Inquiry hears witness left suicidal after alleged care home abuse
Nuns, described as ‘sadistic’, deny claims of physical abuse at Nazareth Lodge in Belfast
The witness said children were washed in cold water and Jeyes fluid, and that carbolic soap was also used. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images.
A man who was put into a Belfast care home when he was six has alleged at the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry that he suffered physical abuse from “sadistic nuns” which ultimately left him in a suicidal and enraged state.
The man was taken from his parents who were both alcoholics and put into the care of the Sisters of Nazareth in 1982 with his older brother at Nazareth Lodge in Belfast in 1982, the inquiry in Banbridge, Co Down was told on Monday. A younger brother and sister who were also taken into care were fostered, the inquiry heard.
The man claimed that he suffered various forms of cruelty at the home. The nuns have apologised to all who suffered abuse in their care but have denied specific allegations that the witness made to the inquiry.
The inquiry, which was set up in 2013 to investigate alleged child abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period up to 1995, is currently examining abuse claims at Narareth House and Nazareth Lodge in Belfast. In all 13 institutions are being investigated.
The witness said he was at Nazareth Lodge from the age of six up to when he was nearly 10. He said he was “force fed” by the nuns and that once when he got sick he was forced to clean up the mess.
He said on one occasion a nun told him, “You will never see your mother and father again”, which caused him extreme distress.
He added that in Nazareth Lodge children were instructed to sleep on their backs with their arms folded in order to “get us ready for God”.
He said the nuns were “sadistic people”, adding that on one occasion he saw a boy being “slapped in the face, punched in the head and kicked in the ribs” by a particular nun.
The witness said that on one occasion he said “f... you” to one of the nuns which resulted in his being put into a “dark room”. He ended up in this room “ten to 12 times” where he would be held on each occasion for “4 to 5 hours”. These experiences left him hysterical, he added.
He also said that on bath nights boys and sometimes girls were lined up naked before being bathed. He recounted a nun saying, “Stay still little children, we are here to wash the sins out of you.” He said children were washed in cold water and Jeyes fluid, and that carbolic soap was also used.
He said that since that time he has never had a bath, preferring to shower. He also said that one time he jumped out of the window of the bathroom and injured his ankle in the fall.
The Sisters of Nazareth in statements said they had no recollection of the dark room and that he could not have jumped out of the bathroom window without being much more seriously injured, as it was four storeys high. They also denied the allegations of general physical abuse.
The witness said he was telling the truth. He said his experiences left him a very enraged and aggressive person. He described one time when a black Labrador growled at him that he beat the dog to death.
He also told the inquiry that he tried to take his own life seven times. He said he took medication to keep him calm.
“I was let down by society and I still feel let down,” added the witness.