Irish News

Saturday 26 July 2014

Nuns forced care children to eat their own vomit, abuse inquiry told

Michael McHugh

Published 28/01/2014|02:30

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Christine Smith QC, senior council for the inquiry into allegations of historical child abuse in church and state-run homes in Northern Ireland. Picture: PA
Christine Smith QC, senior council for the inquiry into allegations of historical child abuse in church and state-run homes in Northern Ireland. Picture: PA
Christine Smith, counsel for Historical Abuse Inquiry

SOME children at residential homes run by Catholic nuns were made to eat their own vomit, a lawyer said.

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Those who wet their beds were forced to put soiled sheets on their heads by members of a harsh regime which was devoid of love, a public inquiry into child abuse at residential homes was told.

Children at Sisters of Nazareth properties in Derry were known by their numbers rather than names.

Many were allegedly subjected to humiliation, threats and physical abuse, according to Christine Smith, counsel to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in the North.

Between 1950 and 1965, small numbers of nuns were involved in caring for hundreds of children in Derry. Help was provided by older children and volunteers.

The Sisters of Nazareth also ran an orphanage at Fahan, a few miles away in Co Donegal, and children were sometimes transferred across the Border.

Ms Smith said in one case a child born in the Republic was sent to Derry and later moved to Australia under a migrant scheme. The treatment of children in church-run residential homes is a key concern of the investigation being held in Banbridge, Co Down. It is chaired by retired judge Anthony Hart and is considering cases between 1922 and 1995.

Those allegedly abused there will give evidence later this week.

The religious order has already issued a public apology.

Ms Smith outlined details of the alleged abuse, which included physical assaults using sticks, straps and kettle flexes.

Others involved:

* Bathing in strong disinfectant used for clearing drains.

* Bullying by their peers.

* Separation of brothers and sisters, not even telling them if they were in the same home.

* Forced farm labouring or working in the laundry instead of going to school.

Ms Smith said allegations also included sexual abuse by older children, visiting priests, employees and, in one instance, a nun.

A senior member of the order made a submission to the inquiry acknowledging that an individual sister or common staff member, having worked long hours with children from troubled backgrounds, may have lost her temper and acted inappropriately.

She accepted there was scope for bullying because they could not keep eyes on all the children.

"The sisters always tried to provide the best care with the staff and resources available to them," she added.

She said they had little information to give the inquiry about sexual assaults but were extremely upset about them.

The inquiry is continuing.

Irish Independent

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