Belfast Telegraph

Nazareth House: Tragic child 'slapped for eating toxic berries'

By Deborah McAleese

A child at Nazareth House children's home who died after eating poisonous berries was slapped across the face by one of the nuns for making herself sick, a witness told the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.

The woman, who was a resident at Nazareth House from 1940 when she was aged three until she left in 1954, said her memory of the home was that it was very strict and that two nuns in particular were "very cruel".

She told the inquiry that one incident that stuck in her mind "as being very cruel" was one Saturday when some of the girls were out playing in the fields and one of the children ate berries.

"When she got back to Nazareth she was very sick. She went to (one of the nuns) who gave her a slap for eating the berries and making herself sick. She actually died that night from poisoned berries."

However, a lawyer told her that the girl's name was not on the list of people who had died at the home.

The woman replied: "It is vivid in my memory. The night she died (she) was in the infirmary and the nun came out and said 'she has gone to heaven'."

The woman, however, strenuously defended a nun who came to Nazareth House later in her residency.

"She was like a mother to us; it was happy times there. She changed the whole air in the house.

"In the summertime we would have nights with the radio on dancing and singing. That would never have happened in the earlier years," she said.

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