Documentary on One

The Partial Life of Mary X

A radio documentary that tells the story of an intellectually disabled woman and her nine children.

The Partial Life of Mary X

"Mary X" was the mother of nine children, all of whom are in or have been through the care system.

Mary X was intellectually handicapped. She could not be named because some of those children remained minors and to identify her risked identifying them.

This documentary makes extensive use of Freedom of Information material applied for by the woman at the centre of the story. This information sketches a partial life of Mary from the 1970s until today. It was made with the cooperation of her sisters.


Mary X was homeless, although, at the time of the documentary she was voluntarily staying in St Ita's, Portrane.

She lived most of her forty five years on the streets. Her sisters spent a considerable amount of time attempting to find suitable accommodation for her. They believed she needs one-on-one care and a stable environment but instead Mary fell through the cracks in the system.

Despite the emphasis the Constitution places on the family at no time have this woman's children been dealt with in a holistic manner. Many of her children share, to varying degrees, her handicap. They have been placed in institutions or fostered, for the most part unaware of the existence of their brother's and sisters. Some of the children have disappeared completely, others files are missing. Meanwhile, their mother's life on the streets came crashing down around her in the summer of last year.

This is a documentary that takes the horror story that is one 'family' and questions, if after all the scandals involving the religious and the care of children, the state is doing any better?

Produced and presented by Peter Woods.

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries


Documentary maker: Peter Woods

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