Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry examines Australian migration

By Rebecca Black

Witnesses, some in their 80s, will make a painful journey back to Northern Ireland from Australia to tell an inquiry of the abuse they suffered as children.

Some 66 children were removed from institutions in Northern Ireland between 1946 and 1956 as part of a UK government policy. They were sent to other institutions in Western Australia.

The child migration scheme will be the focus of the second part of the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, set to start on September 1 at Banbridge Courthouse.

A team from the inquiry has visited Australia twice and interviewed 66 people transported there from Northern Ireland.

The majority of these will give evidence from Australia via videolink. However, it is understood that some will make the long journey home to tell their stories.

An Australian newspaper has reported one victim has written of her abuse at the hands of nuns while on the voyage to Australia.

Meanwhile, an inquiry spokeswoman said it hoped to start the third part of the hearings at the end of September, concerning allegations of abuse at the former De La Salle Boys' Home, Rubane House, in Kircubbin, Co Down.

The inquiry started its public hearings in January focusing on two former children's homes in Londonderry which were run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

In May, a woman who was resident at Nazareth House from 1940 told the inquiry how a child was slapped in the face by a nun for eating toxic berries. The child died that night from the berries.

A senior nun with the order also told how nuns humiliated children if they wet their bed.

Sister Brenda McCall, a member of the Sisters of Nazareth Congregational Group, also said that nuns sometimes withheld letters from children's families to them.

And she confessed that in earlier days steps were not taken to encourage family relationships, with siblings often separated.

However, she added: "In later years the sisters strived to ensure all families were kept together."

Chaired by Sir Anthony Hart, the inquiry was formally established in January 2013 by the Stormont Executive with the remit to investigate child abuse which occurred in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period up to 1995.

The Inquiry's Freephone number within the UK is 080 0068 4935. From Australia, the Freephone number is 18 0067 5920.

Background

The Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is the biggest such probe ever held in the UK. It has been contacted by more than 400 people who claim they were abused in childhood. The inquiry is specifically examining allegations of child abuse in children's homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995.

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