On Tuesday 14th January 2014 the Sisters of Nazareth nuns and De Le Salle Brothers admitted that children in their care were subjected to physical and sexual abuse in institutions in Northern Ireland that they controlled. The admissions were made following the largest inquiry into institutional child abuse in UK legal history.

These were the first two religious orders to give evidence at the inquiry, which is estimated could cost up to £19m and is expected to run until June 2015. More than 400 people will give evidence with up to 300 witnesses ready to speak in person at the tribunal.

The inquiry was set up to investigate claims of widespread abuse in 13 institutions ranging from orphanages to young offender institutions. The inquiry will examine claims relating to the Kincora boys’ home in east Belfast where a senior Orangemen, the late William McGrath, along with a number of loyalist extremists, is said to have repeatedly raped young children. The De La Salle Brothers told the inquiry the religious order accepted there was abuse at its boys’ home in Kircubbin.

The tribunal may also have to explore allegations that the security services MI5 and RUC (The Royal Ulster Constabulary) special branch knew about the abuse in Kincora but failed to act because some of those responsible were state agents.

Chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, the inquiry will also investigate the practice of shipping 120 local children from these institutions to Australia between 1947 and 1956.

Co-ordinator Lead Solicitor of Jordans abuse department, Lisa Jackson, said: “St Williams victims who have had to endure years of legal battles to have the De Le Salle Brotherhood added as defendants to their actions, whilst welcoming this apology for their Irish victims, still await an acknowledgement for the appalling abuse that took place at the home”.

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