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Child abuse: Bathed in disinfectant, whipped with kettle flexes, beaten and forced to eat vomit... victims' harrowing testimonies


Kincora house on the Upper Newtownards Road in east Belfast

Kincora house on the Upper Newtownards Road in east Belfast

Rubane House, Kircubbin

Rubane House, Kircubbin


Kincora house on the Upper Newtownards Road in east Belfast

Harrowing accounts of how children were beaten and abused in care homes in Northern Ireland have dominated the news during 2014.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is investigating allegations between 1922 and 1995.

It was set up by the Executive to investigate institutions run by the State and churches or owned by the private sector or voluntary bodies. Victims have given a series of powerful testimonies of the abuse they suffered while in care.

The inquiry heard how children at homes run by nuns were made to eat their own vomit.

Some were also forced to bathe in disinfectant and beaten for wetting the bed.

Children at Sisters of Nazareth properties in Derry were known by their numbers rather than their names.

Abuse included physical assaults using sticks, straps and kettle flexes.

Another former resident described how nuns' treatment of children at Termonbacca care home "bordered on the psychotic".

He described the home as a "hell-hole" and likened it to a concentration camp.

Children were forced to clean floors in a chain, with their arms linked and rags under both feet, he recalled.

He also told the inquiry that the nuns used to bath the children in Jeyes fluid, claiming: "It was kind of like a Zyklon B gas chamber."

A female witness also told how she was beaten black and blue by nuns but didn't tell anyone for fear that she would be killed.

The woman, now 58, lived in Nazareth House in Derry from 1957 until 1969.

She recalled a "cruel" nun who beat her.

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

"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."

The inquiry has also heard how sex abuse was rampant at Rubane House in Co Down.

Around a fifth of boys were subjected to sexual or physical abuse, equal to if not worse than that at another notorious home, Kincora in east Belfast.

Rubane House was the subject of a police investigation in the 1990s.

Three De La Salle Order Brothers were charged but none convicted after their trials did not go ahead due to legal issues.

The inquiry has also heard how 131 children, some as young as five, were sent to Australia as child migrants.

One told how he was allowed to believe he was an orphan for over four decades.

He was 48 years old when he discovered that his mother was still alive.

Belfast Telegraph