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Friday, 20 January 2017

Shocking instances of historic child abuse outlined in four-year inquiry report

Written by The Press Association

Shocking instances of historic child abuse in institutions in Northern Ireland have been outlined in the findings of the region's four-year inquiry into mistreatment of residents.

Probe chairman Sir Anthony Hart has begun announcing the conclusions of the wide-ranging report in Belfast - a statement that is due to last in excess of two hours.

The retired judge is dealing with the 22 church, state and charity-run homes in sequence.

At the start of his statement, he said 189 former residents came forward from four homes run by nuns in the Sisters of Nazareth Order to make allegations of maltreatment.

He said some nuns engaged in "physical and emotional abuse" of children, with the "denigration and humiliation" of residents widespread.

Turning to a home run by the Catholic De La Salle order, Sir Anthony said children were subject to "excessive physical punishment" and fell victim to "physical assaults".

He said "systemic" physical, emotional and sexual abuse took place at the De La Salle run St Patrick's Training School in Belfast.

He said children were often humiliated, such as being stripped of their clothes and forced to stand naked.

Sir Anthony said there was evidence of "corporal punishment" and staff sexually abusing girls at the Rathgael Training School in Bangor.

In regard to the Good Shepherd Sisters facilities in Belfast, Londonderry and Newry, the retired judge said there had been "unacceptable practices" of young girls being forced to do industrial work in the laundries.

In Lissue House, Lisburn, he said there was an unacceptable use of physical restraints, use of injections to sedate children, some children sexually abused and emotional abuse by "unfeeling" staff.

The inquiry also found failings by the Diocese of Down and Connor, the County Welfare Authorities/Health and Social Services Board, the Ministry of Home Affairs/ Department of Health and Social Services and local and statutory authorities.

Evidence from hundreds of witnesses during 223 days of inquiry hearings outlined claims of brutality and sex abuse dating back to the 1920s in institutions run by churches, the State and Barnardo's charity.

Sir Anthony has already indicated that compensating victims will be among his recommendations.

But it is uncertain when action will be taken as crisis engulfs power-sharing at Stormont and as new elections loom.

The public inquiry was ordered by Stormont's ministerial Executive following pressure from alleged victims and similar probes in the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere.

The HIA inquiry and its workings

What is the HIA?

Men and women, who were vulnerable children in care in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995, have come before the public inquiry to give accounts of abuse in their childhood while in residential institutions run by the state and religious orders.

It was established by Northern Ireland's powersharing government to make recommendations on redress for past harm.

Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart chaired a panel of three which heard evidence in open session alongside an acknowledgement forum for private story-telling.

What issues did it address?

It was established to probe allegations of sexual, physical and emotional harm inflicted on children while they were in care.

They suffered the abuse while in the care of churches, the state and the charity Barnardo's. Some others were abused by notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth.

Why were they in care?

Some came from poverty-stricken homes or were orphans.

Others were institutionalised because their mothers were not married, frowned upon by the Catholic church at the time.

Often they did not know their siblings were being cared for in the same institution. One said he did not even know what a mother was.

What do they want from the inquiry?

Many are seeking cash compensation. Others want a memorial to those who allegedly suffered at the hands of uncaring orders or staff.

Sir Anthony has already said there should be an award of compensation to those children who suffered abuse.

Compensating everybody who spent time in a residential home in Northern Ireland run by or on behalf of the state could cost £300 million, a lawyer who specialises in such cases suggested.

A group of survivors is calling for a common experience payment of £10,000 per resident and an additional payment of £3,000 for each year spent in an institution.

Each person could then apply for a further "top-up" award to reflect any abusive experiences suffered in the institution.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Pictured - Kincora Boys Home in Belfast - (c) Niall Carson / PA Wire.