HUNDREDS of victims of historic child abuse in Northern Ireland should receive a government-funded compensation payout and an official apology, a major inquiry has found.
The Stormont Executive should offer a tax-free lump sum payout to those abused in state, church and charity-run homes in the region between 1922 and 1995, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry found.
Inquiry chair Sir Anthony Hart said the executive and the organisations that ran homes where abuse occurred should offer a “wholehearted and unconditional” apology.
Sir Anthony outlined a series of recommendations after he revealed shocking levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse in a number of children’s homes.
The fate of Sir Anthony’s recommendation is mired in a degree of uncertainty given the recent Stormont crisis has resulted in the collapse of the current powersharing executive.
The retired judge said the redress scheme needed to be set up as a “matter of urgency”.
He also recommended that the Northern Ireland Executive should create a body called the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Redress Board.
The board would receive and process claims and payments, said the chairman.
The inquiry also recommended that a “suitable physical memorial” should be erected in Parliament Buildings in Belfast or in the grounds of Stormont estate.
It also called for the creation of a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse to offer victims support and assistance.
It recommended the provision of extra state funding to provide specialist care for victims.
Evidence from hundreds of witnesses during 223 days of hearings outlined claims of brutality and sex abuse dating back to the 1920s in institutions run by churches and the state.
Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart chaired an independent panel which investigated, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry, helped by a team of lawyers and researchers.
But it is uncertain when action will be taken as crisis engulfs powersharing 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.
It was created in 2013 to investigate child abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period, up to 1995.
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.