Allegations of sexual abuse at a notorious Belfast boys home will not be examined in the British government inquiry into historical child abuse.
It has long been alleged that well-known figures in the British establishment were involved in a paedophile ring that abused boys from the Kincora home in the east of the city in the 1970s.
Moreover it has been claimed the British security services knew about the crimes but did nothing to stop them, instead using the knowledge to blackmail and extract intelligence from influential men who were committing abuse.
The allegations had led to calls for the home to be included in the British government commissioned investigation into historic abuse that is being chaired by Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has announced that Kincora will not be covered by the inquiry.
Ms Villiers said a more appropriate forum for the allegations to be investigated was through an ongoing Northern Ireland-specific inquiry into institutional abuse in the region.
The Conservative MP promised the fullest co-operation by the British government, including the Security Service (MI5) and Ministry of Defence, with the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry led by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart.
Ms Villiers said that Sir Anthony’s inquiry was “better placed to pursue allegations of abuse” at Kincora.
She said her decision was based on several reasons, including the fact Sir Anthony’s inquiry has already received a number of allegations concerning Kincora and had powers to compel witness statements.
Ms Villiers said the panel chaired by Ms Woolf had no such powers of compulsion.
“All right-thinking people will find the offences committed at Kincora utterly abhorrent, and if there was any tolerance of such abuse by people in positions of authority that must also be utterly condemned,” she said.
“I believe that Sir Anthony’s inquiry is the best placed body to do just that and it is already planning to look at allegations in respect of Kincora.
All government departments and agencies who receive a request for information or documents from the Inquiry will co-operate to the utmost of their ability in determining what material they hold that might be relevant.”
In 1981, former head of the home William McGrath and two other members of staff - William Semple and Joseph Mains - were jailed for abusing children in their care.
But there have been persistent allegations the paedophile ring was more extensive than those three men.
East Belfast MP Naomi Long expressed disappointment at the government's announcement and said the decision had let down the victims and survivors of Kincora.
“Whilst I welcome the news that the government is willing to participate in the investigation into the goings-on at Kincora, it is disappointing they have not allowed the home to be part of the wider-ranging Home Office inquiry,” she said.
“Kincora is under the spotlight not just for allegations of abuse but also claims that security services participated in blackmail and cover-ups around it. While the Secretary of State is correct in saying the welfare of children is a devolved matter to Northern Ireland, the security services are not.
The Home Office inquiry has dragged its feet for months now in not responding to my calls for Kincora to be included in it and this is just the latest disappointment.
“If Kincora is not to be included in the Home Office inquiry, I would call for a separate, independent inquiry with statutory powers to be established and Kincora to be included in it. That now appears to be the only way the victims and survivors of the home will gain the justice they deserve.”