Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ms O'Beirne attacks her critics

You may remember the controversy about Kathy O'Beirne and her 'memoirs'. It was referred to here several times, notably on 20 September 2006, a post which, thanks to the peculiarities of Google, has attracted nearly 90 comments.

In brief, Ms O'Beirne wrote an autobiography/memoir about her early life in Ireland. This book is known in the UK as Don't Ever Tell, and in Ireland, Australia, and the USA its title is Kathy's Story.

In this book, Kathy O'Beirne claimed, among many other things, that she was beaten by her father and sexually abused by two boys from the age of 5 before being sent away to an institution. At the age of 10 she was, allegedly, repeatedly raped by a priest and whipped by nuns. Later she was forced to take drugs in a mental institution.

Subsequent to the publication of Kathy's book, her family went on record to deny, fairly comprehensively, Kathy's account of these events. 'There is not a shred of evidence,' they said, 'to support such outlandish claims.'

The O'Beirne story has been subject to extensive discussion, not least in the Irish media, because the book paints such a dark picture of Irish society in general. Now an email from Florence Horsman-Hogan, forwarded by Rory O'Connor, alerts me to what happened when Kathy O'Beirne was interviewed live on the Irish TV show Ireland AM on Tuesday this week.

Ms O'Beirne found herself up against one Hermann Kelly, who claims that her book is a fraud and has written a book of his own to prove it. (An extract from Kelly's book appeared in the Daily Mail in October. Title: Kathy's Real Story; published by Prefect Press; wholesaled by Gardners.) You can read all about what happened next in the Irish Independent, but basically it was Jerry Springer with an Irish lilt to it.

My email information says that 'Mark Cagney asked Ms O'Beirne about her accusation of sexual abuse against a priest in her book - Fr Fergal O'Connor. Not only did Ms O'Beirne deny such an allegation, but for some strange reason went totally berserk and started hitting Mr Kelly on the head and body with a copy of the book, and newspapers.' The director went to an unscheduled commercial break.

Florence Horsman-Hogan, by the way, is a leading force in L.O.V.E. (Let Our Voices Emerge), an organisation which was set up in 2004 to 'promote a more positive image of religious orders in their orphanages and industrial schools.'

L.O.V.E. has campaigned against the O'Beirne book since its publication, warning that Ms O'Beirne was not a well woman, and arguing that Mainstream publishing, in taking on her story, and Michael Sheridan, the co-author, were taking advantage of a very vulnerable person.'

You don't have to read much about the O'Beirne saga, and about organisations such as L.O.V.E., to realise that these are brutally controversial areas of concern, and that the rows and disputes which they generate can inflict serious damage on the participants. You enter these waters at your peril. Here's just a taste. And another. And more. And on, and on, and on....


Anonymous said...

Well, it's a messy business. Yet O'Beirne's book has sold well, continues to sell well, and a publisher has offered to print a sequel.

The system works, as I'm fond of saying.

June said...

I don't know th history of this book, and this is in fact the first I have heard of it, but if this womans story is true, then by the sound of she has good reason to go berserk! I hope that she gets the help she needs.

Anonymous said...

Whatever the truth of O'Beirne's allegations, it is certain they will be bitterly disputed by those concerned. Of course, selling her books with the help of so much publicity will only fuel the fire of the anti-O'Beirne brigade.

Child abuse is a nasty thing. Children can so easily be manipulated through fear to keep them quiet. And so when the victim finally comes out with what happened, there is bound to be an element of doubt about the 'truth' of the matter. How can a woman PROVE what happened to her when she was a young child? Why did she keep quiet about it? FEAR! shame! The loneliness of a dreadful secret! One little voice crying in the dark!

On the other hand, to be accused falsely is also a horrid thing. And how can evidence be supplied to confirm their statement of innocence?

I ask myself, what sort of childhood must have occurred for such a breakdown of relationships?
It is easy to accuse the accuser of being 'sick' but if the accused are innocent what else can be said other than that the girl is lying for personal gain or vindictiveness?

It seems to me that publishers have a duty not to exploit these issues unless they can be grounded in fact. It is one thing to have a free press but there surely must be a dividing line when it comes to breaking up lives on such sensitive uncertainties.

And we can do without 'Roman Games' spectator sports. It degrades those engaged in such, at whatever level.
Publicity? If books can't be sold without nastiness, then they are best left on the shelf.

(This is the 14th time I have tried to post this. Will it now work?)

Leigh Russell said...

I'm not sure it's ever possible to get at the truth in a case like this which can be argued either way. Did she become deranged as a result of systematic abuse or is she making false allegations because of her mental state?

It's a sad fact that these days anyone working with young people has to "cover their backs" all the time. Remember David Mamet's Oleanna where a college professor loses his job after a false accusation of sexual harassment of a student.

The government now has oodles of red tape and no one can work with children unless they've been strictly and repeatedly vetted by the police - yet someone like Ian Huntley (hope I've got his name right)just walks through the barriers.

It's a messy business alright and not one I like to dwell on. I know it's a cop out, but I prefer my horror in fiction where I can forget about it with a clear conscience....

Leigh Russell said...

Michael I forgot to add -

Please feel free to visit my blog where comments from fellow readers and writers are always welcome. I'm trying to start discussions about matters literary. Unlike you, I try to focus on the process of writing rather than reviewing particular books, but the comments are fairly wide ranging in tone and subject matter.

The Knitter said...

The Irish Police have actually thoroughly investigated Kathy's story at the urgent insistence of the nuns involved and have found nothing in which to charge Kathy. If Kathy's story is false then the nuns should sue Kathy. The nuns have been threatening this for over a year now and STILL they have not issued and writs against Kathy.

Methinks the focus should be on why the nuns are all talk and no action - or very little action publicly as there are virulent organisations out there allied to the Religious Orders who will do the "dirty work" of denigrating survivors of the Irish Industrial Schools and Magdalen Asylums. One organisation allied with them actually said that children who were incarcerated in these Institutions were "genetically flawed".

As it is at the moment in Ireland OVER €750m has been paid out so far to people who suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse in child care institutions and amongst that number NOT ONE PERSON has been charged or found to have made any false allegations.

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