An inquiry into historical institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland will take place in a phased manner, with "storytelling" and research elements beginning "as soon as possible".

The details were announced following a special meeting of the Stormont Executive.

First Minister Peter Robinson said legislation to confer statutory powers on the inquiry would be brought forward shortly. He said could take up to two years but that the inquiry was designed in such a way that this process would not delay its work.

It is hoped a forum to enable survivors and victims to come forward to recount their experience of abuse can be established quickly and that the research aspect of the inquiry can also get underway.

Acting Deputy First Minister John O'Dowd said he hoped today's announcement would bring about full disclosure and that today would mark "the beginning of a process that can help bring about a degree of closure to the legacy of hurt and suffering".

"It is important to establish what went wrong and who is responsible."

The Executive Ministers said it would be up to the inquiry to bring about recommendations on the issue of compensation.