Smyllum child abuse inquiry: Survivors’ group criticise ‘unconvincing’ apologies

The former Smyllum Park Orphanage (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The former Smyllum Park Orphanage (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

 

A survivors’ group has criticised “unconvincing” apologies issued by a religious order which ran a notorious care home where children were allegedly abused.

John Scott QC, representing the group In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), claimed the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul had shown a “sceptical attitude” amid allegations of historical abuses said to have taken place at Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark.

He accused the order of being more interested in its previous “good name” than the experiences of people who were once in their care.

The Daughters of Charity later insisted their apology was “unqualified and unequivocal”.

The statements took place at Scotland’s Child Abuse Inquiry as chair Lady Smith heard submissions from core participants to the probe following evidence about Smyllum.

The inquiry has heard evidence over 20 days about the institution, which shut its doors in 1981.

Dozens of former residents have testified that they receiving beatings and were mis-treated as children at the home.

Smyllum abuse inquiry: Nun offers apology

The Daughters of Charity has previously issued written statements to the inquiry and the probe last week heard from safeguarding head Sister Eileen Glancy and Sister Ellen Flynn, the current head of the order, who offered “sincere apologies” to anyone who was abused the order’s care.

Addressing Lady Smith, Mr Scott said much of the testimony had been powerful and difficult to listen to.

“Many of those survivors who have given evidence wish it to be known that they felt like they have finally been heard,” he said.

He went on: “Unfortunately it seems to many survivors that they have not been heard by the Daughters of Charity whose sceptical attitude continues to pervade their official response.”

He said he had no doubt the upset of the senior nuns last week was genuine but added: “I regret that their purported apology was unconvincing for survivors”.

The QC criticised previous statements of apology submitted to the inquiry and said they were “only meaningful if supported by a repentant attitude”.

Smyllum inquiry: Nun says she would slap children on hand when they misbehaved

“It seems to some survivors that the Daughters of Charity have continued to be more interested in what was once the good name of their order and Smyllum Park orphanage,” he said.

“Survivors have heard no sincere and heartfelt apology and therefore no apology at all.

“It appears to survivors that the Daughters of Charity simply refuse to recognise what happened to children in their care.”

The inquiry previously heard from around a dozen nuns who typically presented a view that Smyllum was a “happy and idyllic” place, the inquiry heard.

But Mr Scott insisted: “I suggest it is absolutely clear that abuse happened in their homes.”

He invited Lady Smith to make a number of findings in fact, including that many children were deprived of affection at Smyllum, that families were separated, some records were destroyed, special occasions like birthdays were not recognised, that some children were forced to eat, verbally abused and punished and humiliated for wetting the bed.

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