More than 200 boys suffered harrowing abuse in Co Down home, inquiry told
Scale of alleged assaults and rapes revealed
More than 200 young boys are alleged to have suffered "harrowing" sexual and physical abuse at a children's home in Co Down run by the Christian Brothers.
The abuse that children living at Rubane House in Kircubbin were subjected to was equal to, if not worse than, abuse at Kincora Boys' Home – the subject of a high-profile child abuse scandal in the 1980s – the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry has heard.
Fifty-five victims are to give evidence to the inquiry's third module of public hearings, which opened at Banbridge courthouse yesterday and will focus on the former De La Salle Boys' Home, Rubane House, from 1950 to 1985.
The abuse they allege to have suffered includes rape, sexual abuse and corporal punishment so severe that some children required hospital treatment.
Lawyer to the inquiry, Joseph Aiken, warned that the victims' evidence will be "extremely harrowing and difficult to hear".
He said that a minimum of 20% of the boys who were housed in Rubane were allegedly abused. In 1997, after police began investigations into allegations of abuse, senior RUC officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Eric Anderson, described the sexual abuse of children there as "rampant" and likened the scale of the abuse to that of Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast.
Kincora was the subject of a child abuse scandal in the 1980s. Three senior care staff at Kincora were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys in their care.
In a letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions about Rubane House allegations, Mr Anderson said: "I consider the complaints made to show it to be on a par with, if not worse than, the abuse at the Kincora children's home."
Rubane House, which was set on 250 acres, was well facilitated. By 1959 it had a swimming pool and offered many activities for the boys.
"You could say (Rubane House) had much greater facilities than many children living in deprived areas of Belfast would have had. On one view Rubane had much going for it in terms of facilities and activities. However, as the inquiry will come to see and hear, all was not well in Rubane," Mr Aiken said.
He added that there was a "sinister problem" in Rubane in that "fundamental flaws in the characteristics of some of the Brothers recruited to work in the home and the school made them inherently unsuitable to be around children".
"There is no justification for the sexual and physical abuse of the boys in this house or for failing to deal properly with that abuse when it came to light or for covering it up.
"While it maybe said that the systematic failings found in respect of Rubane are unlikely to exist today, the past is not a foreign country for the victims. It is their present."
More than 40,000 documents of evidence in relation to abuse at Rubane have been submitted to the inquiry for consideration.
The inquiry was set up in 2013 to investigate child abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over 73 years up to 1995.
A total of 13 institutions in Northern Ireland are currently being investigated.
The inquiry is expected to hear from more than 300 witnesses during the course of the public evidence sessions.