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This impact case study focuses on redressing historical institutional child abuse (HICA) in Northern Ireland. The research is ongoing since September 2014. It is led and managed by Professor Patricia Lundy, in the School of Applied Social and Policy Sciences. The project stretches back to a clearly identifiable trajectory of collaborative ‘bottom-up’ research undertaken by Prof Lundy on victims’, rights and redress. Since the 1990s, in the wake of abuse scandals an estimated 20 countries have established inquiries. Yet little is known about survivors’ experiences of engaging in such mechanisms and what they want from redress. This dearth of empirical evidence has obvious policy-making implications. The objective of the research was to address that empirical research deficit.

The research aims are to explore survivors’ experience, their expectations and perceived justice needs. To this end, the research is operationalised through an innovative survivor-informed analytical tool; this was operationalised through a bottom-up emancipatory research methodological approach. This methodology is a research perspective of producing knowledge that can be of benefit to disadvantaged groups. The research that underpins this impact case study was designed to empower survivors and to give voice to a marginalised and vulnerable group that were historically silenced and unheard. The methodological approach provides a survivor-led bottom-up model for researching the impact of mechanisms for dealing with historical child abuse.

The research found that the HIAI Inquiry was a bruising and traumatising experience for some survivors and the Inquiry’s redress recommendations fall short of meeting their needs. If implemented, the proposed redress scheme could re-victimize survivors by disadvantaging or disentitling those who suffered the most serious abuse and impose a process on them that could create a hierarchy of claims (victims).  In collaboration with victim/survivor groups and human rights NGOs, the research put forward recommendations and an alternative redress model to inform policy-makers and redress legislation that would meet survivors needs.

The research was funded by two-year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship.

Professor Patricia Lundy