A former West Midlands Police officer has accused victims of institutional childhood abuse of LYING to a Government inquiry to win compensation.
Labour Party activist Bernard McEldowney is due to stand for the Bromsgrove ward of Woodvale in the county council elections in May.
But the retired police inspector has sparked fury in Northern Ireland after attacking a Government inquiry looking at the institutional abuse of children, dating back decades.
Mr McEldowney claims the inquiry was ‘hijacked’ by people who lied to win compensation, including former residents of St Joseph’s Children’s Home in Londonderry - where he was a resident.
The home was one of 22 institutions investigated by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA), which looked at abuse allegations dating back decades.
The HIA published its findings last month and stated hundreds of children were physically and sexually abused and that they should receive and apology and compensation payments of up to £100,000 each.

St Joseph's at Termonbacca
St Joseph's at Termonbacca

But Mr McEldowney has criticised the pay-outs and defended the nuns at his former care home. He said: “What makes me extremely angry is that the reputations of many good nuns has been ruined due to the many lies that have been told to and believed by the HIA Inquiry.
“I am extremely disappointed with the conclusions that the inquiry has reached in relation to many of the allegations made to them.
“I am a former police officer and submitted a significant amount of evidence to the inquiry and in a number of cases I have been able to prove conclusively that some of the alleged victims from the Termonbacca module of the inquiry had lied.”
He added: “I have no problem with real victims having their abuse investigated and acknowledged by the authorities. The problem I have always had with the HIA Inquiry was that for many of the people who hijacked this inquiry, this was all about getting their grubby hands on compensation, even if it meant ruining the reputations of many good innocent people.”

Jon McCourt, pix courtesy of Derry Journal

But leading campaigner Jon McCourt, who had also lived at the now notorious nun-run St Joseph’s Children’s Home, said some abuse victims suicidal after Mr McEldowney’s claims were published in the Derry Journal.
He said: “I’ve had phone calls from victims who have been in tears and not knowing how to process how someone could accuse them of lying like this. There was one man left seriously suicidal by it.
“My fear has been that I would get a phone call from someone saying one victim was so badly affected by his words that they have been pushed over the edge.
“Victims are together in believing we should respond to his actions and words in the same way we reclaimed the truth about our childhoods - with dignity.”

Mr McEldowney spent 16 years at St Joseph’s in Termonbacca, Londonderry, which was run by Sisters of Nazareth nuns. He left in 1978 at the age of 18.
In an interview with the Derry Journal, he said: “Like many former residents of Termonbacca, I had a wonderful childhood at Termonbacca and will always be grateful to the nuns who cared for me for all those years.
“I was raised with many of the alleged victims from Termonbacca. We have socialised on many occasions over the past 40 plus years. At no time during any of those occasions did I hear any of them refer to the nuns or Termonbacca in a derogatory manner.”
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He added: “When the inquiry was established, it should have been made clear from the outset that compensation would not be considered and that the inquiry was being established solely to identify the failings of the various institutions and the State in order that relevant apologies or acknowledgments could be made to victims and that lessons could be learned for the future.
“The greater majority of us who resided in those homes enjoyed our childhood and will be eternally grateful to the nuns for the wonderful work they did for us.”
But Mr McCourt had told the inquiry he had been physically and sexually abused at the home where Mr McEldowney had been a younger resident.

Jon McCourt
Jon McCourt

The widely respected campaigner said: “There has been deep anger and embarrassment and pain and hurt amongst victims in response to what he has said. It’s literally been tearing some people apart.
“There was repeated physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children by nuns and also by older boys who were left in charge of the younger children when the nuns were not present.
“The inquiry Chairman, former High Court Judge Sir Anthony Hart, confirms in his report that, as well as physical abuse of children by both nuns and older boys, there was also prolific sexual abuse of children by some staff and by older boys who were left in charge.”

Mr McCourt was placed in care in 1955, along with his two brothers. He said: “The experience wasn’t pleasant. None of it was pleasant.
“The Institutions failed, Social Services failed,the Government failed and some of societies most vulnerable children suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse. I know, because I was a victim of all three over the course of ten years.
“I came out aged 14 and for years I tried to put it behind me. I lived a lie.
“Many things happened to me. A nun once hit me over the head with a wooden towel rail. I dropped to the ground and she beat me because I didn’t get up. Then she beat me because I wasn’t crying, then beat me because I was crying. I was ten years old.
“The same nun features in quite a few other victims’ statements.”

The toll on former residents has been horrific, said Mr McCourt, with a ‘significant’ number of deaths from either alcohol or suicide.
He said: “Over the years a number of ex-Termonbacca, boys have suffered horrible deaths. One poisoned himself and was found dead on his living room floor and another who was abused in the same home and in a series of others ended up killing himself in 1996.
“He was so exasperated that nothing had been done. He wasn’t listened to - he put a rope around his neck and hanged himself.”
Mr McCourt agreed there were some kind nuns but he said Mr McEldowney was wrong to insist that there was no widespread abuse.
He said: “McEldowney appears to have closed his eyes and shut his mind to the possibility that there was widespread abuse.
“There were 50 witnesses from Derry, there were 35 from Termonbacca alone who gave evidence about abuse at St. Josephs Home and the remainder came from another home in the City also run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
“Most of the allegations about the home were about abuse in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
“So the claims that the nuns were without blame does not stand up to scrutiny.”
Mr McEldowney is due to stand in the Worcestershire County Council elections in May.
Peter McDonald, leader of the Labour Party County Council group, said: “All I can say is that Bernard was speaking as an individual and they were his personal views and nothing to do with the Labour Party.
“Those are his views and they are not the views of the Labour Party. I cannot tell him what to say. He is saying what he believes and they are purely his views.
“If he becomes a Labour county councillor he will be expected to follow the collective decision and policy of the Labour group and will take on the collective responsibility.”

St Joseph's, pix coutesy of Derry Journal

Jon McCourt and fellow campaigners spent years calling for the inquiry into historical abuse in state and religious care homes in Northern Ireland.
Evidence heard was harrowing, but compelling, and justice finally arrived on January 20 when the inquiry team published its findings - vindicating victims and their claims of widespread and hidden abuse, dating back more than 70 years.
Mr McCourt said: “At the outset we had no idea about the scale of it. I thought we’d be lucky if after all this time, 50 people came forward.
“I had no idea 346 witnesses would come forward - of whom almost 200 had given evidence of having been abused in homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
“There were also 120 in Australia who were sent there under the notorious Child Migrant Act between the 1930’s and late 1950’s who gave evidence to the inquiry.
"They were included at my insistence. A very small number of former residents came forward to give evidence in support of the Institutions and religious orders, this was considered by the Inquiry and apparently outweighed by the body of evidence from those who were abused.
“One of the main purposes of seeking an inquiry was to get victims the counselling and support so many undoubtedly needed.
“This has not been about revenge. It’s about truth and healing and justice. And victims are absolutely entitled to it.
“They had their childhoods ruined and what happened wrecked many lives and stole some.”
He added: “My own sister was taken into care after my mother had a breakdown. She had registered with the inquiry and was due to give evidence as a witness.
“My mother died aged 98 in September 2012. The day after her funeral I took my sister to a cancer unit where she was diagnosed with throat cancer.
“She died three months afterwards. She didn’t get the chance to tell her story.
“So don’t anyone tell me that I have to listen to a guy like McEldowney say that I or others conspired to make up stories.