Mr Crowley reported as follows on his interview with Sr Alida: Sr Alida described her initiation to Goldenbridge as being told not to talk or take the attitude of Sr Felisa,18 who had been working with the children in care and had been critical of the service. Sr Alida recalls her early years in religious life as being dominated by fear. On reflection she cannot understand how she accepted so many demands and pressures without protest. She was trained by Sr Bianca, whom she describes as a very large powerful woman with a harsh aggressive and unpredictable personality. On reflection Sr Alida perceived the policies and practices of the 1950s and 1960s as being based on ignorance and failing to understand or care appropriately for the children. The use of former residents as staff was influenced by limited finance and tended to be limited to those who could not survive in aftercare. These were probably the most unsuitable people to care for vulnerable children. Older residents also cared for younger children in a semi formal system. She described much of the care as being “gang care”. Sr Alida identified Ms O’Shea19 as being one former resident who she understood was physically abusive. Sr Alida, in effect, acknowledged that she continuously shouted and beat children “too much and too long” and used a stick routinely. She tended to go to bed very late and this led to children being kept on the landing. Sr Alida acknowledges being confronted by a parent for threatening to place her daughter in the tumble dryer, she confirmed children’s involvement in activities such as grass cutting with their hands but minimised the impact on children. Hunger and humiliation were acknowledged with regret, when discussed in general terms, however specific allegations tended to be met with long silences and eventual comments such as “It could have happened accidentally”. Sr Alida did not in effect reject the substance of the allegations.
Some witnesses spoke of the difficulty in reaching their daily quota and being punished for not attaining it. The punishment could take the form of a slap there and then, by whoever was supervising the class, or sometimes they would be sent to the landing to await their punishment. Ms Thornton and Ms O’Shea at different times took charge of supervising the class, and both were considered to be violent individuals. A witness described it as follows: ... you had little pliers and wire and the wire was constantly digging into your skin and you just couldn’t work fast enough to reach the quota every day. We were lined up every night, those who hadn’t reached the quota and beaten.
Ms Garvin remembered Ms O’Shea, another lay worker and former resident, supervising the beads class. During her time in Goldenbridge from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, she went to the beads class most days before teatime, where she remembered seeing the girls chatting to each other and that music was playing. She insisted that the atmosphere in the beads room was pleasant, and she never saw a child being beaten in the beads room. There was, however, evidence that Ms O’Shea was violent and irascible.