Sr Renata5 completed a childcare course in Kilkenny in 1974, and Sr Sofia and Sr Olivia6 attended an in-service training course in Goldenbridge on Saturdays the same year.
Sr Olivia,9 taught the children spelling, and the witness remembered not being able to spell the word ‘colour’. The Sister hit her with a hand brush four or five times. She said, ‘Sometimes when you cried that seemed to encourage them to hit more’. She recalled other occasions on which she was beaten by the same Sister, including an incident in which she was beaten for not being able to read a passage from the Bible.
This witness made allegations of physical abuse against Sr Olivia who denied them. Sr Olivia did confirm that her usual method of administering punishment was to slap children. She accepted that occasionally she thumped the children. She added that this did not happen often and she was not aggressive with the children, but accepted that some degree of force was involved and that she would always regret it afterwards. She stated that, if she felt that she had punished the children unfairly, she would talk to them about it afterwards. Sr Olivia did not recall ever speaking to this witness referred to above after a punishment.
Sr Olivia furnished an additional statement dealing with the allegations made against her. In this later statement, she accepted that she occasionally used a hand brush to punish children, whereas in her first statement she stated that she slapped children with her hand only. She explained that initially she was devastated by the allegations made and was confused. She did not want to implicate any other Sister, or indeed herself, by conceding that they used a hand brush to administer punishment. She went for counselling and came to terms with the fact that they had in fact used a hand brush for this purpose. As conditions improved in Clifden, this method of punishment was used less frequently.
Sr Olivia accepted that, particularly during her early years in Clifden, it was a cold, bleak place with little room to show love or affection to the children.