Nun denies that she inflicted severe punishment on boys

Historical institutional inquiry hears of conflicting evidence from witness and from nun

The Northern Ireland historical institutional abuse inquiry is sitting in Banbridge, Co Down

The Northern Ireland historical institutional abuse inquiry is sitting in Banbridge, Co Down


A nun who has been mentioned a number of times during the course of the Northern Ireland historical institutional abuse inquiry has rejected a claim that she severely physically beat boys when they were residents of Termonbacca home in Derry.

Details of her denial emerged today during evidence given to the inquiry in Banbridge, Co Down by a 54-year-old man who was in care in the Sisters of Nazareth Termonbacca home from 1961 to 1972.

Asked what was his chief memory of Termonbacca, he replied, “Getting bate (beaten), that’s one of the main things I remember.”

The witness said one particular nun, who has anonymity, used to say he was her “pet” but then she would beat him, losing “her temper for no reason”. She would strike him with a brush pole or electric cable of a kettle with the result that he ended up with about 20 scars on his head, which he still has. The scars were confirmed through medical examination.

He said if he wet the bed he was made to have a cold bath and got beaten. He was hit “around the head and ears” and he believed this was why he was partially deaf in his right ear.

He recalled an occasion when he was punished for sliding down a grassy bank by having to wear a skirt for a number of days. He believed he was “scapegoated” by the nuns.

Christine Smith, QC, for the inquiry then read a statement from the nun in which she said she was “extremely surprised” about the witness’s statement. “It is possible, and I would have to accept, that the children would have been smacked but it would never have been with sticks or straps,” she said.

Ms Smith also read from a number of friendly letters the witness sent to the nun in 1976 in which he inquired after her health and also sent her handkerchiefs. In one he wrote, “I hope you are getting on well, I am getting on well.” He was then in another care institution in Co Down.

There was also a conflict in evidence over a visit the witness made to the nun at a “care village” for elderly nuns a “couple of years ago”. The witness said he accused her directly of having beaten him and that she walked out of the room in the face of the allegation. The nun however said there was no “animosity” between them during the meeting. The witness said she was a “liar”.

The witness also said that Termonbacca “probably was a good place compared to the rest” of the institutions he was in. He added that compared to other institutions it might have been “heaven” but that did “not mean things did not happen in Termonbacca”.

“They put me through hell and that was it. They were wicked and they got away with it,” he added.

The witness also said it was “unfair” that it taking this long for the inquiry to be held. “Why is it taking so long when so many of us are dying off,” he said. “It’s so sad that people are dropping off before the truth comes out.”