Transcript of Radio interview (The Vincent Browne Show RTE) with the author
Kathy O Beirne on 'Tonight with Vincent Browne'.RTE radio.
'Cathy O’Byrne, who spent time in another institution which was more traumatic I am sure than any prison in the country, and that is one of the Magdalene Laundries.
Cathy, tell us the story, who did you come to be in a Magdalene Laundry?
Well I was sexually abused from the age of 5, by three different people, one was a clergy member, a Priest, and my life went wrong, as Fr. McVery said there, the first seven years is really the most important part of your life really and just before my, the night before my First Holy Communion I was raped and things went from bad to worse and I was out of control and I didn’t know what to do, I knew there was something happening and it wasn’t right but I didn’t know what it was, but just before my 8th birthday I was taken to a panel of Doctors on the advise of the Priest that was over one of the clergy that abused me. I bet he didn’t know what happened to me and didn’t know I was being abused and I didn’t say anything and I was brought to a panel of Psychiatrists in Dublin and they diagnosed me as a child with a troublesome mind, and a week later I was sent to an industrial school run by the Nuns, I was there for just two years.
Vincent Where was this?
Cathy O’Byrne I can’t say because it is in the Inquiry, so I can’t mention the name of it, but it was in Dublin and like a training ground for the Magdalene Laundry, I think, I believe anyway, but I was there for just two years and I was sexually abused and raped by the visiting Priest that came there and I told one of the Nuns…
Vincent This was another Priest, yet another Priest?
Cathy O’Byrne Yes, in the industrial school, I wasn’t the only girl, there were other girls raped there and sexually abused by the same Priest and I did tell a Nun about it and when I told her I was taken off again..
VincentYou told a Nun?
Cathy O’Byrne I told a Nun that was looking after us and I was taken off again anyway to speak to this Doctor and he was going to help me and the whole lot, and I came back and a couple of days later I was sent to a children’s mental institution in Dublin and where I was for two years and I had electric shock treatment and drug trials for the two years I was there, we were abused, horrible things went on in it and..
VincentWhat sort of things?
Cathy O’Byrne Abuse and drug trials and electric shock treatment..
Vincent Can you say where this was?
Cathy O’Byrne I can’t no, because it is all in the Inquiry and you can’t mention the name of the places until the Inquiry is over, it is all in the other book, I have another book coming out, The Aftermath, Who Am I, is the name of it but until the Inquiry is over you can’t mention the names. So I was transferred, after two years, we got up to mischief there and we came across this, it is in the book, this guy called Johnny, and he was just a breath of fresh air so we became friends, himself and another couple of girls, and our punishment was, when we done anything wrong, they used to send up down to the gate and at the gate there was a morgue and we would have to wash the dead bodies, people that died in the mental institution and of course Johnny..
Vincent What age where you then?
Cathy O’Byrne I was there from the age of 10 to 12, over 12, and of course Johnny had bright ideas to burn down the morgue, so we wouldn’t have to wash the bodies, you would have to read the book, but anyway he burnt down a bird’s nest, he didn’t burn the morgue down, but Johnny was sent off to an industrial school for boys, we never seen him again. My friend was sent off and a week later I was transferred to a Magdalene Laundry in Dublin, where we worked from 7.30 in the morning until maybe 6.30, 7, 8 o’clock at night, washing sheets all day from the Priests quarters, hospitals, the deliveries came from all over Dublin, prisons, hospitals, dirty sheets, dirty linens and we would work all day long and we were abused there and there was a visiting Priest that used to come there that actually abused us as well and we were visited by lay people every Sunday and they would either take you out or take you out on the grounds but I was abused and raped at the age of 13, whatever, and I had a baby girl called Annie, a month before my 14th birthday in the Mother and Baby home and she lived for 10 years and died of an illness she was born with, she was transferred, I looked after her for three months and then I was sent back to the Magdalene Laundry and she was sent then to an orphanage where I had access to her and she died on her 10th birthday of a serious illness that she was born with, and then I was transferred onto a girl’s home in Dublin. I spent two years there and then transferred on to another Magdalene Laundry in Dublin, after the girl’s home and a social worker took an interest in me and she had known me from one of the Magdalene Laundries I was in when I was only 13, she lost contact then and then I met up with her again when I went to the girls home, so she kind of got me on the right road you might say and got me a flat and got me out and helped me, but my life went absolutely desperate for the next like 20 years, you know.
Vincent What happened?
Cathy O’Byrne Well I was distraught and I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know where to go, when I reported it to the Priest he told me nice and politely to fuck off, that no one would believe me and I was damaged and no one would ever want me, so when I came out I kept that in my mind and I thought I was damaged and I thought that no one would ever want me, so I had to keep what had happened to me to myself, because if I told anybody no one would want me and I wouldn’t have any friends, you know, and then I went on this revenge thing, that I would have to make everyone hate me and it was just unbelievable and I ended up in hospital on three different occasions, I took three or four different overdoses, I cut my wrists, I tried to commit suicide, it was just absolutely unreal, the second part of the hell I was delivered to in the first place, when I was 8, you know. But a lot of things went on, it was not only that what happened to me but what I seen, I seen girls being raped, I witnessed a young girl of 14, 15 being gang raped in one of the homes, not the Magdalene Laundry but in one of the girls home by five men, you know, and when they were finished with her one of them broke a bottle and shoved it up to her, and we never seen her again, you know, and I will never forget that night because I was banging on that door to get that Priest to come out and help us, his punishment was to put us out on that step for the night and if we weren’t there and he hadn’t punished us that wouldn’t have happened, to Mousy, that was her nickname, you know. Horrible things happened, people died and they were buried and you never knew what happened to them and you never knew what they died of, you know, it was just unreal and it was as living hell, a living hell. I just thank God that I survived, my Psychiatrist or any Doctors that I have been assessed by doesn’t understand how I survived because I was in a lot of trials, biopsy trials and things like that, biopsies were taken from your liver and your bowel and we never had sedation and it was sent away to improve lives of others that may die in years to come and for cancer research and all and I am just very lucky but I do believe that I did survive to tell this story and to get justice for all of the hundreds and thousands of other people that suffered, because it is not only me and it is not only women and children, it was men as well. I have met men from Artane and the Dangles and the stories are just so horrific, they can’t bear to live with themselves, 58 survivors of institutional abuse at Magdalene Laundries have committed suicide in the last five years and they are only the ones that we definitely, definitely know about and the ones that we have names for and that is a very high rate of people in five years to commit suicide. There is a lot going on, when we went out to get our files they told lies and said we were never there, that we were only there for so many weeks, we were there when we were such an age because it was illegal to have us there at the age we were. Now I acquired by files from the first industrial school that I was ever in, when I was 8, and I was told that it was to their great regret that all my files were lost in a flood. I am doing this campaigning for the last 11 years for justice, to get the word, Penitence, which means sinners, from over hundreds and hundreds and thousands of innocent Magdalene Laundry women’s heads, but as I (inaud) up on Glasnevin there is a big monument, Pray for the Repose of the Souls of the Female Penitents. We weren’t penitents and they were penitents, they worked and they washed, Priests shirts, your shirts, everybody’s shirts, because everybody brought their laundry, the woman down the road brought her laundry, the man from the grocery shop brought the laundry, the man from Smithfield brought his laundry, so we worked all our lives and we got nothing for it. Like there was people there in some of the Magdalene Laundries, when I went there, they were there from the time they were 12, they were 60 when I went there, and they were 80 and 85 when they died in the Magdalene Laundry, they got nothing, they got no recognition, they got no thanks for what they done, the only thanks they got was dumped into a mass grave with hundreds and hundreds of other bodies. I mean in one of the Magdalene Laundries and I am sure you have read it all in the papers, in Dublin, not the last one I was in but the first one I went to from the children’s mental institution, they had their own burial ground on the Magdalene Laundry, most institutions did, and 11 years ago, when I was thinking about getting this all together and getting the truth out, I got a phone to say the Nuns were selling off the land to a builder to build private apartments and houses on, but they needed an exhumation, they had to take up the bodies that was buried on that ground in order for the builder to buy the ground, he couldn’t buy it with the bodies there, so they sought it and they were granted it and Massey’s went in, it was supposed to take three or four days, two days maybe at the least and they were still working three weeks later because when they dug down a foot deeper after exhuming 35 bodies, or whatever it was, they came across 52 other bodies that was a foot deeper, all in all they took up 155 bodies and they put them in cardboard boxes and they drove them across the city to Glasnevin Cemetery and they put all the bodies into the one furnace and burnt them, put them in three different urns and buried them along with 700 to 800 other Magdalene’s in a mass grave at the top of Glasnevin. We sought an inquiry into the exhumations because when the Nuns was asked what happened to the bodies and the cause of death, no Death Certificates was obtainable for them and there was no cause of death, cause of death unknown, marital status unknown, of course they weren’t married, they were there since they were 12 and 13, they were never out of the place, so we have 12 bodies up in Glasnevin that nobody knows who, where, when or what, but I know because I have all their names. When we sought the Inquiry from An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and the Police, an Inquiry was sought but it was turned down, now it is an offence to bury a body without a cause of death and if there is a body found in your back garden I guarantee you it will be sealed off and you will be arrested, and they will know what that person died of, even it was 100 years old. So the Nuns and the clergy can bury innocent women and children, pick them up, pluck them up, bring them here, bring them there and burn them and do what they like with them and nobody knows why, where, who.
They were somebody’s children and they are only the ones we know about, there is hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bodies buried on the land of the Magdalene Laundries all around Dublin and the country and in Letterfrack, hundreds, hundreds and they just didn’t die from being under-nourished or anything else, a lot of the children were murdered and they were left to starve to death, you know. We are sitting here as a nation and everyone in Ireland and all over the country, because I have it well spread, I have been all over the country, I have been to England, I have been everywhere, and we all know about it and we are all guilty because we know about what happened those innocent children, and you, me and everybody else, and the people that is here tonight is letting it happen and it is about time now that people got out and stood up and be afraid no more, I am not afraid of the clergy and I am not afraid of the Nuns, they ruined my life and they took away my life, but never again.
Vincent My God what a story.
Cathy O’Byrne And that is only some of it, it gets worse, but it is too hard to talk about it, sorry. I am crying, you know, it is just absolutely appalling, appalling. There was a Mass up in Glasnevin on Sunday for 50,000 children, it was covered in the papers, stillborn births, it wasn’t stillborn births, I got my daughter’s Birth Certificate after 30 years on Friday, and I was up there with all them people, at that big Mass, 30,000 children, there are 50 children in each plot from all walks of life, not just my children, they are not just Magdalene children, they are not just survivors of institutional people’s children, they are from every walk of life, they are from working class people and everything else, 50,000 people, children, buried in one of the graves, do you know, we have five mass graves, communal graves, the Nuns and Priests like to call it, they are mass graves up in Glasnevin and you never seen anything like them. There is a field up there, three or four acres long, and you wouldn’t put your dog in it or your cat in it, if it died, and there is where there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people buried and you come down then to this big stone, pray for the repose of, pray for the repose of the souls of the female penitents asylum, which means sinners, we weren’t sinners, they weren’t sinners, how dare they and I have been fighting for 11 years to get that off. I am going on hunger strike next week and I am definitely going to stay there and if I die doing it, well I died for a cause. We are all sinners, there is none of us perfect, we know that, but I think it is up to God to judge them women, not up to the Nuns, they are only human beings like us and everybody else. I was in an Inquiry up at Archbishop Martin’s palace for the last year with Guards with everything else, seven hours a day, a dreadful time I went through, I nearly went mental, I nearly committed suicide…
Vincent The Archbishop’s place in Drumcondra?
Cathy O’Byrne The child protection service run by Phil Garland, they were very good to me, they looked after me very well and Phil is very good and the people up there, there is only so much they could do. When I was to go on hunger strike seven months ago the Nuns came out and said they would meet me, after they denying me and you know as bad as things was, it was a worse kick in the teeth for me for them to deny me, than it ever was for them to abuse me.
Vincent What do you mean they denied you?
Cathy O’Byrne They denied me and said they didn’t know me and then they said I was there, she was only in our care for six weeks, because it was illegal for me to be there when I was 8 and in the middle of a three hour…
Vincent This is in one of the institutions that you can’t identify now?
Cathy O’Byrne Yeah, the first industrial school I was ever in I was 8, and there was a five hour meeting up in the child protection service with a Nun, a couple of Nuns, Phil Garland headed it and another Nun, because every meeting there is the Minutes are taken and everybody has to sign it and be satisfied with what was said, and three hours into the five hour meeting about the mass graves, this Nun looked across the table at me and she said, you know Cathy, I have some of your files, she said, from the industrial school that you were in when you were a child, and I also have some letters that your Mother left you. My Mother was dead three years at that time, that was last year, two years and I said, how did my Mother write letters, sure my Mother was very ill and on machines, very, very ill and I looked after her at home and she couldn’t go out without machines and I knew if a letter had of went I would have known. I said, I couldn’t believe it, and she looked across the table at me and Phil Garland was there, Head of the Child Protection Service up in the Palace, and I looked at her and she looked at me, she said, yes, your Mother when you were a child (tape inaudible for 3 seconds) six months ago, 35 years later after then denying me and saying that they never knew me, I was never in their care only for six weeks, she had my Mother’s letters and when I required my files I was told my files was washed away. I never knew my Mother left letters for me and she handed me over the file and I said to Phil Garland, how long ago was that, I couldn’t think straight, and he said Cathy, 35, 36 years ago. The man was distraught, he has a little child of his own, and I looked at her and I jumped up and I ran out, I went mad, here was I with these lovely letters and what she did say to me was, oh Cathy don’t get upset they are lovely letters from a loving Mother. My Mother left them for me when I was 9, in that industrial school, 36 years later the Nuns were handing them over to me but to add insult to, they couldn’t have insulted me any more than they insulted me, I am talking about to rub salt on an open wound. When I got home I couldn’t take myself to open them for two weeks later, and I (tape inaudible for 2 seconds) because all I wanted to do was go over and take me Mother out of the grave and say oh Mam, I am sorry, I didn’t know these letters was here, and when I opened them they had the cheek to give me photocopies of my Mother’s letters and refused blank to give me my Mother’s original letters. I have spent hundreds of pounds trying to get them off them, my legal team has sent Solicitor’s letters, Phil Garland of the Child Protection Team have sent letters, Archbishop Martin has sent word to where it should be sent and they haven’t answered one of them, and they won’t give me back my Mother’s letters and that is why I am going on hunger strike next Wednesday. I want my Mother’s original letters, they are mine, she wrote them to me, my Mother will never write me another letter and I think they have made me suffer enough, and if I have to die doing it, it will be worth it, to get my Mother’s letters and penitence off the headstone, well that is what I will do and I am determined, I am a very determined person and that is why I am here today, they never broke my spirit and they never will break my spirit. I truly believe and I still have my faith, I don’t believe all people are the same, I have very good friends who are Priests and Nuns and there was just a few evil people like them that is into the Churches that turned a lot of people sour in them, the Church is a temple to me and I don’t blame the Church, people say the Church is this, the Church is that, I had to stop going to Mass, it is not the Church, the Church didn’t do anything on anybody, it is the few evil people that went into the Church to gain access to the like of my innocence and hundreds of thousands of other innocent people. I go to Church, I pray, I am sick at the moment waiting for news from the hospital from a biopsy and I am praying and with the help of God it will be alright but I definitely do believe that I survived, because I shouldn’t have survived, I survived to tell this story and to help all of those other innocent people, not just me, I only had a little part of it, there are hundreds of thousands and if you think tonight’s story was bad, you would want to read the next book, it is absolutely disgusting what happened here in Ireland to innocent children, absolutely disgusting. Our babies were sold, I was lucky my baby wasn’t sold, she lived for ten years because she was sick, because the wealthy Americans didn’t want sick babies. When the babies were born they were sold off to the wealthy Americans, they were drove once a month…
Vincent How do you know about that?
Cathy O’Byrne I was there, I was there, you could buy a boy for 50 shillings, you could buy a girl for 10 shillings, you got a girl cheaper and they were all shipped down, because I was on a programme and the man that drove the babies heard me and he rang in and he said, I am the man that she was talking about, I am the man that drove the babies. That was only last year and he came forward to the Inquiry and the babies were taken in his taxi once a month and they were brought down to the North and they were put on a ship to America and they were sold to the wealthy Americans, a good Catholic family in America where the Godless bastards would be brought up to have a good life, and their Mother’s washed away their sins in the Magdalene Laundries, un-human, un-human. Hitler didn’t treat his people like that, he was decent, he put them all in and he gassed them.
Vincent My God, treated like (inaud), shocking stuff.
Cathy O’Byrne Well Peter McVery would know a lot about what I am talking about, I know Peter, I know Peter a long time, he is a great man and he is going an awful lot of work but doesn’t get enough support, for anyone out there now put in the funds for Peter McVery, he is great to the kids.
(Remaining transcript omitted as deemed irrelevant).