Northern Ireland

Robinson disappointed Kincora not included in UK abuse inquiry

Kincora Boys Home Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Three senior care staff were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys at Kincora care home

First Minister Peter Robinson has said he is disappointed a UK-wide inquiry into child sex abuse will not include allegations about Kincora boys' home.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was the best forum to address claims about the east Belfast home.

There have been claims that security services knew about the abuse there.

Alliance MP Naomi Long and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt have also voiced disappointment at Ms Villiers' move.

Three senior care staff at the home were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys.

In July, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a UK-wide investigation following claims of a ecover-up over allegations of paedophile activity at Westminster.

Image caption Ms Villiers said the UK government and its agencies will give the HIA inquiry 'the fullest possible degree of co-operation'

Last month, the Northern Ireland assembly backed a motion that said allegations MI5 had been involved in covering up abuse at the Kincora boys home could not be adequately investigated in any way other than by a Westminster-led UK inquiry.

However, Ms Villiers said on Tuesday that as child protection is a devolved matter, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry, currently sitting at Banbridge courthouse and chaired by Sir Anthony Hart, was the better forum to investigate the allegations.

She said the UK government and its agencies, including the Ministry of Defence and the security service MI5 would give the HIA inquiry "the fullest possible degree of co-operation".

Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry

Image copyright PAcemaker

The HIA inquiry was first announced in 2010 and was formally set up by Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers on 31 May 2012.

It is the biggest public inquiry into child abuse ever in the UK and began its first public hearings in January 2014.

Its aim is to establish if there were "systemic failings by institutions or the state in their duties towards those children in their care" dating from 1922 to 1995.

It will also determine if victims should receive an apology and compensation.

Sir Anthony Hart said he welcomed the assurances of co-operation given by Teresa Villiers.

"As we have already announced, and as the secretary of state has said, the HIA inquiry is investigating Kincora, and so her announcement does not extend the Terms of Reference of our Inquiry," he said.

"On the contrary, it now provides our inquiry with the means to investigate the activities of non-devolved government departments and agencies.

"We are satisfied that the assurance of full co-operation by all government departments and agencies, and the satisfactory resolution by HM Government of the other issues the inquiry has raised with it, will provide our HIA Inquiry with the ability and financial resources to carry out an effective and thorough investigation into all the Kincora allegations."

'Seeking clarification'

Mr Robinson said that while the HIA inquiry had the power to compel both people and documents within Northern Ireland, this statutory power did not fully extend to the rest of the UK.

"I welcome this commitment from Her Majesty's Government that there will be the 'fullest possible' co-operation with the inquiry where evidence is required and requested," said the DUP leader.

Image caption Naomi Long said the victims and survivors of Kincora had been "let down" by the decision

"This would give the HIA inquiry the same range of powers in relation to the rest of the UK, as proposed for the inquiry panel.

"I will now be seeking clarification from the chairman of the HIA inquiry to ensure he is fully satisfied, given Her Majesty's Government's commitment, that he now has the range of powers and co-operation he requires to carry out a robust and thorough investigation of all the issues in relation to Kincora boys home."

Ms Long said the victims and survivors of Kincora had been "let down" by the decision.

"While the secretary of state is correct in saying the welfare of children is a devolved matter to Northern Ireland, the security services are not," she said.

Mr Nesbitt said the "critical weakness" of Ms Villiers' statement was the lack of certainty that HIA inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart had the power to compel witnesses.

"Again, I acknowledge the secretary of state is working with colleagues in government to address that point, but until it is resolved satisfactorily, these proposals have a potentially fatal weakness. That would be a betrayal of the victims," he said.

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