Witness claims priest sexually assaulted her several times
Priest’s statement to abuse inquiry denies allegations
A nun who has been mentioned a number of times during the inquiry rejected a claim she severely beat boys when they were residents of St Joseph’s Home,Termonbacca, Co Derry.
A witness has told the North’s historical institutional abuse inquiry she was sexually abused on several occasions by a young priest she thought wanted to help her. The priest has denied the allegation.
The 44-year-old witness, who was aged 10 at the time, recounted how she spent four days in the Sisters of Nazareth Termonbacca care home in Derry in 1980, after she had been discovered sleeping rough in a church in Co Tyrone.
The caretaker brought her to the parochial house, where a young priest was kind to her and expressed concern about injuries she had sustained as a result of physical abuse by her father, she told the inquiry in Banbridge, Co Down, yesterday.
However, when he took her into a room, ostensibly to check on her injuries, she said the priest sexually assaulted her. Later in Termonbacca, where she was in temporary care from her parents, both of whom were alcoholics, she said she was sexually abused on two occasions by the same priest.
Subsequently she ended up at the Fort James care home in Derry. By chance the young priest saw her outside the home. He later called regularly to see her at the home and over a two- to three-month period in that home he sexually assaulted her “two or three times” a week, she said.
The witness also described how in 1986 she tried to end her life by taking an overdose of tablets.
A statement from the priest, who has anonymity, was read where he denied assaulting the witness. The priest said he was only in Termonbacca once in his life, while to his recollection he had never visited the Fort James home.
Asked about this denial the witness said: “I know who it was that did do what they did on me. I can’t pluck another name from thin air because I know it was him.”
Earlier yesterday a nun who has been mentioned a number of times in the course of the Northern Ireland historical institutional abuse inquiry rejected a claim she severely physically beat boys when they were residents of Termonbacca.
Details of her denial came during evidence by a 54-year- old man who was in care in Termonbacca from 1961 to 1972.
The witness said one nun, who has anonymity, used to say he was her “pet”, but then 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.
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 from another care home to the nun in 1976 in which he inquired after her health and also sent her handkerchiefs.
There was also a conflict in evidence over a visit the witness made to the nun at a “care village” for elderly nuns in Belfast 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 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”.