Irene, 55, and Matt Kelly, 48, met 25 years ago in Dublin. They fled to Manchester with Irene's three children from a former marriage to escape their pasts and it was there they had Jennifer, now 22. As the older children left home, Irene fell deeper into depression and painter and decorator Matt was unable to reach his wife. His portrait of Irene, The Faceless Woman, illustrates how Irene hid her pain from even those closest to her. Jennifer's childhood was lonely and confusing – her unpredictable mother was there in body but absent in mind and spirit, locked away in a world of misery. A trip to Ireland to give evidence to the Residential Institutions Redress Board was the catalyst that finally brought Irene's past out into the open but the lack of an apology or justice for Irene made things worse. Indeed, she describes the compensation from the Board as no more than 'blood money', used to silence the victims of the orphanages since they were all forced to sign confidentiality waivers preventing them from naming or identifying their abusers. This is why Jennifer, Irene and Matt are all pseudonyms.
Irene's already fragile mental state was thrown into crisis after giving her evidence and it was then Jennifer learned the truth about her father Matt and the dark family secret he too had kept hidden. They now had to face the terrible events of the past as a family, together.
In The Faceless Woman, all three tell the story of how they struggled to cope with the fallout from their traumatic childhood's and how they learned to trust each other enough to build a strong future together.