Abuse probe 'into soul of society'
The largest ever inquiry into the abuse of children at residential homes in the UK will examine the soul of society, a lawyer has said.
Decades of physical, sexual and emotional suffering were inflicted upon the most vulnerable by the church, the state and voluntary organisations, it was alleged today.
More than 300 victims are set to testify to the investigation, which is expected to last 18 months.
Christine Smith QC, the inquiry's senior counsel, told Sir Anthony Hart, a retired Crown court judge presiding over the hearings, that they would give voice to those who felt let down by the system between 1922, the foundation of the Northern Ireland state, and 1995. She said it would essentially examine the soul of Northern Ireland's society.
"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children," she said.
The hearing got under way in Banbridge, Co Down, where scores of victims and their families packed the public gallery to hear Ms Smith outline harrowing details of abuse which carried on largely unchecked for more than seven decades.
It involved homes in Belfast, Londonderry and Kircubbin in Co Down as well as the notorious Kincora boys' home in east Belfast where details of alleged abuse of young children first emerged decades ago.
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