Victims of historic child abuse in Northern Ireland should receive state-backed compensation payments of up to £100,000, an inquiry has recommended.

Those abused in state, church and charity run homes should also be offered an official apology from government and the organisations that ran the residential facilities where it happened, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry found.

Inquiry chair Sir Anthony Hart outlined a series of recommendations after he revealed shocking levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the period 1922 to 1995.

He said the minimum pay-out should be £7,500 with the maximum amount given to those who had experienced severe levels of abuse as well as being transported to Australia in a controversial migrant scheme.

He said the organisations that ran the abusing homes should make a financial contribution to the Stormont Executive-run scheme.

Mr Hart said the four-year inquiry found "evidence of systemic failings" in the institutions and homes it investigated.

"There was evidence of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, neglect and unacceptable practices across the institutions and homes examined," he said.

"The inquiry also identified failings where institutions sought to protect their reputations and individuals against whom allegations were made, by failing to take any action at all, failing to report matters to or deliberately misleading the appropriate authorities and moving those against whom allegations were made to other locations.

"This enabled some to continue perpetrating abuse against children.

"The inquiry found that those institutions that sent young children to Australia were wrong to do so and there were failures to ensure the children were being sent to suitable homes."

Report shows 'dark and disturbing chapter'
'Catalogue of failures' over Kincora abuse

Background: Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry

The HIA report also rejected long-standing allegations that a paedophile ring containing British Establishment figures abused boys in the notorious Kincora boys' home in Belfast.

It also dismissed claims that intelligence agencies were aware of such a ring and covered it up in order to blackmail the high-profile abusers.

Three staff members at Kincora were found guilty of abusing residents in the 1970s but there had long been rumours that others, including civil servants and businessmen, were involved.

Mr Hart said the notion that Kincora was a homosexual "brothel" used by the Security Services as a "honey pot" to obtain compromising information about influential figures was without foundation.

The investigation also focused on the activities of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

During evidence sessions the inquiry heard lurid details about the activities of the serial child molester who frequented Catholic residential homes and was convicted of more than 100 child abuse charges.

The Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin (below), has said his church must co-operate fully with the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that proper reparation is made.

Eamon Martin 

Mr Hart said despite knowing his history of abusing children, the Norbertine religious order moved Smyth to a different diocese where he abused more children.

They failed to report the abuse to police "enabling him to continue his abuse", it found. The order also failed to take steps to expel him from priesthood, said the inquiry.

The fate of Mr Hart's compensation recommendation is mired in a degree of uncertainty, given the recent Stormont crisis has resulted in the collapse of the current power-sharing executive.

The retired judge said the redress scheme needed to be set up as a "matter of urgency".

He also recommended that the Northern Ireland Executive should create a body called the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Redress Board.

The board would receive and process claims and payments, said the chairman.

The inquiry also recommended that a "suitable physical memorial" should be erected in Parliament Buildings in Belfast or in the grounds of Stormont estate.

It also called for the creation of a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse to offer victims support and assistance.

It recommended the provision of extra state funding to provide specialist care for victims.

'Our day has come' - victims

Victims said they were concerned that the current political crisis could delay implementation of the inquiry's recommendations for redress.

"I would remind the new leadership of politics in the North that, when we sat in the Executive around the table with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness in 2010, both of them promised us they would not let us down. Don't let us down now," said Jon McCourt, from the Northwest Survivors Group in Derry.

Mr McCourt added: "For some people it has been 30, 40, 50, 60 and in one case over 70 years, waiting (for redress).

"We need a government to get together to try and resolve this issue - which isn't exactly going to break the bank compared to some of the squandering that we have seen - to assist victims to move forward, to close this off. We want to get on with our lives."

Margaret McGukin, of Savia (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse), said she is relieved that she and other victims have finally been vindicated by the inquiry report.

"We have been vindicated this day."

"We are relieved, as young children who tried to complain about our abuse but nobody would listen, particularly religious orders and those devout Christians. People disbelieved us and even bullied us for daring to complain.

"And now Sir Anthony Hart (inquiry chairman) has made it a special day for us where he has believed us and vindicated us."

She added: "We are so sad there are people not here today, who passed away without getting any form of justice. But this is a special, special day for us and we remember those who have passed away."

"Our day has come. This is our day."

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Ms McGuckin said elected representatives have promised they are committed to acting on the recommendations.

She said: "We met with Arlene Foster, just yesterday. We've met with Martin McGuinness, just two weeks before he announced he was seriously ill and they are committed to acting on this report."

A spokesman for the Executive Office said the intention was to put the report to the ministerial Executive at the earliest opportunity.

"The Executive Office remains sensitive to the needs of all those who have suffered abuse and is mindful of the destructive impact it has had on many people.

Services continue to be available for those affected through the HIA Support Service, telephone +4428 90 75 01 31..

"The Executive Office will continue to engage with and support victims and survivors' groups."

The inquiry has also recommended some organisations that are available to those affected by sexual violence and abuse .