An inquiry into historical abuse in Northern Ireland has found systematic failings in the care of children in institutions and recommended compensation.
The publication of its report brings to an end a four year examination of allegations of abuse and/or neglect at 22 different establishments between 1922 and 1995.
Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart said: “We hope that in some measure the process of giving evidence… helped those who were not listened to in the past.”
During public hearings at a former courthouse in Banbridge, County Down, the inquiry heard from 527 witnesses.
Some 333 had applied to give evidence and while the majority did so in person, statements from 87 were read into the record.
The inquiry found evidence of “systematic failings to a greater or lesser degree” in the majority of the children’s homes it investigated.
It concluded that 39 children had been abused at the notorious Kincora boys’ home in east Belfast but rejected long-standing allegations that British intelligence services had covered it up.
“We are satisfied that Kincora was not a homosexual brothel nor used by any of the security agencies as a honeypot to entrap, blackmail or otherwise exploit homosexuals,” Sir Anthony said.
Last July, Gary Hoy, a victim of abuse, failed in a legal bid to have the Kincora boys’ home scandal examined by the Westminster inquiry instead.
His lawyers argued that the Northern Ireland inquiry did not have the power to investigate allegations politicians had been involved in abuse there.
The inquiry recommended victims receive a public and wholehearted apology and a lump-sum payment, that a memorial be established at Stormont and a victims’ commissioner appointed.
Margaret McGuckian, a victim of abuse in care, said: “It’s what we’ve waited for, for a lifetime. We’ve been vindicated this day. Today, we are believed.”
“If there is the political will to come together, to make this work, the victims and survivors of historical abuse can eventually pull the curtain back over the shame of the last 73 years,” added Jon McCourt, another victim.
Opposition parties have requested the Northern Ireland Assembly be given time to discuss the report before Stormont is dissolved, ahead of a snap election.