Dozens of ex-residents of the Irish Catholic children’s home Termonbacca have recently come forward with accounts of sexual and physical abuse that they say occurred there decades ago.
Some of them reported slave-like conditions for the kids, referring to nuns kicking or caning residents considered not to be enthusiastic enough about scrubbing floors. One witness testified that a nun hit him so hard and so often in the head when he was a child that he suffered permanent hearing loss. Another was told that he was the son of the devil because his mother was unmarried when she got pregnant.
The witnesses claim that the nuns were rarely shy about meting out punishment.
Among the chronicled misdeeds:
- Humiliating children for bed wetting, forcing them to stand with the sheets on their heads and beating them as punishment.
- Forced farm labouring or working in the laundry instead of going to school.
- Removal of Christmas presents and other personal items.
- Calling children by numbers rather than names.
- Leaving youngsters hungry through inadequate food or alternately force feeding.
- Some people who contacted the inquiry claimed when they were ill they were forced to eat their own vomit.
- Inadequate staffing and supervision and lack of medical attention.
The treatment the young residents endured is remarkably similar to the horrors visited upon teenagers in the Magdalene Laundries, homes for Ireland’s “wayward girls.”
With regards to Termonbacca, a man who is a southpaw told the inquiry panel that’s looking into the abuse
… “I remember, when I was about five years old, being constantly beaten by one particular nun, to get me to stop writing with my left hand.”
The home was run by the Sisters of Nazareth. Last month, a lawyer for the order issued an apology on behalf of the nuns. It read:
“[The sisters] recognize the hurt that’s been caused to some children in their care. They apologize unreservedly for any abuse suffered by children in their care. They go forward hoping that lessons will be learned, not just by them in the provision of care, but also by carers generally in society and in wider society at large.”
More than 400 people have contacted the committee claiming to have suffered abuse. The inquiry, which also spans one dozen other Catholic homes for children, continues.
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