By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – A rape conviction against a former nun was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal just five days after she had received the maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The dramatic development came Tuesday after the Director of Public Prosecutions office applied to have the conviction set aside.
The question of whether there will be a retrial will be decided in
The nun, who had been sentenced to life in prison, and a co-accused were freed on bail.
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Nora Wall, 51, who was formerly Sister Dominic of the Order of Mercy, had been found guilty by a majority jury verdict last month of the rape of the girl in a religious-run child care center she was in charge of in the 1980s.
Her co-accused, homeless man Paul "Pablo" McCabe, 50, was jailed for 12 years.
Both had denied the charges during the seven-day trial.
The now 21-year-old victim, Regina Walsh, had claimed during the trial that she was raped in the home in 1987 and ’88 by McCabe while Sister Dominic held down her legs.
At the time, Wall had been director of the home in Cappoquin, Co.
Waterford, and guardian of the victim.
She was resident manager at the home from 1978-90 and left the Mercy order in 1994.
The appeal court was told a witness had been inadvertently called to give evidence at the trial against the advice of the DPP.
Other evidence had since come to light that might have been relevant to the trial.
Sister Coirle McCarthy, provincial leader of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, said in a statement after Wall was sentenced that the order acknowledged and shared "the deep hurt and suffering" of all those whose lives had been damaged by the case.
She said that the order’s superior general "had no knowledge of suspicion of sexual abuse" at the home when the former nun was removed in 1990.
Wall had been removed because of "serious management problems at the home and grave concerns about her fitness for the position of manager."
The statement did not explain what the problems were.
The order also said, "We need and call for an independent inquiry, at an appropriate time, into the events that led to today’s judgment."
The victim submitted a poem to the court called "A Stolen Childhood." It read: "My heart is up in my mouth,/ Tears sting my eyes,/A lump forms in my throat,/I clutch my stomach in pain knowing that I was raped. . . . Why had no one stopped this happening?/Were they afraid also/Of knowing the truth and the deception behind closed doors?"