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Institutional Abuse Inquiry to focus on Fr Brendan Smyth

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry at Banbridge Courthouse, Co Down will focus on Fr Brendan Smyth this week

NOTORIOUS paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth will be the focus of hearings into historical child abuse starting today.

It is the sixth `module' of evidence to be heard by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry team at Banbridge Courthouse in Co Down.

Hearings will centre on the question of systemic failings which contributed to Smyth's decades of child sex abuse during his time as a Catholic priest in children's homes across Northern Ireland.

The abuse has already been described by witnesses who have given evidence to the inquiry.

The panel will "concentrate on an examination of what opportunities there were to prevent Smyth carrying out the abuse of children and... consider whether any steps taken, or not taken, to deal with Smyth amount to systemic failings".

There will be a brief opening address today by chairman Sir Anthony Hart, followed by counsel to the inquiry Joseph Aiken's detailed opening of matters relating to Fr Smyth.

Oral evidence will then concentrate on the opportunities to prevent his abuse and is expected to last for the week.

Smyth was convicted of more than 100 child abuse charges on both sides of the border and died in prison in 1997.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was formally established in January 2013 by the Northern Ireland Executive.

It has a remit to investigate child abuse which occurred in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period from 1922 to 1995.

The panel is expected to hear from more than 300 witnesses during the course of the public evidence sessions and is 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 2017.

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