Orders seek abuse evidence

Pacemaker Press Belfast 12-03-2012: Abuse survivors meet Cardinal Brady.'The Northern Ireland Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse group (Savia) pictured meeting the Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady. They are seeking guarantees of his total co-operation with the forthcoming abuse inquiry in Northern Ireland.'Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 12-03-2012: Abuse survivors meet Cardinal Brady.'The Northern Ireland Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse group (Savia) pictured meeting the Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady. They are seeking guarantees of his total co-operation with the forthcoming abuse inquiry in Northern Ireland.'Picture By: Arthur Allison.

A group which represents survivors of abuse in Catholic Church run institutions has been told a number of religious orders have already started searching their archives for evidence linked to child abuse.

The Northern Ireland Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse group (Savia) met Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady yesterday.

Representatives of religious orders - including the Sisters of Nazareth, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of St. Louis, and Sisters of Mercy - were also at the meeting in Armagh.

The survivors say they will be looking for safeguards through the legal process to ensure sight of all relevant records. Among the Savia members at yesterday’s meeting was Derry man Jon McCourt who suffered abuse while at St. Joseph’s Children’s Home (Termonbacca) in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Mr. McCourt - a well known figure in the community sector in Derry - was aged just two-and-a-half when, in 1955, along with his two brothers, he was sent to the boys’ home run by the Sisters of Nazareth. It was to become his home for the next decade.

Mr. McCourt, speaking of his time at Termonbacca, has said: “In Termonbacca, I became a number. I wasn’t Jon McCourt. I wasn’t a human being. I was just a number. Everyone was given a number when they arrived in that place.”

He added: “There was some horrific physical abuse that went on in there. Once, I had my skull bashed in by a nun with a wooden towel-holder.”

Yesterday’s meeting in Armagh heard that three of the orders already had archivists working to collate material. The other order represented had given a commitment to start that process.

Speaking after yesterday’s meeting, Cardinal Brady said Savia had “courageously and honestly shared the truth of their experiences with us and the long term impact on their lives.”

He again “apologised wholeheartedly and without reserve for the abuse that they suffered as children.”

Savia has long campaigned for the Northern Ireland Executive to hold an inquiry into historical institutional abuse. Final preparations for this are currently being made by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.

It’s understood the Executive inquiry will include Catholic religious orders, state and voluntary groups.