Splitting up siblings in care was the norm, nun tells abuse inquiry
A nun has told an inquiry it was painful to see youngsters at a Catholic children’s home being separated from their siblings once they reached a certain age.
The witness said the practice at Nazareth House in Cardonald, Glasgow, in the 1970s was “not easy to do” but stopped short of branding it cruel.
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is examining a string of historical allegations of abuse at four homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
The probe, sitting in Edinburgh, heard on Tuesday how boys living at the Cardonald institution would be moved to another of the congregation’s homes in Aberdeen when they reached the age of 11.
“That was the norm in those days,” said the sister, who worked at Cardonald in the 1960s and 1970s.
The woman, who cannot be named and is now in her early 70s, said she did not remember many youngsters being sent to Aberdeen during her time.
Senior counsel to the inquiry, Colin MacAulay QC, put it to the witness that the practice could have meant siblings being separated.
She replied: “It was painful but it was beyond my control.”
The nun added: “If it was today, families would be kept together.”
The practice was driven by the type of accommodation available at the Glasgow home, the inquiry heard.
Mr MacAulay asked: “Would you describe it as a cruel practice to separate children, break up families?”
The sister replied: “It wasn’t easy to do.” She added: “It was more or less the best practice then.”
Referring to evidence from people who lost touch with their brothers and sisters, the QC continued: “It clearly had an impact on their lives, is that surprising?”
“No,” replied the witness.
The inquiry has been told of a variety of alleged abuses at the Nazareth House homes, including beatings, humiliation and force feeding.
The sister, who has no allegations against her personally, told the hearing the children in her care were given good food and smart clothes and that they had lots of leisure activities.
She said that force feeding never happened and said she did not see other nuns act abusively.
The witness described allegations surrounding the humiliation and punishment of children who wet the bed as “awful” but said she had never experienced anything like that happening during her time there.
The inquiry, before Lady Smith, continues today.
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