Nuns' apology described as cynical

 

A FORMER resident of Goldenbridge Orphanage in Dublin has described as cynical" an apology offered by the Sisters of Mercy following allegations of brutality.

Ms Christine Buckley said she met Sister Helena O'Donoghue in December 1992 to discuss counselling for victims of brutality, but without success.

"I had to chase and chase and still got no response. I only heard [from her] in October 1995 as did all the girls who took part in the documentary, and then she was offering counselling," she said.

The help line set up by the Sisters of Mercy in response to the RTE television documentary is inadequate as it operates only from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to Ms Buckley. "The counselling should be 24 hour counselling at this point. There shouldn't be an answering machine."

She criticised the Minister for Health, Mr Noonan, for comments on RTE radio which cast doubt on the allegations of brutality. "To say that, when we're feeling so vulnerable at this point, is absolutely unacceptable," she said.

"Nobody has phoned me from the Minister for Health's office to ask me could they meet me and discuss this. The Department of Education was in charge, until 1980, of all orphanages. Nobody from Niamh Bhreathnach's office has phoned me. How are they investigating things when they are not asking the victims?"

Responsibility for the alleged brutality did not rest with the nuns alone, Ms Buckley added. "There are lay staff who were equally vicious, and they should be named."

She described as inadequate plans to investigate allegations of brutality at St Kyran's Orphanage in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow. The Eastern Health Board plans to interview five former residents of St Kyran's from each year over a 10 year period. "I think they'd want to be taking at least 30 from each year," she said.

Meanwhile, some former residents of Goldenbridge have confirmed the identity of the nun at the centre of an investigation into physical abuse.

Ms Buckley, Ms Bernadette Fahy and Ms Sheila Doyle told The Irish Times that Sister Mary Xavieria was in charge in the early 1960s when, they claim, they were subjected to repeated beatings and other forms of cruelty and abuse.

Sister Xavieria was transferred to St Kyran's in 1963. She worked there until she retired in 1993.

Sister Helena O'Donoghue, a spokeswoman for the Sisters of Mercy, said she was "deeply distressed" by reports about abuse at St Kyran's. She declined to comment on any individual, as did a spokeswoman for the EHB.

A free phone service for callers about the orphanage goes into service this morning, at 1-800-520-520. The EHB spokeswoman said chat the scope of the inquiry into St Kyran's may be broadened.

Two twin sisters described their experiences at St Kyran's on Morning Ireland yesterday.

"Constant beating, there's no getting out of it, constant beating all day. The only good that came out of it was three meals a day."