Final abuse report spanning a century concluded

A team that investigated historical child abuse at Northern Ireland residential homes has passed its final report to Stormont's leaders.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry heard harrowing testimony from hundreds of former residents who made claims of sexual, physical and emotional suffering over many decades in church, state and charity-run homes.

While the report is not due to be made public until late January, the panel has suggested it will be recommending some form of compensation be offered to victims.

Chair of the inquiry, Sir Anthony Hart, said, "I want to thank everyone who came forward to tell us of their experiences as I know how hard it was for many to find the courage to do so.

"I also want to thank all those who worked with the inquiry in a co-operative way, and by doing so helped my colleagues and myself to complete our report on time," the retired judge said.

The report has been submitted to the first and deputy first ministers at a time when the devolved insitutions are embroiled in a crisis around a mishandled green energy scheme.

Throughout 223 days of hearings, the inquiry heard outlined allegations of brutality and sex abuse dating back as far as the 1920's.

It finished with an investigation into a paedophile ring that operated at the notorious Kincora boys' home, east Belfast.

Earlier the expert panel heard lurid details about the activities of Fr Brendan Smyth, a serial child molester who frequented Catholic residential homes and was convicted of more than 100 child abuse charges.

Other former residents claimed some Catholic nuns at a Sisters of Nazareth children's home in Northern Ireland were sadistic bullies who did not do enough to protect residents from sexual predators.

A man alleged he was raped by a member of the Catholic De La Salle order of brothers using a piece of equipment for restraining farm animals. Police said sex abuse at Rubane House in Co Down was rife.

Children sent to Australia under a special transportation scheme were treated like baby convicts, witnesses said, deprived of their real identities and shipped without parental consent.

However, a health worker who visited Kincora said she was unaware of the abuse, while a lawyer told the public inquiry fewer than 2% of residents at a Catholic-run training school alleged mistreatment.

Others said they had been well cared for by overworked staff when they had nowhere else to go and when wider society had rejected them because they were born to unmarried mothers or were orphans.

Some were resident during the chaos of 1970s Belfast or Londonderry when The Troubles were at their fiercest.

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.

It was created in 2013 to investigate child abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period, up to 1995.

A spokesman for the Executive Office said, "The First Minister and Deputy First Minister thank Sir Anthony Hart and his colleagues for delivering the report within the time frame.

"Ministers remain sensitive to the views of all those who have suffered abuse and are mindful of the destructive impact it has had on many people.

"Ministers will give the report full consideration and will not be making any comment ahead of the report being formally published on 20 January 2017."