Belfast Telegraph

Heartless nuns beat me black and blue, woman tells inquiry

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

The first female witness to speak at the Historical Abuse Inquiry has told how she was beaten black and blue by nuns but couldn't tell anyone or she would "get killed".

The woman, who is now 58, lived in Nazareth House in Londonderry from 1957 until 1969.

She was unaware she was living in the same home as her sister until one day the girl turned to her and said: "You know I am your big sister."

Her sister left the convent when she was 16 and wanted to take her with her, but she was told she was too young. She has spent the past years searching for her.

The inquiry heard how every Saturday 100 girls were forced to queue up for two baths and the water was never changed.

At night they were made to sleep with their arms crossed.

She told how she was repeatedly sent to the dentist

She said: "My name was always called and all the time they filled all my teeth, filled them all."

The witness spoke of a "cruel" nun who beat her.

She said she realised the nun enjoyed it when she cried so she stopped crying when she was hit.

"She would punch or hit with a black belt she wore around her waist, or a stick. She would just lose her temper."

The woman, who is now married, said she was told to stand in a dark corridor while a nun caned her across the legs.

"I tried to grab whatever she had in her hand and she just said 'Don't grab it, there's nails in it' and I was black and blue."

At school next day she feigned sickness so that her PE teacher wouldn't notice her injuries.

"She'd already seen my legs being black and blue.

"She said 'Do you want to talk' and I said: 'No, because if I say anything I'll be killed'."

The witness also told the inquiry she was sexually assaulted by two different foster carers during two summer placements.

The inquiry heard a man who worked on the farm grabbed her and put his hand between her legs.

In another placement while she was watching television a man told her it was time to go to bed, he turned off the television and pushed her against the wall.

When she told the nuns she said they replied: "Go away, you're talking nonsense."

A 46-year-old former resident also gave evidence yesterday about his time in the Nazareth House and Termonbacca homes.

He described the moment he was told by a nun his mother had passed away.

"They called me over and she said 'I just got a phonecall there, your mother is dead' and she walked away and left me to deal with it on my own.

"It was like she ripped my heart out."

The inquiry continues.

FACTFILE

The Historical Abuse Inquiry (HIA) is considering cases in 13 residential institutions between 1922 and 1995. More than 300 men and women will give evidence to the HIA on the physical and sexual abuse and neglect they suffered from those who should have cared for them. The treatment of children in Church-run residential homes is a key concern of the inquiry in Banbridge, Co Down. It is chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart.

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