KATHY'S REAL STORY:
A Culture of False Allegations Exposed
by Hermann Kelly
(Prefect Press, Dublin, 2007, 256pp, $40.00. Available from Freedom Publishing)
When I first heard that Irish journalist Herman Kelly intended to write an expose of Kathy O'Beirne and her book Kathy's Story that was made into a popular movie, two thoughts entered my mind. The first was that it was about time a mainstream journalist took up what could be a massive 'scoop'. The second was that he should be careful as if it were true that her story was a tissue of lies then the stakes were high and he would need to ensure that his sources were watertight.
As for the first thought, I was right, it is a massive scoop. Kelly's book is an impressive piece of journalistic investigation which may yet have huge ramifications for the whole 'abuse claims industry.' As for the second thought I really needn't have worried. Whilst Kelly's claims are indeed well documented, O'Beirne's book is so clearly shown to be a collection of fairy tales that at times Kelly's expose made me cringe.
The media estimated that by the summer of 2006 the publishers had made around A$4 million from Kathy's Story, yet all this in spite of the fact that Kelly proves that she was never a resident of Dublin's Magdalene Laundry (run by Catholic religious and providing work for down-in-their-luck young females). Witness after witness is interviewed and a pattern emerges of a deeply troubled personality who has taken the lives of others and woven them into an imaginary life of her own.
The trump card in Kelly's hand was the support of O'Beirne's own family who she claimed was her adoptive family. This was until they were able to provide her birth certificate which not only proves who she is, but her age, which helps undermine her version of where she was at a particular time in her life.
Lest any one imagine that those who are claiming O'Beirne's story is untrue are in some way attempting to exonerate any wrongdoing on the part of religious orders, a spokesman for an organisation actually campaigning for laundry residents called 'Justice for Magdalene's' admitted that even before the book was published, she knew that O'Beirne had never been a resident!
Two things that I really enjoyed about this book were, firstly, that in spite of the book's subject matter which some may find a little depressing, Kelly often injects some humour which I would imagine makes O'Beirne livid. However, some of her claims truly are too laughable for any adult to take seriously.
The second is that the book does not end with Kathy's real story and instead continues to examine other global best-sellers which have turned out to be literary frauds.
The publishers of Kathy's Story, Mainstream Publishing, come out of this episode very badly indeed, and the fact that one of the most infamous anti-Catholic tracts ever written (originally published in England in the 19th century), The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, was reprinted in 1997 by Senate, an imprint of Random House which also currently owns 50% of Mainstream Publishing is disconcerting to say the least.
Kelly deserves huge credit for a job well done. The book is an enjoyable read and we can only hope that when the Irish Prime Minister received his copy from the O'Beirne family he took notice of how easily the Government's compensation scheme has been manipulated.
This review first appeared in 'The Irish Family' newspaper.