Two city institutions to feature in probe

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Northern Ireland’s public inquiry into child abuse is to investigate three more state-run institutions - two of which were in Londonderry, the chairman has said.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry has extended its work to cover Hydebank Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast and former homes at Fort James and Harberton House, Londonderry.

Another section will focus on issues arising from the actions of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth, a serial child molester who frequented some Catholic residential homes, according to HIA chairman Sir Anthony Hart.

He is heading what was the UK’s largest probe into child abuse and has been investigating homes run by religious orders of nuns and brothers.

The treatment of children in church-run residential homes is a key concern of the investigation, which is considering cases between 1922 – when Northern Ireland was founded – and 1995.

Victims have alleged they were subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The inquiry does not have the power to find anyone guilty of a criminal offence, but if the tribunal does unearth evidence of any crimes committed, this material can be passed on to the PSNI.

Smyth was convicted of more than 100 child abuse charges.

He died in prison in 1997 following a heart attack.

The inquiry is required to complete its hearings and all investigative work by mid-summer 2016, and has to submit its report to the Northern Ireland Executive by January 17, 2017.