State inquiry into institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland to investigate 35 facilities

David Young

A STATE inquiry into historical institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland will initially investigate 35 residential facilities.

The locations comprise 15 state-run children's homes, 13 institutions run by Catholic Church orders, four borstals or training schools, and three institutions run by Protestant denominations or voluntary sector organisations.

Chairman of the inquiry Sir Anthony Hart revealed the number as he appealed for more abuse victims to come forward to tell their stories.

The statutory probe was set up by the Northern Ireland Executive to investigate institutions run by the state and church and also those owned by the private sector or voluntary bodies from 1922 to 1995.

More than 175 people have so far contacted the inquiry to outline their experiences in care, with around 90 interviewed to date.

Allegations made so far have led to the light being shone on the 35 facilities.

But if more victims come forward and make further claims, more institutions could be examined.

To date the inquiry has identified more than 170 facilities which operated during the time-period, including children's homes, orphanages, industrial schools, workhouses, borstals, hospital units and schools for children with disabilities.

The facilities were named on the applications of those wanting to come forward to the inquiry with claims of abuse. Sir Anthony said the sites would not be identified publicly at this stage of the probe.

The chairman added that only when his team had spoken to all of the individuals would it be determined if each of the sites would be subject to a full investigation.

He stressed that the number of organisations under potential investigation was fewer than the number of facilities, as one body or group may have operated a number of homes at different sites.

The chairman indicated that further facilities could yet come under focus.

"If we receive allegations from someone who was in a specific institution as a child, allegations that suggest children were abused in that institution, or if our own researches reveal evidence that suggest that children might have been abused in an institution even if no-one has come forward to make allegations about that institution, then we will investigate that institution," he said.

The majority of the 15 state-owned residential homes were run by local authorities. One was a workhouse which went out of existence just after the Second World War.

Of the three non-Catholic voluntary institutions under investigation, Sir Anthony said they were either associated with a Protestant denomination or were run by a secular organisation.