Tralee, Co Kerry, also run by the Christian Brothers, and ended up in an adulthood infused by alcohol and crime.
Girls suffered savagely too. Survivors like Julie Cooney in Goldenbridge in Dublin and Mary Collins, along with her mother and sister, in Cork. Her sister died by suicide in Liverpool.
The well-to-do didn’t escape either, as we hear from Ellen Guinan, now 87, whose English father owned a string of Georgian houses in Dublin, as well as five cottages, two stables and a hardware shop. But one spring morning in 1934, four months before Ellen turned seven, the family was rent asunder, she recalls in the book.
In the words of survivor John Griffin: "it was a sea of barbarism" that destroyed entire lives.
Stolen Lives is published by The Manuscript Publisher and available to buy online and in all good bookshops. An e-book edition will soon be available from Kindle, Smashwords and major online retailers.
Proceeds, after coverage of publication costs, will go to Aislinn Education & Support Centre.
Coming soon. Stolen Lives by Bette Browne will shortly be available in e-book formats (ePub, mobi, PDF, etc).
Bette Browne has worked as a journalist with Reuters in Europe, the United States and Asia. She now lives and works in Dublin. She is the author of Stolen Lives published on the fifth anniversary of the Irish Government-backed Ryan report on institutional child abuse. The book breaks new ground in its chilling level of detail on the effects of the abuse on survivors' lives as adults.
For enquiries about Stolen Lives please e-mail us.