Newry Good Shepherd Sisters under spotlight at HIA inquiry

March 14, 2016

The former Good Shepherd Sisters in the Marian Vale mother and baby home in Newry came under the spotlight at the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry which reconvened at Banbridge Courthouse on Monday last.

The long-running Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry focussed on alleged incidents of child abuse at a number of institutions run by the Good Shepherd Sisters, located in Newry, Belfast and Derry.

Former residents of the Newry facility who gave birth there as teenagers gave evidence at the public inquiry, including one woman who claims that her baby was illegally taken away from her at the Marian Vale home using forged adoption papers.

Ten people have made claims to the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry about the Good Shepherd Sisters. The claims centre on alleged emotional abuse, slapping and the quality of food provided in homes during spells in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Good Shepherd Sisters are challenging the allegations and the inquiry is expected to span across two weeks.

Proceedings began on Monday with a short opening from inquiry chairman, retired high court judge Sir Anthony Hart, before barrister and counsel to the inquiry, Joseph Aiken, provided an overview of matters relating to the institutions run by the Good Shepherd Sisters.

The HIA inquiry was set up by the Executive in 2013 to investigate the extent of abuse in  state and church run residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.  So far 22 institutions have been investigated by the HIA and it is expected that more than 450 witnesses will have provided oral testimony by the time it concludes public evidence sessions this summer.

For now the HIA will only focus on individual claims of women under 18 at the time of residence in Good Shepherd Sisters’ institutions but an inter-departmental working group led by the Department of Health is set to make recommendations on the scope of any proposed future inquiry into mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries.

Sir Anthony is expected to submit his findings to the Northern Ireland Executive by January next year.