A child migrant says he wasn’t told he was being sent to Australia when nuns put him on a ship, where he was sexually abused at a Catholic home.
A former child migrant from Northern Ireland to Australia has told a public inquiry he was transferred with no idea where he was going and faced more sexual abuse when he arrived in a Catholic home there.
Des McDaid, 70, said he was targeted by older boys, a lay teacher and members of the Christian Brothers religious order which ran the Clontarf institution near Perth in Western Australia.
Aged eight, he was not told where he was going when he was transferred on board the ship the New Australian.
He gave evidence to the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry, which was established by ministers in Belfast.
He said: “The big thing I want you to remember is the helplessness.”
He said he was raped by an older boy at the Termonbacca boys home in Londonderry run by an order of nuns and the pedophilia continued in Australia.
Using a video link from Australia, he said: “I had a lot more of it over here, from the Christian Brothers etc.”
The Sisters of Nazareth order of Catholic nuns in Northern Ireland was responsible for the removal of 111 child migrants aged as young as five before and after the Second World War, some of whom faced grave sexual and physical violence after arrival. Another 20 were sent by other institutions.
Many were Queensland-bound in eastern Australia because it was seen as a very Catholic state and considered best for the girls. Others went to Fremantle near Perth or other parts of Western Australia.
Reasons for transport included boosting “Catholicisation” in Australia, propping up the number of white inhabitants of the Empire or saving money and emptying overcrowded workhouses, the investigation heard.
McDaid, who has waived his right to anonymity and is originally from Co Donegal in the Irish Republic, was transferred from the custody of the Sisters to the Brothers in Australia with no idea where he was going.
While in Termonbacca, he was bathed in Jeyes cleaning fluid and thrown up in the air.
“By and large, there was more pain than there were good times,” he added on Tuesday.
In 1953, he arrived in Fremantle as part of the child migration scheme. He thought he was an orphan until the age of 48 when he had an emotional reunion with his mother, who McDaid said did not give her consent to the transfer.
She said: “Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me.”
Children in institutions in Northern Ireland were exported to Australia like “baby convicts”, another witness has told a public inquiry into historical abuse.
Survivors have given graphic details of their ordeals, according to inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart.
Approximately 130 young children, in the care of religious voluntary institutions or state bodies after being orphaned or taken away from unmarried mothers, became child migrants, most in the decade after the war.
The experiences of around 50 of them will be examined in person or via video-link and their statements furnished to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia.