The chairman of the largest ever child abuse inquiry in the UK has appealed for openness from residential homes alleged to be responsible.

Public hearings into alleged systematic abuse in Northern Ireland has opened. More than 300 witnesses are expected to be called over the next 18 months.

Sir Anthony Hart told the hearing in Banbridge, Co Down, that victims would at last know their stories were being listened to.

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"This may be a challenging process for everyone involved but it is our hope that everybody, whether from Government or from the institutions, who is requested to assist the inquiry will cooperate in a fair, an open and whole-hearted way so that this unique opportunity will not be wasted," he said.

Witness John Heaney, 55, said he was caned on the feet by members of the order of the Sisters of Nazareth at St Joseph's and suffered sexual abuse from older boys.