North's abuse victims demand inquiry similar to Ryan report

Hundreds of child abuse victims in the North demanded a full inquiry today into the mistreatment they suffered in institutions run by the Catholic Church and the state.

The victims have called for a major investigation similar to the Ryan report that catalogued abuse by Catholic clergy.

A lawyer for the victims said they suffered sexual and physical abuse in cases dating back to the 1940s, but believed they have been discriminated against since inquires in the Republic did not extend to the North.

Solicitor Joe Rice said he had written to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, plus Secretary of State Shaun Woodward, detailing the demand for an inquiry into child abuse in the jurisdiction during the last 70 years.

"We have instructions from a significant number of clients who have been, and are, the victims of abuse, whether sexual, emotional, physical or through neglect, in numerous church and state run institutions in Northern Ireland since 1947," the victims' letter read.

"It is apparent that the level of abuse was widespread and endemic and moreover that all the institutions involved had a duty of care to those children placed in their trust and responsibility under the different statutory frameworks in the post-war period."

Mr Rice said the cases related to a range of institutions, including homes run by the Catholic Church and the state which housed orphaned children, or those referred to the institutions by the courts.

The institutions would have been overseen by inspectors linked to the old Stormont government in the North, but took place in a time when he said the relevant authorities fell short of their duty to many of the children being held in care.

"We believe that the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Department of Education are the principal successors in title to those institutions and government departments throughout the years which had overarching responsibility for the care and welfare of children who were unable to be accommodated in their own homes," said the victims' letter.

Mr Rice said may of his clients had approached him and other solicitors following the release of the Ryan Report.

Earlier this year, the Ryan report into child abuse at institutions run by Catholic religious orders in the Republic found that sexual, physical and emotional abuse was endemic.

A major report into abuse in the Dublin archdiocese of the Catholic Church is also due to be published.

The North's abuse victims today called for a similar probe to highlight their suffering.

They asked Secretary of State Mr Woodward to fund the inquiry along the lines of the state-sponsored investigation conducted into an infamous child sex abuse scandal at Kincora Boys' Home in Belfast in the 1980s.

Mr Rice said the victims included former residents of the North now living in England and the US.

He said his clients had now asked the North's government to come forward with proposals on how to uncover the truth of child abuse in the North.

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