A PUBLIC inquiry into abuse at Muckamore Abbey Hospital is set to take place.
Health Minister Robin Swann broke the news at the Northern Ireland Assembly on Tuesday.
He also said that no decision has been made to close the facility.
The inquiry follows two reports into the abuse at Muckamore - the Serious Adverse Incident Report and the recently published Review into the Leadership and Governance of Muckamore Abbey Hospital by the Belfast Trust.
A major police investigation is still ongoing and an eighth person was arrested on Monday - a 57-year-old woman in the Antrim area..
The Minister said he wanted to put on record his apologies on behalf of the Health and Social Care system ‘to patients and families who have been let down by failure to protect patients from abuse’.
“But families want more than apologies.” he said.
“They want and need and deserve answers as to why this happened and how it was allowed to happen – and I hope that the public inquiry I have announced will give them those answers.”
“I cannot find words to adequately describe the scale of this betrayal of trust, this scandal.”
“This is a sad chapter in the history of Health and Social Care Services in Northern Ireland and, in particular both the Belfast Trust and Muckamore Abbey Hospital.” he said.
“They have failed in their duty to protect these patients, they have failed in their duty to the family members.
“This abuse should never have happened and I will do all that I can to make sure it never happens again.”
The Minister also spoke on Muckamore’s future and emphasised that no decision has been made to close the hospital.
“The immediate priority for Muckamore remains the safety and stability of care provided there,” he said.
“There will continue to be a focus on resettlement but not at the expense of those who require to be in hospital.
“Looking to the long-term, there is a clear need to transform services for adults with learning disabilities in Northern Ireland and work is being taken forward through the transformation agenda to develop a new service model for learning disability services.”
**For full reports and reaction, see the Antrim Guardian next week**