Health Minister Edwin Poots has denied there has been a cover-up of abuse at two hospitals in Northern Ireland.
However, he said he was “extremely annoyed” he was not briefed on complaints of abuse of children at Lissue and Forster Green Hospitals dating back to the 1980s before the issue was reported in the media.
The minister — who was addressing the Assembly on the scandal yesterday — also said his officials will share all information with the Historical Abuse Inquiry.
“There will never be, nor has there previously been, any form of a cover-up within the department or the health and social care service, though some individuals who may have been involved in abuse will have tried to cover their tracks,” he said. “I am determined that within my department it is clear that this behaviour was and remains unacceptable, and all historical abuse complaints will be dealt with seriously.
“I want to know what happened. I will demand answers about who was involved so that we can ensure that this type of behaviour is identified quickly and addressed urgently.”
Mr Poots said he came before the Assembly to acknowledge the situation, provide an assurance that nothing has been, is or will be hidden about what has happened, and explain there are improved systems in place to minimise risk to children and young people.
He said: “We have come a long way in the past 20 years in making our services for children more caring, safer and more child-centred.”
His comments came on the same day he launched a report which revealed two-thirds of girls in care homes in Northern Ireland are at risk of sexual exploitation.
The Historical Abuse Inquiry was ordered in 2009 in the wake of the Ryan Report in the Republic, and will investigate abuse in the Catholic Church and State-run institutions from as far back as 1945. Lissue Children's Hospital near Lisburn and Forster Green in Belfast were subjects of a 2009 abuse report.