SAVIA member makes call as hearings start into abuse at Ormeau care homes

Abuse campaigner calls for redress panel

Margaret McGuckian, abuse survivor of Nazareth House with other members of SAVIA in Little Victoria Street Margaret McGuckian, abuse survivor of Nazareth House with other members of SAVIA in Little Victoria Street
By David Whelan

A WOMAN who suffered abuse from the age of just three in a South Belfast children’s care home has called for the immediate implementation of a redress panel to allow victims the opportunity of justice before their deaths. Margaret McGuckian (58) was speaking as the latest phase of the Historical Abuse Inquiry began on Monday (January 5) at Banbridge Courthouse. This module is focused on claims of abuse at the former Nazareth House Children’s Home and Nazareth Lodge Children’s Home on the Ormeau Road and will be the biggest section of the inquiry with over 100 witnesses having come forward. A campaigner for the past seven years and a leading figure in the Survivors And Victims of Institutional Abuse group (Savia), Margaret lived at the Sisters of Nazareth run Nazareth House, between the ages of three and 11. She welcomed admissions from the order on Monday that abuse had taken place in their homes however she said only action would show a true level of remorse. “It’s been a long time campaigning and although I’m drained it’s been so worthwhile for so many people to have their voices heard and be able to speak out,” explained Margaret. “The sad thing is that because of the length of time, so many people are not around to see any form of justice. “There have been admissions from the church continued on page 10 and what they need to do now is to get redress panels in place because people who are mentally or physically ill or frail are passing away and they are going to enjoy no form of justice or family life. “If any type of remorse is to be truly shown, implementing a redress panel is what they need to do. It makes people’s lives a little easier and just to be kinder towards people, to show that they are sorry. “They can say it verbally but they need to have action behind it and mean it. “ The inquiry was established in 2013 by the Stormont executive to look into allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children, which occurred in residential homes across the north between 1922 and 1995. Notorious paedophile priest Brendan Smyth, who died in 1997, abused children at Nazareth Lodge and other institutions in the late 1970s. They are two of five Catholic Church run homes at the centre of the inquiry. Other facilities in the spotlight include local authority run homes, juvenile justice institutions and voluntary homes. Margaret, her sister and two brothers were placed in the care of the Nazareth Sisters when her parents broke up and her father struggled to raise four young children alone. She is scheduled to give evidence next month to the inquiry where she will tell of the “prison-like” conditions in which she was forced to live, separated from her siblings and beaten regularly until put out at the age of 11. “That’s been my thought, I’d have preferred to have been out on the street looking after myself than in there. We were locked away like criminals; they took our freedom from us. Returning from the first day of the inquiry on Monday Margaret said that she was still haunted by her past. “I keep myself busy to try and keep myself numb but now it’s getting very close and I’m hearing things that set off reminders,” she said. “The flash backs are getting worse, I pretend that everything is alright and that’s why I keep myself busy because I don’t want to think of that wee child, the child in me, because I know that it will break me.”

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