Counsel to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, Christine Smith QC, said yesterday delays by the Sisters of Nazareth in submitting evidence caused considerable difficulties.
Material was not properly ordered and was still being received up to last week, despite hearings being planned for many months.
She said: “This less than wholehearted and rapid response on the part of the congregation has caused considerable difficulties to the work of the inquiry.
“The congregation is not the only body whose approach has produced problems. We do appreciate that this is not always avoidable, but we hoped that such late delivery could have been avoided – given the difficulties which it causes for the inquiry.”
She added: “Until recently the cooperation by the congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth in the provision of material has not been as complete or rapid as the inquiry would have hoped.”
The order was asked to cooperate voluntarily and produce documents in 2012.
Ms Smith acknowledged that the information was old and not stored in a single orderly archive.
“A considerable amount of material was provided. However, the information which the inquiry received has been provided in a haphazard and piecemeal fashion.”
The inquiry team spent a considerable amount of time trying to work out which nuns were which and when they were involved in the homes.
A significant volume of information has been provided in recent days. Last Friday they received two further witness statements.
Public hearings at the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry are due to finish in June 2015, with the inquiry team to report to Stormont’s power-sharing Executive by the start of 2016.