Some Catholic nuns at a children’s home in the North were sadistic bullies, a former resident has claimed.
A “bleak, harsh and cruel” atmosphere was described by alleged victims at two properties in Belfast run by the Sisters of Nazareth Order, a lawyer told a public inquiry.
More than 100 witnesses from Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge have come forward to the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry, headed by a former judge.
Thirteen institutions are being considered by the inquiry panel, which is tasked with making recommendations to Stormont ministers on issues such as compensating alleged victims.
Senior counsel to the inquiry Christine Smith QC quoted one witness, saying: “The nuns were at best indifferent and most often sadistic bullies who spoke with harsh, loud voices in scornful, dismissive tones.”
Ms Smith said the picture was mixed – another child missed the nuns and said they made sacrifices for the youngsters.
But she added that paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth was active there.
“There will be evidence given in this module that he abused children both in Nazareth House and in Nazareth Lodge in Belfast.”
Ms Smith said 102 witnesses have come forward, and more than 90 are expected to give evidence.
The module surrounding Nazareth Lodge and Nazareth House will take more than 40 days, the single biggest in terms of the number of witnesses.
Homes runs by the Sisters in Derry and by the De La Salle order of religious brothers in Rubane House in Kircubbin, Co Down, have already been investigated and testimony taken from children sent by the institutions as migrants to Australia.
The inquiry was established to investigate child abuse in institutional homes in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period, up to 1995.