MI5 'used sexual abuse of Kincora children to blackmail politician paedophiles'
The breadth and scope of a probe into child abuse allegations at a notorious east Belfast boys' home is enormous, a public inquiry has been told.
The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry also heard that the name Kincora has become synonymous with claims of prolonged sex abuse and cover-up.
Barrister Joseph Aiken, counsel to the long-running inquiry, said: "If it is the case that the state, whether in the guise of the police, intelligence agencies or otherwise, did connive, collude, orchestrate, utilise, exploit or cover up sexual abuse at Kincora, then those facts should be laid bare."
It has long been alleged that a high-ranking paedophile ring operated out of the former Kincora Boys' Home during the 1970s.
It is further claimed that British security services knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it, instead using the information to blackmail and extract intelligence from the influential men, including senior politicians, who were the perpetrators.
In 1981, three senior care workers at Kincora were jailed for abusing boys - one of whom, William McGrath, was believed to have been an MI5 agent.
Mr Aiken said: "Although it is an established fact that children were abused by staff in Kincora, this inquiry in addition has to address, amongst others, a range of extraordinary allegations - not that the state failed to prevent abuse because of missed opportunities or ineffective systems of oversight and regulation but that it, with deliberation and planning, cynically orchestrated and utilised the abuse of children it was supposed to care for in order to further its own ends.
"If true, that would mean those who had the privilege and responsibility of protecting citizens compounded the pain of those who suffered as a result.
"If the allegations are no more than rumours and suspicion, they have the effect of heaping further unnecessary misery on the victims of abuse in Kincora."
The HIA inquiry was set up by the Northern Ireland Executive in 2014 to examine harrowing allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse at state- and church-run residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.
It is being chaired by retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart, who is sitting alongside Geraldine Doherty, a former head of the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work in Scotland, and David Lane, who was director of social services in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England.
In his opening address, Sir Anthony said a number of state bodies including the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), MI5, MI6 and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) would be examined.
The inquiry has received "full and voluntary" co-operation from all government departments and agencies, he added.
Sir Anthony said: "Not only have we been able to inspect the material they have provided at our request, which includes material that we were able to identify from the material already provided by them that might also be relevant, but we are going to examine the relevant material during these public hearings."
However, a number of individuals including unionist Roy Garland, ex-Army intelligence officer Brian Gemmell, and former Army officer Colin Wallace have also declined to give evidence.
Sir Anthony said: "While it is for them to decide whether they wish to give evidence in person, we regret that they have adopted this position because this is their opportunity to describe in person and in public their experiences in Kincora."
Campaigners had hoped to have Kincora included in the nationwide child abuse probe chaired by New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard because the HIA does not have the power to compel witnesses.
However, a legal challenge to overturn the Government's refusal was rejected as "premature" by a High Court judge last month.
An appeal was also turned down.
The HIA is now in its 15th module and, by the time it concludes public evidence sessions this summer, more than 450 witnesses will have provided oral testimony.
Sir Anthony is expected to submit his findings to MLAs at Stormont by early next year.
Speaking outside the court, Clint Massey, who spent eight months in Kincora aged 16, said he was looking forward to giving evidence next week.
"I will have my day in the sun," he said.
"I am hopeful this time. I am hearing good things in the courtroom. They do seem to have the authority to get dossiers from various departments and that gives me hope."