Irish author's abuse story "fiction", says her family

Family members of Irish author Kathy O'Beirne, whose graphic account of abuse at the hands of Irish nuns has sold over 350,000 copies, have denied her story saying that the book published as Kathy's Story is almost entirely false and should be reclassified as fiction.

"Absolutely all or nearly all of this book is false - I don't understand why she's saying this," her older brother Oliver O'Beirne, 52, told Reuters following a news conference yesterday.

He said he and his other seven brothers and sisters had been forced to challenge Kathy's account, set in the 1960s and 1970s, to clear his father's and the family's name of her abuse claims, Reuters says.

In her book, published as Kathy's Story in Ireland and Australia, Ms O'Beirne writes about being beaten by her father and later about the torture and rape she suffered during 14 years in one of Ireland's Magdalen laundries - church-run institutions for "wayward" girls and women that became synonymous with brutality.

However, younger brother, Eamon O'Beirne, 48, said he had "no memory whatsoever of Kathy ever being in a Magdalen laundry".

"I don't believe for a second that my father ever abused her like she claimed in the book."

He denied her assertion that she bore a child after being raped by a male visitor to the laundries.

In the book, she claimed that the child later died in the care of an unnamed religious order. Eamon O'Beirne said: "To my knowledge, she never had a child. And my father did not abuse or torture me. The stuff as alleged in this book did not happen in our house."

Claims that he and his siblings were abused by his father were "fiction, not a word of truth", he said.

"We are just ordinary working people and we've been put in a situation we didn't want any part of and it has to come to an end. Today is about cutting the cord," he said.

Questions about the events portrayed in Kathy's Story: A childhood Hell Inside the Magdalen Laundries surfaced in Ireland earlier this year.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the religious order running the laundry, has denied that Ms O'Beirne stayed in one of their homes or laundries and is considering taking legal action.

All four orders that ran the laundries - which were wound up a decade ago after 150 years in existence - have denied O'Beirne was ever a resident.

The Times also reports that Florence Horsman Hogan from the Irish charity Let Our Voices Emerge, established by people who spent time in religious institutions and who are now dedicated to defending their carers, has her own doubts.

"By her own admission Kathy has had psychological problems from an early age," she said.

Earlier this week her Edinburgh-based publishers, Mainstream, defended the work saying: "We have made every effort and are satisfied the story is true".

The author stands by her story and said last week she had proof to back up everything in the book.

The Magdalen laundries grabbed headlines in 2002 when they were made the subject of the award-winning film, "The Magdalene Sisters."

Author is accused of inventing harrowing story of childhood torture and rape (UK Telegraph, 19/9/06)
Author's family say abuse memoir is cruel hoax (Times Online, 19/9/06)
Doubts cast on church abuse memoir (Scotsman, 19/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Let Our Voices Emerge (Press Release)
Kathy Story Scam Blog
Voices Emerge Website
Mainstream Publishing

20 Sep 2006