Nun rejects claims of child abuse at Derry care home

Inquiry hears series of denials from member of Sisters of Nazareth

Junior counsel to the inquiry, Joseph Aiken, put to the witness a series of serious allegations made by a number of former residents. All of the claims were rejected.

Junior counsel to the inquiry, Joseph Aiken, put to the witness a series of serious allegations made by a number of former residents. All of the claims were rejected.

Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 15:17

One of the Sisters of Nazareth who staffed a children’s home in Derry has denied allegations of physical, emotional and psychological abuse of boys under her care.

The nun, the first to answer questions at the abuse inquiry since it began public hearings in January, denied she ever hit any child or lost her temper. She further denied children were ridiculed or mocked by her for running away or wetting the bed. Allegations of ritual humiliation were also rejected by her.

The witness, who cannot be identified, admitted there were very few nuns and staff to look after dozens of infants and children. But she said that despite such limited resources, the best care was given.

“The one good thing I remember was the food was very good, “ she said, adding: “The children had a lot going for them.” She cited the choir and band that were organised at St Joseph’s home at Termonbacca in the city, along with the boxing coaching and other activities.

Junior counsel to the inquiry, Joseph Aiken, put to the witness a series of serious allegations made by a number of former residents. All of the claims were rejected.

“That never happened,” she said. “I never hit a boy.” She also denied ever using any implement to hit a child.

She denied any nuns ever lost their temper or became extremely angry. She rejected claims in one particular witness statement which alleged psychological abuse.

Claims were put to the witness regarding sexual abuse of boys by others who were resident in Termonbacca and by adults who visited the home.

She said she was unaware of anything of a sexual nature taking place. However, when asked whether the availability of more staff might have meant alleged sexual misconduct could have been detected, she answered: “Perhaps, yes.”

Details were read to the witness from a government inspector’s report which alleged that Termonbacca was “utterly depressing” - a place where children were raised “in bleak lovelessness”.

Asked whether this was typical of the environment in which she worked, the nun said “certainly not the nursery”.

Asked whether it was possible that it was difficult to show personal attention to so many older boys, the witness said, “Possibly, yes”.

“The sisters were as kind to the children as they could be,” she continued. Asked whether the abuse was as bad as the report made out, the nun replied, “I wouldn’t think it is.”