Abuse inquiry could face legal challenges

A new inquiry investigating allegations of abuse at two care homes run by the Catholic Church in Derry could face legal challenges, it’s emerged.

The Historical Institional Abuse Inquiry is examining claims of abuse at 13 institutions across the North - including St Joseph’s Boys’ Home, Termonbacca, and Nazareth House Children’s Home, Bishop Street, Derry.

The public hearings stage of the inquiry, which began last week, is being held in Banbridge, County Down, and is expected to last for 18 months.

Two Catholic orders - including the Sisters of Nazareth, which ran the Derry homes - have already apologised for any abuse that took place at its institutions.

At least one person facing abuse allegations is currently trying to establish if there are grounds for more rights for accused individuals.

It’s understood such a challenge could be to the inquiry itself or through a judicial review in the High Court.

It was on day two of the inquiry that a legal representative for the Sisters of Nazareth offered an apology on behalf of the order.

A barrister for the Sisters said they “recognise the hurt that’s been caused to some children in their care”.

He added: “They apologise unreservedly for any abuse suffered by children in their care. They go forward hoping that lessons will be learned, not just by them in the provision of care, but also by carers generally in society and in wider society at large.”

Meanwhile, the inquiry could start hearing evidence in relation to Termonbacca and Nazareth House as early as next week.The three-member tribunal panel is chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart and includes Derry woman Geraldine Doherty, who has spent much of her career in Scotland. The inquiry will reconvene in Banbridge on Monday next and will begin hearing testimony. It’s due to hear evidence from more than 300 witnesses, including former care home residents who claim they were abused as children and the people who ran the institutions.