Belfast Telegraph

HIA inquiry to investigate three more NI state-run institutions and will focus on paedophile priest Brendan Smyth

By Michael McHugh

Northern Ireland's public inquiry in to child abuse is to investigate three more state-run institutions, the chairman said.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry has extended its work to cover Hydebank Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast and former homes at Fort James and Harberton House, Londonderry.

Another section will focus on issues arising from the actions of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth, a serial child molester who frequented some Catholic residential homes, according to HIA chairman Sir Anthony Hart.

He is heading what was the UK's largest probe into child abuse and has been investigating homes run by religious orders of nuns and brothers.

Sir Anthony said: "Today we wish to announce that we are adding three more institutions to the list, and one individual, bringing the total of homes and matters to be investigated to 18.

"Fort James and Harberton House, both statutory homes in Londonderry, will be dealt with together in module five, which will take place next month.

"It will be followed by module six, which will examine issues arising from the actions of Fr Brendan Smyth in a number of homes in Northern Ireland, actions which have been described by a number of witnesses who have already given evidence to the Inquiry."

The treatment of children in church-run residential homes is a key concern of the investigation, which is considering cases between 1922 - when Northern Ireland was founded - and 1995.

Victims have alleged they were subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The inquiry does not have the power to find anyone guilty of a criminal offence, but if the tribunal does unearth evidence of any crimes committed, this material can be passed on to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Smyth was convicted of more than 100 child abuse charges.

A representative of the Sisters of Nazareth nuns has accepted that the Belfast priest visited Narareth House and Nazareth Lodge residential homes and sexually abused children.

The inquiry has also heard he was among the offenders at Rubane House boy's home in Kircubbin, Co Down.

Smyth, who was at the centre of one of the first clerical child sex abuse scandals to rock the Catholic Church in Ireland, was eventually convicted of more than 100 child abuse charges on both sides of the Irish border.

He died in prison in 1997 following a heart attack.

The HIA module focusing on his actions will commence on June 22 and is expected to conclude by the end of the month.

In total, the inquiry is expected to hear from more than 300 witnesses during the public evidence sessions.

It is required to complete its hearings and all investigative work by mid-summer 2016, and has to submit its report to the Northern Ireland Executive by January 17 2017. Among its recommendations could be compensating victims who have alleged they were abused.

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