Nun criticised in abuse report identified as Nora Wall

 

SISTERS OF MERCY, CAPPOQUIN:A NUN referred to in the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse has been identified as Nora Wall, whose 1999 conviction for the rape of a 12-year-old girl in her care was declared a miscarriage of justice.

The commission report refers to Ms Wall’s time in the St Michael’s Child Care Centre – managed by the Sisters of Mercy – in Cappoquin, Co Waterford, in the 1980s.

The commission’s report outlines Ms Wall’s “alarming” and “disastrous” management of children in her care while in Waterford.

Seán Costello, the solicitor who represents Ms Wall told The Irish Timesthat media organisations should not identify her as Sr Callida, a pseudonym given to Ms Wall in the report.

Asked to confirm that Ms Wall and Sr Callida were the same person, Mr Costello said: “You already know the answer to that.” He said Ms Wall had already been identified as Sr Callida in other media reports.

However, he said Ms Wall, like every other person who appeared before the commission, had been granted anonymity. “Any attempt to identify Nora Wall is a breach of her rights,” he said.

The information provided by the commission report on Sr Callida tallies with Nora Wall’s tenure at St Michael’s.

The report states that Sr Callida was removed from Cappoquin in the early 1990s and left the order in the mid-1990s. According to the Sisters of Mercy, Nora Wall was removed from St Michael’s in 1990 and left the order in the mid-1990s.

Sr Callida was in charge of one of the group homes from 1975 and so was Nora Wall. The commission refers to a “glowing reference” given to Sr Callida by a health board official in the early 1990s. A South Eastern Health Board official gave a glowing reference to Nora Wall in 1992.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse’s chapter on St Michael’s Industrial School in Cappoquin is dominated by Ms Wall’s tenure at the home, when she was known as Sr Dominic.

On July 27th, 1999, she had her conviction for the rape of a 12-year-old girl quashed after it emerged that a crucial witness had given evidence after the Director of Public Prosecutions had directed that she should not be called. In 2005, the Court of Criminal Appeal declared a miscarriage of justice in relation to the conviction.

The Commission to Inquire into Child abuse report gives Ms Wall the pseudonym Sr Callida. It tells how she was put in charge of one of the group homes which replaced the industrial school in 1975 and became resident manager of the two group homes in the 1980s.

The report found Ms Wall’s behaviour in the home was “inappropriate and dangerous” and said her lack of basic management skills constituted a “disastrous mixture”.

It heard evidence that staff became “increasingly alarmed” at how she ran a group home after her appointment in 1975. She had an alcohol problem and drank in front of the children. One witness told the commission Ms Wall was so drunk on one occasion that she fell into a playpen on top of a child.

The commission heard that she went absent for days without notice, leaving a young woman in charge of up to 16 young children. She allowed children to sleep in her bedroom, and often shared her room with the convent superior, given the pseudonym Sr Serena in the report.

The pair went away together and sometimes brought children with them. They stayed in family rooms in hotels, with the nuns sharing the main bed, Sr Serena told the Commission.

The inquiry also heard that Ms Wall entertained past pupils and student priests in the home and allowed them to stay overnight. A witness said there was a lot of drinking at these gatherings.

In the late 1970s, her superior asked a nun, given the pseudonym Sr Melita, to act as her companion and keep an eye on matters but Sr Melita became compromised when she and Ms Wall developed “a close intimate relationship”.

In her evidence to the commission, Ms Wall accepted there were times when she drank a lot but did not accept what she described as “the bigness of it”.

“There was never a time when I was out of order or didn’t know my place or was falling all over the place. I dispute that,” she told the commission.

She acknowledged having one intimate relationship with a nun and said there were occasions outside the home “when it wasn’t appropriate” but she denied having a relationship with another nun.

The report also criticised Ms Wall’s behaviour in dealing with the reported sexual abuse of a resident in the mid-1980s. The child had an intellectual disability and did part-time work in a hotel, where he was sexually assaulted by a colleague.

The boy’s house parent discovered the abuse, went to gardaí and confronted the abuser who admitted it. The boy later told his house parent that he would not be pursuing the matter with gardaí. She noticed he had a new radio and he told her Ms Wall had given him a radio and a bicycle.

Ms Wall was removed from her post as the home’s resident manager in 1990.

The report said Ms Wall was told to stay away from the group homes after her removal but she continued coming to work every day initially and later would wait for the children on their way to and from school.

The report also noted “a glowing reference” for Ms Wall from a health board official. The health board offered her the job, which involved caring for a young man, despite having been informed of her dismissal.