A Catholic religious order at the centre of child abuse allegations at two of its former care homes in Derry has come in for stinging criticism.
Nazareth House Children’s Home, Bishop Street, and St Joseph’s Boys’ Home, Termonbacca, were both run by the Sisters of Nazareth nuns.
It emerged yesterday that Sisters of Nazareth nuns have given their evidence to the new Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in a “haphazard and piecemeal fashion”.
The inquiry is investigating abuse claims against children’s residential institutions from 1922 to 1995.
The inquiry has received statements from 49 ex-residents of the two Derry homes.
Yesterday’s hearing in Banbridge heard that some children at the Sister of Nazareth homes were made to eat their own vomit.
Those who wet their beds, a lawyer said, were forced to put soiled sheets on their heads by members of a harsh regime which was devoid of love.
Counsel to the Inquiry Christine Smith QC said young people at the Derry homes were known by their numbers rather than their names and many were allegedly subjected to humiliation, threats and physical abuse.
Ms Smith said other allegations included sexual abuse by older children, visiting priests, employees and, in one instance, a nun.
The inquiry heard details of a 1953 report, compiled by a Ministry of Home Affairs inspector who had visited the Derry homes, which read: “I find these homes utterly depressing and it appalls me to think that these hundreds of children are reared in bleak lovelessness.”
The inspection report added: “The children in these homes have nothing like a normal upbringing. They must feel unloved as it is just not possible for the number of staff to show affection to such a large number of chidren.
“They can know nothing or little of the world outside and must be completely unprepared for it, either in character or knowledge.”
During yesterday’s hearing, Ms. Smith outlined details of the alleged abuse, which included physical assaults using sticks, straps and kettle flexes.
Other abuse included: bathing in Jeyes fluid disinfectant, separation of brothers and sisters, humiliating children for bed wetting, removal of Christmas presents, calling children by numbers rather than names and force feeding.
Former residents of the Derry children’s homes are scheduled to give evidence to the inquiry this week.