Nun denies abuse of two sisters at Derry home

Women say they endured physical abuse, forced work and hunger at St Joseph’s home

Two sisters who claim they suffered physical and mental abuse while at St Joseph’s home at Termonbacca in Derry have rejected claims by a nun that the abuse never took place.

Two sisters who claim they suffered physical and mental abuse while at St Joseph’s home at Termonbacca in Derry have rejected claims by a nun that the abuse never took place.

 

Two sisters who claim they suffered physical and mental abuse while at St Joseph’s home at Termonbacca in Derry have rejected claims by a nun that the abuse never took place.

The sisters were among five children from a large family who were placed in the home in the late 1960s.

The girls were also placed there as their mother thought they would be together. However two of the girls who gave evidence to the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry said she did not know that they were separated once at the home.

A series of claims by the sisters involving physical abuse, forced work and hunger were all denied by a named nun whose statement was detailed to the witnesses.

The nun said she could not recall the girls and she denies that any child was forced to work in the nursery at the home which would have housed up to 24 babies and infants.

She also denies involvement with beatings or any physical punishment.

The young sister, who told the inquiry she wished to maintain her anonymity for the present, told the inquiry’s Senior Counsel Christine Smith of the range of work she was set to do in the home.

Her duties, she said, included waking the youngest children in the home in the morning, changing nappies, dressing them and helping the smallest of them with their potty.

She said that in the evening after school she helped change the babies’ nappies.

“I was aged between six and seven,” she told the inquiry. “I was still a child myself.”

She added that on Saturdays she helped with cleaning by taking out small mats beside each of the cots in the nursery and beating them clean outside before replacing them.

The nun’s statement denies all this.

But the witness retorted: “She’s a liar. I’m telling you what I had to do. It’s like yesterday.”

The witness said after she left Termonbacca, she was put to work in a Magdalene laundry which she described as “a jail”.

“You were locked up and escorted about,” she said. “Every door you went through was locked. When you came in you didn’t get back out again.”

Her elder sister denied a series of claims recorded in official papers recording the girls’ admission to Termonbacca. In particular she rejected the assertion that her father had a drink problem and abused his large family of 14.

“My father was a very loving man and was – right up until the day he died,” she said.

Questioned by the inquiry’s Junior Counsel Joseph Aiken, the witness said she was given more work than her younger sister on account of her age.

She alleged she changed babies’ nappies each morning and washed the soiled nappies as well as their sheets and pyjamas if needed.

She said the nun never did this work. “She wasn’t there when I was there. I never saw her anyway, I was too busy.”

She said they had to go to Mass each day in addition to her work with the infants before she got any breakfast.

All this was denied by the nun’s statement. Asked for her reaction to these denials, the witness said: “Did we all have the same bad dream for two years? We did it [the work]. We had to do it.”