Mary Raftery was an Irish investigative journalist and filmmaker whose 1999 documentary film series States of Fear brought to light the suffering of children in Irish reformatory and industrial schools, and was central in delivering a State apology to those who suffered. Her book Suffer the Little Children bolstered her claim that the Irish childcare system between the 1930s and 70s was guilty of widespread persecution and abuse. The subsequent establishment of the Ryan Commission and the Residential Institutions Redress Board was largely as a result of Mary’s work. Mary sadly passed away in 2012, at the too-young age of 54.
The Mary Raftery Journalism Fund was established shortly thereafter to promote more in-depth investigative coverage of issues close to Mary’s heart. On their website they post tributes to Mary, including New York Times/Irish Times obituaries. Artists Without Walls’ member Connie Roberts sent them her “Banister” poem that she wrote in memory of Mary, which they happily posted. The poem was inspired by Mary’s fond memory of climbing the stairs as a young child and falling into her father’s open arms.
i.m. Mary Raftery
Oh, give me a little girl
happy to rise to the occasion
and a smiling father
who waits with open arms
at the bottom of the stairs
to catch, to catch, to catch her,
and I’ll give you a woman,
solid as a granite banister,
with the nerve to change a nation.
The Mary Raftery Journalism Fund recently announced details of a series of screenings and panel discussions—sponsored by RTE, Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster, and the Irish Film Institute, that will take place on May 24th, to mark the 15-year anniversary of States of Fear.