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Historical Institutional Child Abuse: Victims, Rights and Redress

Impact lead: Professor Patricia Lundy

Underpinning research

This stretches back to a clearly identifiable body of critical empirical research undertaken by Prof Lundy on victims’, rights and redress.[1] This impact case study focuses on historical institutional child abuse; an issue of major public concern internationally. Remarkably, we know little about what victims/survivors want from redress and rarely hear their views on redress. This research makes an original contribution to filling that empirical research deficit.

The empirical research has three strands: (i) an in-depth critical analysis of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) from the standpoint of survivors and lessons learned; (ii) an analysis of what survivors want from redress and a proposed ‘bottom-up’ alternative compensation model that meets the needs of victims/survivors; (iii) the untold ‘story’ of former child migrants (FCM) from N. Ireland transported to Australia between 1922 and late 1960s. This includes an analysis of the consequences for FCM and the scheme, which was part of the British states policy to populate former colonies with ‘British stock’.

Key preliminary findings include: the HIA Inquiry recommendations fall short of what survivors want from redress. If implemented, the proposed scheme could re-victimize survivors by disadvantaging or disentitling those who suffered the most serious abuse and impose a process on them that would create a hierarchy of claims. The research proposes alternative approaches/ redress model to correct these and inform policy.

Partners and initiatives


The research methodology is an innovative ‘bottom-up’ participatory action research (PAR) approach that seeks to ‘give voice’ to survivors and to empower the disempowered to achieve redress for historical injustices.

To this end, a Panel of Experts on Redress was established in collaboration with partners and/or beneficiaries including victim/survivor groups, human rights organisation, legal representatives, academics and international experts.

The Panel is survivor-driven; this innovative model has generated considerable interest nationally/internationally (discussed below).

Victim/survivor groups in Australia (Tuart Place), the Child Migrant Trust (UK) and International Association of Former Child Migrants (Australia) share/exchange information with the Panel.

Professor Kathleen Mahoney has worked with Prof Lundy on aspects of the research. Amnesty International works closely with the Panel of Experts and Prof Lundy.

Initiatives: International

International Seminar

Redressing Historical Child Abuse.Organised by Prof Lundy and hosted in Ulster University March 2015, with speakers from Canada, Sweden, Scotland, and Republic of Ireland. (Evidence – IRISS events web page.

International Summit: Setting the record straight (University of Melbourne & Monash University)


A series of research briefing meetings were held with former child migrant groups.

International Workshop, Linkoping University, Sweden

With academics, experts, and political representatives and victims groups.

Swedish radio interviewed Prof Lundy - here is a link to the programme and a link to an article from the news on Swedish redress

Initiatives: Local

  • The Panel has published four research reports. This included detailed proposals and recommendations for a redesigned model or framework for redress (footnote 1). The four reports were launched in Stormont.Leaders of all the political parties, members of the HIA Inquiry team, RC Church, OFMDFM civil servants, lawyers, human rights groups and victims/survivors were invited and attended. There was extensive media coverage of the four launches/reports. This generated public debate and policy discussion within the Assembly; public awareness and acknowledgment and public declarations of support for redress from Sinn Fein, Ulster Unionist Party, SDLP, Alliance and Green parties in the press.
  • Called to give expert witness oral evidence to the oversight Committee for the Executive (twice) (evidenced in Hansard and media coverage; see impact tracker for partial evidence uploaded - Hansard Sept 2016 and Jan 2017 The evidence prompted debate and questions to be raised in the Assembly on redress (evidenced in Hansard).
  • Research briefings to the following political parties and senior officials: Deputy First Minister and his policy advisers, all but one of NI political parties, the Catholic Church and Religious Orders, OFMDFM senior civil servants, and lawyers representing victims/survivors.
  • Briefing Papers and Position Paper submitted to political parties and OFMDFM civil servants.
  • Roundtables were hosted at Ulster with senior political representatives, OFMDFM civil servants; Catholic Church and Religious Orders, legal reps, human rights groups, and all four victim/survivor advocacy groups
  • Series of public and private meetings to brief local victims/survivor groups and individual victims.
  • Series of workshops and knowledge transfer activities with local practitioners, victims/survivor groups and individual victims. Pathway to influencing discourse and practice.
  • Substantial engagement with media – extensive coverage demonstrates influence on public debate and discourse (evidence – partial evidence available on impact tracker; hard copies or paper trail available).

Impact generated to date

International/ National Impact

  • Informing the work of the United Nations: Special Rapporteur for Children invited Prof Lundy to brief the Special Rapporteur and UN member countries at 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Side Event –‘Tackling illegal adoptions and addressing the rights of victims’ . The UN Special Rapporteur has accepted an invitation to attend a roundtable (Nov 2017) to be hosted in Ulster University 22 November 2017, to further explore lessons from TJ for historic child abuse.
  • Lambeth Council (London/UK): the research reports had a direct impact on informing and shaping the Council’s redress scheme regarding Shirley Oaks Children’s Home and alleged historic abuse. This led directly to Prof Lundy being invited to review the Council’s draft redress scheme (evidenced – emails from Lambeth Council).
  • Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (London/UK): the research directly informed the Associations campaign and negotiations with Lambeth Council. Prof Lundy was invited to personally brief the Association and their legal representations in London (evidenced – email correspondence with the Association). Demonstrates evidence of acknowledge of pioneering work, impact/reach.
  • Australian victim/survivor advocacy groups (Tuart Place, Former Child Migrant Trust, Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN), and International Association of FCM): through personal contact and research briefings in Australia, the research has directly informed former child migrants (FCM) and their campaigns. Impacts at the international level include, raising awareness about the Panel’s framework/model for meeting survivors’ redress needs, documenting what victim/survivors want from redress to inform policy; and the obligation/requirement for victim/survivors to participate in the initiation, design and implementation of any redress scheme (evidence – email correspondence with groups; reports in magazines produced by the groups; media interview with the Irish Scene Magazine).
  • Republic of Ireland: the research and Panel was cited and recommended as a model of good practice in a report submitted to the Education and Public Accounts Committee, Irish Government Feb 2017 (evidence – copy of report ‘Review of the effectiveness of Caranua’ and correspondence with the author).
  • Republic of Ireland: Survivor groups have been informed by the research and work of the Panel; the research reports and redress model/framework is seen as blueprint for effective compensation (evidence media coverage)

Local Impact to date

  • Informed HIA Final Report and Recommendations: the Panel of Experts reports/proposals were cited in the HIAI final report indicating impact on redress recommendations (see HIAI Report, Jan 2017, Vol. 1, p.229).
  • The research and activities have greatly contributed to and generated public debate, and political discussion on redress. The research has been widely reported in the media (TV, radio, newspapers, blogs etc. contributing to debate
  • The research and activities have generated political will and influenced policy change. The research has been discussed in the NI Assembly and questions on redress raised (evidenced in Hansard). Further evidence of shifts and/or political commitment to the Panel’s redress model/framework proposals is demonstrated in Political Party Manifestos, Hansard, Political Party Press Releases, letters to the Secretary of State from SDLP & Green Party, extensive media coverage/blogs, Programme for Government Foreword & Outcome 8 https@// (evidence available - partially uploaded to the impact tracker; hard copies available re all of the above).
  • The research has fed directly into party political talks and negotiations at Stormont (personal contact with political parties). The negotiations are likely to resume after the election.
  • Informed, empowered and assisted victim/survivor groups and campaigns. Directly impacted and shaped campaigns, practice and strategy for effective redress (evidence - see extensive media coverage, blogs; approx. 150 survivors responded to research survey).
  • Informed legal profession (Evidence: web pages; emails from legal reps)
  • Informed international human rights group Amnesty International, assisted their advocacy and campaign for historic child abuse redress (Evidence: press releases, web page).

Auditable evidence trails documenting impact

All of the above impact generated to date can be evidenced and has been indicated in text. Partial evidence has been uploaded to the impact tracker; this work is ongoing. There are also hard copies or a paper trail available to evidence all of the above impact generated to date.