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Centre Defends Hiring of Abusive Former Nun

The Sunday Tribune, May 23, 2010 by John Downes, News Investigations Correspondent

Gerry Kelly: ostracised after he made allegations against Nora Wall

Nora Wall: accused of abuse in Ryan report

The founder of the Cuan Mhuire centre in Athy, which treats vulnerable people with drug and alcohol problems, has defended its decision to allow the former Mercy nun Nora Wall to continue to work there despite the findings of the Ryan report in relation to her.

The report said that Wall – given the pseudonym St Callida in the report when it was published 12 months ago – 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.

It also highlighted how she engaged in lesbian relationships while in charge at the centre, would consume alcohol to excess in front of the children, and would take children away for weekends to stay in hotel "family rooms".

According to one of those interviewed in the report, she and her female partner would typically share one bed while the children would share other beds in the same room.

Sr Consilio Fitzgerald, founder of the internationally respected Cuan Mhuire group of treatment centres, told the Sunday Tribune that Wall is employed as a full-time gardener at Cuan Mhuire in Athy.

Set on 49 acres of land, the centre's land and the cultivation of its produce is a "central part of the rehabilitation programme," its website states.

But Fitzgerald said she was not aware of the Ryan report's concerns in relation to Wall's time at Cappoquin, adding that she was "very happy" with her work at Cuan Mhuire.

"Nora Wall gets up every morning and gets on with her gardening. She keeps quite busy," she said. "I never considered changing her role. She gets up and gets on with it. She's helping with our preparations here. She just works in the garden on her own. She has her work to do and does it faithfully and does it very well here."

Former Cappoquin resident Gerry Kelly, who was sexually and physically abused at the Artane Industrial School.

But he said he was "ostracised" in Cappoquin after he tried to raise his concerns. This included going public in 1999 with his claim that when he returned to the centre as an adult in 1979, Wall – who went by the name Sr Dominic – invited him to join her and another nun in bed together.

"I couldn't have made that up. Why would you make something like that up?" he told the Sunday Tribune. Kelly suffered a stroke seven years ago which he attributes to the stress of his childhood experiences.

Wall, who is in her early 60s, 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 in 2005 after it emerged that evidence had been given by a witness known to be unreliable.

She has since launched a High Court challenge to the alleged refusal of the state to make a decision on her claim for compensation over a miscarriage of justice in her case.