A public inquiry has been ordered to investigate allegations of abuse, both sexual and physical, at residential care homes run by Sisters of Nazareth nuns in Derry. Ex-residents of Nazareth House and St Joseph’s Home in Termonbacca, which were run by Nazareth nuns, have now come forward to talk about their childhood experiences. 

The inquiry has heard that children were forced to eat their own vomit when they were ill, were beaten for bed-wetting, had soiled sheets placed on their head as punishment and were made to bathe in Jeyes fluid, which stung their skin and eyes.  Others have said the nuns beat them with sticks and straps. They were also beaten by older boys.  They were locked in cupboards and if they refused to cooperate, they were told they would be transferred to a mental hospital.  These are only some of the humiliating and horrifying allegations that have come to light during the inquiry.

Former residents who have given testimony have spoken of sexual abuse by older children as well as employees, visiting priests and in one instance a nun.  It is alleged that bullying was rife at the homes.  Children were forced to wash the floors linked in a chain, others were made to work on farms or in the home’s laundry when they were supposed to be receiving an education.

The inquiry, taking place at Banbridge in County Down, is the UK’s largest public inquiry into institutional child abuse. It is reported to be costing up to £19 million.  These homes are among a total of 16 residential institutions currently under investigation by the inquiry, which covers the period 1922 to 1995.  Some of the institutions were run by the state, others by voluntary organisations, with the remainder operated by the Catholic Church.  The public hearings are not expected to finish until June 2015.

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