Northern Ireland

Historical Abuse Inquiry: Sisters of Nazareth congregation admits abuse at homes

Banbridge courthouse
Image caption The inquiry's public hearings are taking place at Banbridge courthouse in County Down

The Sisters of Nazareth congregation has admitted that abuse did take place at its homes in Londonderry.

Sister Brenda McCall, representing the congregation, told the Historical Abuse Inquiry (HIA) that some of the evidence of former residents had been "very shocking and harrowing for us".

When asked if there had been physical abuse by some nuns, Sister McCall replied "unfortunately, yes".

The inquiry is currently examining events at two Derry children's homes.

Sister McCall was asked if an apology in the past for any physical and sexual abuse committed at Sisters of Nazareth homes, should also address any claims of emotional abuse or neglect, the nun replied, "totally and absolutely".

"It's clear that at certain times and with certain nuns, things were just not right," she told the inquiry.

'Wonderful nuns'

At the conclusion of her evidence, she took the opportunity to again underline the congregation's apology and stress how harrowing and challenging the evidence had been for them to cope with, given that it happened in homes run by the sisters.

She also said, notwithstanding the abuse that had happened and was perpetrated by some nuns, that there were and remain some "wonderful and inspirational" nuns.

Sister McCall concluded by saying that she was proud as a Sister of Nazareth to stand on the shoulders of those good nuns who were working with the weak and marginalised in society.

The former Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly has also been giving evidence at the inquiry.

He began by describing the Derry he began working in as a young priest in the late 50s and early 60s.

Image caption Edward Daly told the inquiry he had always been a great admirer of the work of the Sisters of Nazareth

The scenes he outlined were of abject poverty in many homes throughout the city, and he particularly emphasised and stressed the case as far as the Bogside area was concerned.

He also told the inquiry that he would not have had much idea what was going on in the Sister of Nazareth homes.

Dr Daly said he had always been a great admirer of the work of the Sisters of Nazareth.

He said that in his 36 years of ministry, he had only received one single complaint about the Sisters of Nazareth.

'Heartbreaking' letter

It was from a woman in Australia who had been in a home run by the Sisters of Nazareth in Londonderry as a child before being sent to Australia.

She wrote what he described as a long and heartbreaking letter about being separated from her young brother as a child.

It is the 36th day of public hearings about events at St Joseph's Home, Termonbacca, and Nazareth House Children's home in Bishop Street in Derry.

They are the first two of 13 state, church and voluntary institutions being examined by the inquiry during the period from 1922 to 1995.

The HIA inquiry was first announced in 2010 and was formally set up by Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers on 31 May 2012.

Its aim is to establish if there were "systemic failings by institutions or the state in their duties towards those children in their care".

It will also determine if victims should receive an apology and compensation.

About 70 witnesses have so far given evidence.

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