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Order of Nuns admits emotional abuse in residential homes

The historical institutional abuse investigation is being held in Banbridge, Co Down.

The historical institutional abuse investigation is being held in Banbridge, Co Down.

A Catholic order of nuns has admitted that emotional abuse and neglect took place in its residential homes in Northern Ireland.

The Sisters of Nazareth have already acknowledged and apologised for physical and sexual attacks which occurred within their properties, a focus of the UK’s largest ever institutional child abuse public inquiry.

A senior member, speaking on behalf of the congregation, said evidence from victims at the Londonderry homes was “shocking and harrowing”.

Sister Brenda McCall said: “We must accept that at certain times, by certain sisters, things were just not right.”

The treatment of young people, orphaned or taken away from their unmarried mothers, in houses run by nuns, brothers or the state is a key concern of an investigation chaired by retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart which is being held in Banbridge, Co Down.

It is considering cases between 1922, the foundation of Northern Ireland, and 1995.

Sister Brenda said the congregation accepted that sisters, older boys and lay people who accessed the homes physically assaulted children.

She added that bullying would have occurred.

The nuns have already apologised for physical and sexual abuse and Sister Brenda said that extended to those subjected to emotional harm or neglect.

She explained the order had made a generic apology in the round.

She added: “There has been individuals apologised to if they came forward in the last few years.”

Sister Brenda said: “I would like to say, having been up at the back for the last few weeks, it was a very harrowing and challenging time for us as a congregation and to listen to the evidence given was very harrowing indeed.

“We are a human group, a human organisation and we had people that were champions to the cause and we had people that were a bit weaker and all I can say is we had some wonderful, heroic, I would say inspirational sisters.

“I am proud to stand on their shoulders and carry on the work of the congregation started by our founder (Victoire Larmenier) to work for the...weak of society.”

Retired bishop Edward Daly, who was based in Londonderry, told the inquiry between 1957 and 1993 he received one complaint about the sisters, from a former resident sent to Australia under the child migration scheme seeking news of her brother via a “heartbreaking” letter.

He had worked as a farm labourer in Co Monaghan in the Irish Republic and died shortly before the letter was received.

Bishop Daly said: “She was devastated by it.”

 

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