Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Monday, 2 November 2009

MLAs vote for child abuse inquiry

Watch the full debate

MLAs have backed the holding of an inquiry into the extent of child abuse in Catholic church and State-run institutions in Northern Ireland.

It follows the damning Ryan Report in the Republic which uncovered decades of endemic abuse in some institutions.

MLAs backed an SDLP motion calling for a similar assessment of the scale of abuse in Northern Ireland as well as the provision of support services.

Before Monday's debate, campaigners delivered a petition to the Assembly.

Thousands of people are understood to have signed the Justice for the Victims of Institutional Abuse in NI petition, which was handed to SDLP MLA Carmel Hanna.

Among those listening to the debate in the public gallery were adults who were abused as children in Belfast institutions run by Catholic nuns.

The DUP failed in attempts to press for an amendment that fell short of calling for an inquiry and omitted the need for cross-border co-operation.

'Disgrace against humanity'

The DUP asked if an inquiry would add to public knowledge of the issue, while the party's Jim Shannon said there should be no amnesty for offenders.

"I am positive for the first time ever in this chamber we are united in a sense of righteous anger against those who perpetrated and those who covered it up and those who facilitated the continuance of this disgrace against humanity," he said.

Deirdre O'Donoghue and Margaret McGuckin handed over a petition at Stormont

Mrs Hanna told the Assembly that because religious congregations operated on an all-island basis, "Ryan needs to be complemented and finalised by a post-script for Northern Ireland".

Sinn Fein's Sue Ramsey said the Ryan Report "rightly brought to the fore the treatment handed out to children, some who were among the most vulnerable in our society, that we as a State, both north and south, had a duty to protect, and we failed to do that".

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said Westminster and the Northern Ireland Office had a role in examining issues that pre-dated the creation of the Assembly.

A lawyer for the victims previously said they suffered sexual and physical abuse in cases dating back to the 1940s, but believed they have been discriminated against since inquires in the Republic did not extend to Northern Ireland.

Solicitor Joe Rice said he had written to First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, as well as Secretary of State Shaun Woodward, detailing the demand for an inquiry.

He said he believed the inquiry should be run along the lines of the State-sponsored investigation conducted in the 1980s into a child sex abuse scandal at Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast.

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