‘I have not eaten properly in my life’ says ex patient

Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A former patient of Lissue Children’s Hospital says he has ‘not eaten properly in (his) life’ and traces that back to his time spent at the institution.

The first witness to give evidence about the Lisburn Hospital as part of the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry claims he was beaten with a metal spoon and left to stand in his urine. He was just two when a patient at the hospital.

The man had suffered a series of illnesses in early life, including tuberculosis, leading to him being sent to Lissue.

He became a patient at the hospital in August 1951, when aged 23 months. He spent 10 months in the facility, where he says he “never (recalls) being happy, even when (his) mother came to visit.”

The man says he remembers “being hit on the forehead with a spoon” and also on the chin. He believes that was an attempt to encourage him to eat and, he says, has had lasting consequences.

“I have not eaten properly in my life,” he said.

“I couldn’t eat in public... Even my own family haven’t seen me eat.”

The witness described being kept in a “cell” like room on his own for long periods of time, left naked with just a bed to lie on, a rubber mattress with no bed sheets.

Another memory he recalled was “holding onto the bars of the cot when a nurse came in and beat me.”

“She shook me very hard, she threw me down on the mattess. I was so scared I wet myself. I had no nappy on and remember standing in a pile of urine,” he continued.

Speaking of the staff in the Lisburn Hospital, the man said he recalled a male nurse “exposing himself”, although said he was not physically sexually assaulted at Lissue.

He also recalled a nurse who was particularly cruel to him and claimed it was mostly the “young” nurses who had abused him.

The man’s mother was herself abused as a child in Nazareth House in Belfast but her son recalled that his mother always “believed I received the best treatment” at Lissue. That was until 2005, when he told her of his treatment two years before her death.

He said he came to the inquiry in search of “some sort of closure.”

Meanwhile, a woman who spent four weeks in Lissue in the 70s, along with her brother, recalled memories of being physically restrained by “two or three” nursing staff who she claimed pinned her down with one person on top of her and others holding her arms and legs, until she was physically sick.

She also told the inquiry that her brother was put in a “mummy” jacket, something she now recognises as a straitjacket. That, however, is a form of restraint that the hospital denies using on children under its care.