Published Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Twenty-two young people between 13 and 18 in care here were abused, as UTV revealed.
Police have confirmed that 18 children identified as potential victims went missing from care more than 400 times in a year and a half.
Officers believe most of the men involved are in their early 20s, although they range from teenagers to 60 year olds. More than 30 arrests have been made so far.
Speaking in the Assembly on Wednesday, Mr Poots said: "The Minister of Justice and I are setting up an independent expert-led inquiry into child sexual exploitation in NI.
"Judging from the public reaction to this issue I know that many, including those in this house, share with me a sense of disbelief and horror that this is happening in our society.
The remit is wide-ranging and not confined to children in the care system. It is intended to address both broad concerns regarding child sexual exploitation and current responses to it as well as specific concerns about the protection of children in care.
"It is clear to me from listening to those who work in this area that the understanding about this issue, how it can happen and how it can be stopped, is developing all the time.
"This is the reason why I, and the Minister of Justice, have agreed to set up an independent expert-led Inquiry here to be supported and facilitated jointly by the Regulation, Quality and Improvement Authority and Criminal Justice Inspectorate Northern Ireland."
The story of child exploitation here first emerged eleven days ago and since then the care system and police have faced many questions.
A senior investigating officer and a major investigation team from Crime Operations have now been appointed to lead the police inquiry.
Sinn Féin welcomed Mr Poots' announcement.
Maeve McLaughlin MLA said: "We have always said that the focus needs to be on protecting and safeguarding the most vulnerable within our society.
"However this inquiry must not only learn the lessons from the recent revelations but accountability must also be a factor for any failings that have occurred.
"Sinn Féin will be looking at the terms of reference, the independent nature and the accountability mechanisms within that inquiry."
© UTV News