Ms Tierney11 started work in Group Home A in the late 1980s when she was aged 20 years. She had no experience in childcare, having worked in an office previously: [Group Home A]. My first impressions were of all these dirty scruffy children. That is an awful thing to call them but that’s what it was. It was just a chaotic house and there were just children everywhere. The first day I went there Callida was on her own and there were just small children all around the house, all over the place, and the house was very shabby as well ... At the time I started there, there were 10 to 12 children living in the house ... 6 months to 16 years. It was just a very chaotic place to work. I didn’t really understand the workings of the place or anything like that. As a staff team everyone seemed to be afraid of Callida. Any time I would answer the phone it was like "is she there?" That was the first reaction, "Is she there?”
Ms Tierney said that Sr Serena,12 the Superior of the convent often stayed overnight in Group Home A with Sr Callida. This Sister did not interact with the staff at all but, she said, had a particular child whom she singled out for attention and whom she would keep with her during her visits to Group Home A: She just was around all the time. She was around all the time ... Every day after work she would come and she would call into our place most days after work. It was a regular occurrence. She would stay and wander around and she would be down to Callida. She had a little pet that was her little pet, one of the kids that was there, and she would come in and she would make a big fuss over this child and hold her hand and wander around and really make the rest of the kids feel very inferior to this one particular child.
Ms Tierney recalled one occasion when a man walked into the Home accompanied by two other men and took his children away. Sr Callida left within half an hour and did not return for two days. In the meantime, this young care-worker did not know where the children were or whether the Gardaí had been informed about their removal. She said she was very traumatised by the incident and was frightened that the father would come back in the night.
Ms Tierney was uneasy caring for the children in the house on her own: You would have them coming and going during the days. At the weekend, you wouldn’t know who – you just never knew who was going to turn up at the place or what was going to happen. It was just chaos.