Transforming Justice: An All-Island Examination of Justice Responses to Historical Institutional Abuse
Project Commenced: 01/09/2022
Project Completion Date: 31/08/2024
Prof Anne-Marie McAlinden & Dr Marie Keenan (UCD)
Other staff or partners
Dr James Gallen (DCU)
Over the last two decades, historical institutional abuse (HIA) has impacted world-wide. The island of Ireland (Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (RoI)) has had a large number of public inquiries or commissions of investigation into HIA against women and children, some ongoing. Many have been criticised by victims/survivors or made recommendations which have not been implemented. They have also been accompanied by reparation measures including apologies and compensation schemes. Media reports suggest there is little evidence that any of the responses to HIA thus far have brought healing for survivors or sufficient accountability of individuals and the state. This is an important moment, therefore, at which to stand back and critically examine justice responses to HIA across the island of Ireland and internationally.
The research will bring together researchers across a range of fields – law, criminology; sociology, social policy, social work and restorative justice; and transitional justice and human rights – and represent the first cross-disciplinary study focusing on Ireland (North and South), contextualised internationally. It examines the limitations of traditional justice approaches, including public inquiries or commissions of investigation, civil cases, criminal prosecutions and apologies. The main argument to be examined is that a complex range of factors have prevented just responses to HIA and blurred lines of accountability.
The research will be informed by i) comparative documentary analysis of apologies and public inquiries and commissions of investigations on HIA internationally; and ii) 50-60 interviews (approx. 25-30 in NI and RoI) with lawyers and human rights advocates, judges/commissioners, political elites, policy makers, victims/survivors, victim-advocates/representatives and members of religious orders. Drawing on restorative and transitional justice and approaches in other countries, it will outline a new framework of justice. This research has broader implications for improving official and public understanding of the effectiveness of justice responses and ultimately the experiences of victims impacted by HIA across Ireland and elsewhere.