Nun at Derry home ‘facilitated’ abuse by priest, woman tells inquiry

Two victims waive anonymity to reveal abuse at religious-run homes in North

One witness repeatedly broke down yesterday as she described abuse she suffered at the Sisters of Nazareth home in Derry. Photograph: Trevor McBride.

One witness repeatedly broke down yesterday as she described abuse she suffered at the Sisters of Nazareth home in Derry. Photograph: Trevor McBride.


A woman waived her right to anonymity at Northern Ireland’s Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry yesterday to reveal allegations of beatings and sex abuse at a home in Derry run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

Kate Walmsley, now in her late 50s, further alleged that a nun identified to the inquiry facilitated the abuse by one of the priests. She said when the girls at Nazareth House residential care home queued for confession on a Saturday, this nun would ensure she was at the end of the line.

Junior counsel to the inquiry Joseph Aiken asked her: “So you felt she knew what was happening and she put your hand into the priest’s hand?”

“Yes,” she replied.

Ms Walmsley said the priest brought her into his side of the confessional and abused her.

The witness repeatedly broke down. At one point, inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart suspended proceedings to allow her to recover.

When she returned, she confirmed various allegations contained in a lengthy statement which has been submitted to the inquiry. This included allegations of beatings carried out by senior girls at the institution and by nuns.

She told the inquiry how a nun had force-fed her during a meal, causing her to get sick. The nun, she alleged, then forced her to eat her own vomit. She said nuns told her she was carrying a mortal sin on her soul.

“I thought my mortal sin was the biggest mortal sin,” she told the inquiry. “I thought the devil would come and take us away.”

She described sex abuse by her peers over a three-month period, saying some girls touched her sexually and forced her to touch them.

She also told the inquiry of the horror of being bathed after an episode of abuse. “If you could understand an eight-year-old who had just been sexually abused by a priest, then put into a bath with Jeyes Fluid and it stinging my insides,” Ms Walmsley said.

“It was worse than any labour pains I ever had. You had to take that and not scream because you would have been beaten.”

A second witness told the inquiry chairman he was sick of hiding behind anonymity and wanted his name put to his testimony.

John Heaney detailed repeated sexual abuse by an older boy who was also a resident at St Joseph’s, Termonbacca.

“He is the only one that ever sexually abused me. Others would have given you a good thumping.”

Mr Heaney said some of the nuns were “monsters” and said that one in particular was “a vile, vile woman” who was “just pure evil”.

He said beatings by the nuns were “random”, and that there was a hierarchy among older boys, and this was wanted by the nuns to keep control.

He said he got beatings from two nuns who beat him on every part of his body.

The final witness said he couldn’t accept that apologies issued subsequently by nuns were sincere. “I think they were religious fanatics who hadn’t a clue how to bring up children.”

When he left the home as a teenager, the witness said he now believes he was “sold” to a farming family in the Republic.

“I worked seven days a week and worked from morning to night and got paid £3 a week.”