The largest inquiry in the United Kingdom’s legal history with regard to child abuse is ongoing after news broke that Sisters of Nazareth nuns from Northern Ireland forced children under their care to eat their own vomit and wear soiled sheets. 16 church- and state-run care homes, orphanages and other institutions could face civil lawsuits for historic institutional abuse and 434 people have already agreed to offer evidence that children in care homes in Derry, Northern Ireland have been living in a “hell hole.”
The Statutory Inquiry which accuses Sisters of Nazareth nuns of forcing children to eat their own vomit and other abominable acts will cover allegations over a period of 73 years, from 1922 to 1995 in an investigation chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart. The inquiry is led by Christine Smith, senior counsel who also invoked a report written in 1953 by Kathleen Forest, inspector for the government’s home affairs department, in which she mentioned that the homes were depressing and the feeling she got was that “these hundreds of children are being reared in bleak lovelessness.”
Sisters of Nazareth became the first religious order that apologized for the way in which children were treated in their care, followed by the Catholic order De La Salle Brothers, which also expressed remorse with regard to the abuse children suffered in their care homes. Witnesses who wished to remain anonymous shared information with regard to they way in which children were treated. The infants who wet the bed were first beaten and then forced to wear the dirty sheets and those who were ill were forced to eat their own vomit and afterwards bathe in disinfectant. Abominable acts like ordering the children to work on farms rather than go to school and beating them with kettle flexes, sticks and straps were among the ways in which nuns treated the minors.
One witness told the inquiry that every day spent with the Sisters of Nazareth nuns was intolerable and something as simple as facing another day “was torture.” Another former infant who was in the nuns’ care mentioned that he recalls being beaten on a daily basis and wetting the bed with regularity; the witness is now 74 years old.
The Sisters of Nazareth order ran two homes in Londonderry and Termonbacca, but all children received the same treatment. The infants were known by numbers are were locked in closets. One witness told the inquiry that he was sexually abused by a woman, although he could not recall whether the female was a civil worker or a nun. However, this is not the first time Nazareth House faces a sexual abuse allegation; in 1996, the police investigated a case forwarded by two people who accused the same person. Although the individual was dismissed, over 400 witnesses mention that the sexual abuse continued and that nuns from the order Sisters of Nazareth were borderline psychotic.
The inquiry is expected to cost up to £19 million, but unless the tribunal reveals evidence of crimes, the nuns cannot be found guilty of any criminal offence. Northern Ireland social care transmitted its apology “if the state had failed in any way” through a representative of its board, but the religious orders are now under scrutiny in a public inquiry which is expected to last until June 2015. Sister of Nazareth nuns have been accused of forcing children under their care to eat their own vomit and wear dirty sheets after wetting the bed.
By Gabriela Motroc