Derry care home social worker praises nuns’ ‘amazing ability to care’

Abuse inquiry told witness had no recollection of alleged incidents of abuse at Termonbacca

A social worker closely involved with Termonbacca children’s home run by the Sisters of Nazareth in Derry has said some nuns were “amazing in the ability to care and love”.

A social worker closely involved with Termonbacca children’s home run by the Sisters of Nazareth in Derry has said some nuns were “amazing in the ability to care and love”.

Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 15:29

A social worker closely involved with Termonbacca children’s home run by the Sisters of Nazareth in Derry has said some nuns were “amazing in the ability to care and love”.

The witness, who cannot be named, spoke of his particular high regard for one named senior nun in the 1970s. He said he had “ a lot of time” for this particular nun who has also been praised by other social work professionals in their evidence to the inquiry which is investigating alleged abuses at care homes after 1922.

This nun was particularly keen to have professional, trained social workers included in the care plan for the home, the witness told the inquiry. She had great compassion and ability to recognise need when she saw it and to respond, he said.

Questioned by the inquiry’s senior counsel Christine Smith QC, the witness said this nun “wasn’t afraid to rock the boat” in providing for the children in her care.

She had a sense of direction and probably wanted to be a social worker herself, he told the inquiry.

“She could be pig headed too,” he said. She could be frustrated when she saw former residents in trouble in later life or when there were suicides. “She was a deep thinker,” he added.

Asked about his reaction to allegations made by others of beatings and other physical attacks by this nun, the witness said: “I have absolutely no knowledge of [HER]doing that.” He asked what it must have been like for a nun to look after dozens of boys.

“I’m not making excuses,” he said.

He spoke also of his shock when he learned of the low levels of per-capita payments made to the Sisters of Nazareth by state agencies towards the welfare of boys in care at Termonbacca

Asked about other nuns at Termonbacca, the witness said that many “were decent people” but were “hemmed in by the system”.

They had other duties and responsibilities to their religious order he did not think that was good in terms of child care.

Shown a statement from a former resident of the children’s home that claimed the witness was told of the physical abuse of boys, the witness denied knowledge of the incident complained of.

“I have no knowledge no memory of this,” he said.

He also said he had no recollection of an incident in which a nun was reported to have lost her temper with a boy as he had allegedly been insolent towards her and she had grabbed him by the throat. However he did not deny that another social worker’s report on the case would be anything other than accurate.

The witness explained to the inquiry that he had been involved with boys after they left residential care at Termonbacca and had tried to help them adjust to life outside the home.

He said boys in after-care did not raise with him questions in relation to bed wetting or abuse. However he admitted “anything was possible” in the dormitories of Termonbacca where dozens of boys were together at night. He said he was shocked to hear stories in relation to bed wetting and physical punishment which had emerged.

Definitely there were some nuns “who came and who lacked warmth” he said. But he added said he never saw a nun hitting anybody.