Reputations of many ‘good nuns’ ruined, says ex-Termonbacca boy

Bernard McEldowney.
Bernard McEldowney.

A former resident of a boys’ home in Derry says he’s furious that the reputations of many “good nuns” have been ruined as a result of false allegations of abuse.

Bernard McEldowney, a retired policeman, spent 18 years under the care of the Sisters of Nazareth in Derry, the majority of which was spent at St Joseph’s Boys’ Home, Termonbacca.

Mr. McEldowney spoke out after the publication of the report of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry which investigated child abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-years period, up to 1995.

A former senior policeman in England, Mr. McEldowney gave evidence to the HIA anonymously in 2014 but later waived his right to anonymity to voice his concerns.

He told the ‘Journal’ yesterday that, “like many former residents of Termonbacca, I had a wonderful childhood at Termonbacca and will always be grateful to the nuns who cared for me for all those years.

“It was not the fault of the nuns that many orphans like me were put into care, but I am grateful that they were available to provide free care to me and many hundreds of other children who resided in their two houses in Derry for many years.”

Mr. McEldowney is particularly vexed by the issue of compensation which, he claims, prompted some false allegations of abuse.

Campaigners have rejected the charge, saying people giving evidence at the inquiry have been telling the truth.

HIA chairman, Sir Anthony Hart, has recommended that a tax-free lump sum payment - ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 - should be made to all survivors.

Mr. McEldowney said: “I was raised with many of the alleged victims from Termonbacca. We have socialised on many occasions over the past 40 plus years. At no time during any of those occasions did I hear any of them refer to the nuns or Termonbacca in a derogatory manner. If anything, those discussions consisted of reminiscing of our childhood at Termonbacca.”

He claims real victims have been marginalised by those who “hijacked” the HIA to secure compensation.

“When the inquiry was established, it should have been made clear from the outset that compensation would not be considered and that the inquiry was being established solely to identify the failings of the various institutions and the State in order that relevant apologies or acknowledgments could be made to victims and that lessons could be learned for the future.

“The failure to negate the question of compensation allowed the HIA Inquiry to be, in my opinion, hijacked.”

Mr. McEldowney said he felt the HIA report was “disproportionately” critical of the nuns and lacked the views of “the many hundreds of children who had resided in those homes and who had no complaints to make about their treatment.

“The greater majority of us who resided in those home enjoyed our childhood and will be eternally grateful to the nuns for the wonderful work they did for us.”

He added: “I’m angry that the good reputations of innocent nuns have been destroyed. I am angry that the HIA hasn’t publicly acknowledged the great work that the Sisters of Nazareth did in Derry for many years and despite the lack of any financial support from State agencies.”

Mr. McEldowney urged people to “keep an open mind” about the report’s findings.