UK & World News

  • 13 January 2014, 8:14

N Ireland Child Abuse Inquiry: Hundreds Respond

More than 400 people have applied to speak to the state inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland, the largest tribunal of its kind anywhere in the UK.

Most applications, some 280, were from people living in Northern Ireland, but 63 came from Great Britain, 61 from Australia, 20 from the Republic of Ireland and the remainder from elsewhere.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was established by the Stormont Executive this time last year and will hold its first public evidence session today at Banbridge Courthouse in County Down.

It has a remit to investigate historical child abuse and/or neglect in institutions over a 73-year period up to 1995 and is currently investigating 13 establishments, including Kincora Boys' Home in Belfast.

Kincora was the scene of a notorious sex scandal and while three members of staff were convicted in the 1980s, questions remain about who knew what and why it continued.

The inquiry's chairman, Sir Anthony Hart, a retired senior high court judge, will make a short statement before an opening address from senior counsel to the inquiry, Christine Smith QC.

More than 300 witnesses are expected to give evidence during the public sessions, the majority in person although some may give their evidence in writing or via a live video-link.

Applications to participate in the statutory inquiry are now closed but potential witnesses can still apply to speak to the Acknowledgment Forum, a less formal evidence-gathering process operating in parallel.

The first "thematic module of evidence" will focus on two former institutions run by the Sisters of Nazareth: St Joseph's Home and Nazareth House Children's Home, both in County Londonderry.

The public hearings are expected to continue until June 2015 and under the terms of reference, the inquiry must complete its investigation by mid-summer and submit its report by January 2016.

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