I was very saddened to hear of the death of Christine Buckley, the Irish-Nigerian woman survivor of Ireland’s gulags – the industrial school system run by religious orders. Christine has been battling with cancer and, in view of her suffering at the hand of the nuns during her childhood, her achievements are more than admirable.
Born in 1946 to a Nigerian medical student and a married Irish woman, Christine spent her childhood in several foster homes before a foster parent put her in the Sisters of Mercy’s Goldenbridge Industrial School, where she, like the other girls, was put to producing rosary beads for the nuns, where she was humiliated, beaten and not given a proper education. In the early 1990s, having survived cervical cancer, Christine decided to track down her parents. Encountering huge difficulties – the nuns were not amenable to share the vital information about her parents with her – she eventually managed to find first her Dublin mother, and then her Nigerian father.
I know quite a bit about Christine, as in 1996 my partner Louis Lentin, having heard an interview Christine had given to the Gay Byrne radio show, made contact with Christine, a meeting that led to the documentary ‘Dear Daughter’ about Christine tracing her parents and her experience in Goldenbridge. We lived with Christine’s story for many months, and when it was screened, ‘Dear Daughter’ had the highest viewing figures for any documentary on RTE, watched by a third of Ireland’s population at the time. Read more