One of the victims insists some of the abusers are still walking the streets of Rochdale and blames police for continued failings.
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Margaret McGuckin, who went into care at the age of three, said that the abuse she suffered started almost immediately.
She said: "I'd be beaten, trailed around and be near drowned in baths or with disinfectant. To be slapped and beaten with hard canes... and be locked in dark cupboards and rooms for hours."
Margaret McGuckin, who went into care at the age of three, has said that the beginning of public hearings into allegations of historical child abuse in church and state-run homes in Northern Ireland is "like a dream come true."
Ms McGuckin told ITV News Special Correspondent Rageh Omaar the start of the inquiry: "It was like a dream come true. After all these years I really didn't think I would see this day."
She added that despite social and religious divides across Ireland, "there's no divide where abuse is concerned."
The chairman of the largest ever child abuse inquiry in the UK has appealed for openness from residential homes alleged to be responsible.
Sir Anthony Hart said victims would at last have the satisfaction of knowing that their stories were being listened to.
"This may be a challenging process for everyone involved but it is our hope that everybody, whether from Government or from the institutions, who is requested to assist the inquiry will cooperate in a fair, a open and whole-hearted way so that this unique opportunity will not be wasted," said Hart.
More than 300 witnesses are expected to be called over the next 18 months.
A survivor of abuse in a Northern Ireland children's home said the lives of the young victims were "ruined" before they even had a chance to grow up.
Margaret McGuckin, who went into care at the age of three, said: "There was no kindness in there. The state, government and the religious orders need to admit the barbarity that happened."
The largest ever UK public inquiry into child abuse has begun with chairman Sir Anthony Hart making an opening address at Banbridge Courthouse in County Down.
The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is examining abuse claims in children's homes and juvenile justice in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period.
Retired senior judge Sir Anthony Hart will lead the public hearings into historical allegations of sexual abuse across a number of state and Church schools and homes for children across Northern Ireland.
Sir Anthony Hart's probe was ordered by Northern Ireland's executive after the problem was found to be "endemic" across similar institutions across the border in the south of Ireland.
The expert panel will investigate whether sexual, emotional or physical harm was inflicted upon children and if there were systemic failings by institutions or the state in their duties towards children in their care between 1922 and 1995.
More than 300 witnesses are due to give evidence
More than 300 witnesses from Northern Ireland, Australia, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain are expected to give evidence during the public hearings into allegations of historical abuse that will begin later today.
The inquiry will begin with a focus on two homes run by the Sister of Nazareth nuns in Derry, St Joseph's at Termonbacca and Nazareth House on Bishop Street.
Most of those giving evidence will do so in person, though some may only submit a written statement.
Public hearings into allegations of historical child abuse in church and state-run homes in Northern Ireland will begin later today. The hearings will be the biggest undertaken into historical allegations within the UK.
The inquiry is examining the extent of allegations of abuse in a number of state and church institutions: children's homes, orphanages, industrial schools, workhouses, borstals, hospital units and schools for disabled children.
A man who poses a "significant risk to children" is being hunted by Bristol police. Saber Haldari is wanted in connection with alleged child sex offences in Bristol, police said.
The suspect has links to both the Afghan and Iranian communities and may have travelled to Birmingham, London or Leeds since August.
According to police, Mr Haldari is described as about 5ft 8ins, of medium build, with short dark hair. He is clean-shaven and has a square face.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
This Serious Case Review, which has been heavily redacted, does not meet the standards of transparency and sharp analysis which we now expect and which best allows lessons to be learnt.
We understand there are particular legal constraints which have resulted in the heavy redactions.
We have consequently agreed with Rochdale LSCB that we will commission, early in the New Year, an examination of the evidence assembled by the SCR to explore whether an un-redacted document can be put into the public domain with a sharp and coherent analysis of what happened in this complex case and why.