A FORMER Mercy nun, who had her conviction for the rape of a child quashed, beat children in her care and exposed them to "additional risk" by allowing male outsiders to stay overnight at St Michael's home in Cappoquin, Co Waterford, according to the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
It also emerged this weekend that the contribution of the 18 religious congregations involved in the controversial €127m indemnity deal amounts to just €8,777 per known victim to date.
Nora Wall (61), who is given the pseudonym Sister Callida in the report, had her conviction for the rape of a 10-year-old girl in the same home declared a miscarriage of justice by the Court of Criminal Appeal after it emerged that evidence had been given by a witness known to be unreliable. Her co-accused, a homeless man Pablo McCabe, who has since died, also had his 1999 conviction for the same offence overturned.
In its findings in relation to the Cappoquin home, the report says it was wrong for her to allow children to sleep over in her bedroom and expresses concern that she would consume alcohol "in front of the children to excess".
Wall , who was then known as Sr Dominic, was the nun in charge of St Michael's from the 1970s until the early 1990s, when she was dismissed. The manager who replaced her found she had a close friendship with a senior social worker and the pair blocked his efforts to make changes.
Elsewhere, the report highlights attempts by workers in the home to notify the authorities of their concerns about 'Sr Callida' and their wider concerns about the standards of care which the "dirty scruffy" children were receiving there. Her drink of choice in the home was usually whiskey, and she was "well noted in the town" for her drinking and would be seen "out at nightclubs", according to one interviewee.
But the report notes that moves to monitor her were complicated by the fact that she enjoyed a "close intimate relationship" with at least one of the two nuns sent in to help oversee her behaviour after concerns were raised with the authorities.
"It was wrong for the resident manager to have children sleeping in her bedroom and for her and the nun with whom she was conducting a relationship to take children away for weekends to hotels to stay in 'family rooms'," the report notes.
Wall and her partner would typically share one bed while the children would share other beds in the same room, according to one of those interviewed in the report.
A former employee who worked at Cappoquin from the early to late 1980s said children there were afraid of Wall and that she had personally witnessed a child with marks on her leg as a result of a beating from the nun. "It was the first time I had seen marks on a child there," she said.
Another former care worker said ex-residents "frequently" arrived at the home and were allowed to sleep over. "One particular ex-resident was an older man with a history of alcohol and drug abuse. The children were terrified of him," the report states.
When asked by the inquiry whether she had ever beaten any of the children, Wall said there were three episodes that stood out in her mind. She accepted that there were times when she drank a lot, but did not agree with the "bigness" of her drinking as claimed by witnesses to the inquiry. She also rejected claims that she had a domineering management style and said visitors who stayed overnight were not allowed to "roam around."
Wall appeared to accept she had an intimate relationship with one of the two nuns sent in to monitor her, but denied that such a relationship existed with the second nun. "The one I acknowledge had nothing to do with the house. In my room there were two beds and we had a bed each and that was that. But there was an occasion or two outside of the home when it wasn't appropriate," she said.
Meanwhile, it emerged this weekend that the contribution of the 18 religious congregations involved in the controversial €127m indemnity deal amounts to just €8,777 per known victim to date. This is less than 14% of the average award of €63,320 made to 14,584 former residents of the homes.
Despite the religious congregations committing themselves to making "a meaningful contribution" to the compensation scheme, they haggled over the value of virtually every one of the 60 properties handed over to the state. They also succeeded in getting over €40m of properties handed over before 2002 credited towards their final contribution. To date, they have not fully handed over €31m worth of properties.
A leading legal expert yesterday insisted that the government could legitimately declare the deal with the religious orders to be void. Gary Fitzgerald, a barrister and lecturer in contract law, who recently won a landmark case against the government on cabinet confidentiality, said the notion that the deal cannot be renegotiated for legal reasons is "wrong".
"The government, on behalf of the taxpayer, signed a contract in 2002 based on its understanding of the level of abuse and now we're uncovering the reality of what happened – a much higher level of abuse. That means the contract may be void," said Fitzgerald who is a Green candidate in council elections in Dublin.
There were queues outside the Mansion House in Dublin from early yesterday morning after the lord mayor of Dublin, Eibhlin Byrne, opened a book of condolences for the victims of child abuse in Ireland. Over 500 people signed the book throughout the course of the day.
Byrne said: "It has been a very sad day and we can only imagine the pain that the victims have gone through. However, it is heartening to see so many ordinary Dublin people coming out to offer their thoughts and support to the many victims."