Nearly 300 abuse allegations made against Nazareth Sisters

Sisters ‘exceptionally slow’ to take up responsibility for child safeguarding, says board

A total of 294 physical and emotional abuse allegations were made against 61 Nazareth Sisters, 40 now deceased. None was convicted in the courts. Just 115 were reported to police and health authorities.

Eight of the accused sisters remain in ministry, 13 accused are retired and one has left the congregation.

The Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children was “unable to assess the extent to which the Sisters of Nazareth have dealt with the allegations and concerns that have arisen, due to the unavailability of any contemporaneous case file records”.

Accept severe criticism

Further, the sisters had been "exceptionally slow to take up their responsibility for child safeguarding, and they have to accept severe criticism for this. The first Church guidelines were published in Ireland in 1996, but it was 2015 before the congregation appeared to take any real action; this is completely unacceptable".


At the time of the board’s review in August 2016 the congregation had “60 members, just one under 60. No sister had a ministry that involves children or young people”.

The Nazareth Sisters ran homes for children. Nazareth Lodge in Belfast and Nazareth House in Derry accommodated more than 6,000 children prior to closure of both in 1998.


Nazareth House, Portadown accommodated more than 1,000 infants before closure in 1984. A home they ran at Termonbacca, Co Derry, accommodated almost 2,000 boys before it closed in 1982.

All four were investigated by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland which reported last January.

Another Nazareth House in Sligo, for elderly poor people and for orphaned and destitute Catholic girls, closed in 1993.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times