Symbolic Reparation: Memorialisation and symbolic justice – Thoughts on the impending Mother and Baby Homes & Magdalen Laundries Inquiry in Northern Ireland Adrienne Reilly, part-time Doctoral student in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland

This blog post by Adrienne Reilly[1] introduces in brief the complex area of symbolic reparation, namely memorialisation and memorial practice that she is currently investigating as part of her doctoral research.

On March 29th 2021, a Panel of Experts[2] spoke at an online event organised by Amnesty International Northern Ireland on Learning the Lessons: Co-Designing the Inquiry into Mother and Baby and Magdalene Laundry Institutions in Northern Ireland. From their hugely insightful and engaging contributions it was clear, based on their experience and evidence, that there is a need for a participatory, victim-led approach to any impending inquiry, as well as the provision of material redress and symbolic reparation for victims and survivors. But what does symbolic reparation mean? And how is symbolic reparation understood and engaged with by victims, survivors and decision makers in institutional abuse inquiries?

What is symbolic redress or reparation and what are the justice claims?

Symbolic redress or reparation is a term which has stemmed in modern usage from transitional justice models of inquiry, such as truth commissions, most notably the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.[3] It is seen as a ‘soft law’ approach involving various forms of commemoration, memorialisation or other forms of remembering, in an ever growing field of symbolic justice. There are a variety of interpretations of symbolic reparation and what that means for victims and survivors. Symbolic reparations can include monuments, museums, commemorative sites, naming and re/naming of public spaces, theatre performances, films and annual rituals.[4] It is now widely accepted this can also extend to virtual events. Symbolic reparations are distinguished from material or monetary redress measures, as they are generally non-pecuniary. It is claimed that the function of symbolic reparations is to respond to victims’ demands for truth, recognition, re-dignification, justice and accountability.[5]

In 2005 The United Nations Basic Principles on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation recognised “commemorations and tributes to the victims” as a form of reparation. This was the first codification of the rights of victims and human rights violations to reparations and remedies, and access to justice within domestic legal systems. Within this field of international human rights law, it is generally understood that the right to reparation has two dimensions: (a) a substantive dimension, to be translated into the duty to provide redress for harm suffered in the form of restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and, as the case may be, guarantees of non-repetition – meaning redress for all concerned; and (b) a procedural dimension, as instrumental in securing this substantive redress – meaning a process that allows these things to happen. In terms of memorialisation, it is the ‘satisfaction’ element that is considered relevant with an understanding that ‘satisfaction’ is a broad category of measures, including, commemoration and memorialisation.[6] Firmly establishing the meaning and relevance of memorialisation in 2014 the UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, developed a stand-alone report on memorialisation processes. She outlines the importance of memorialisation in whatever form that might take as part of any redress or reparation for gross violations of human rights in post-conflict and settled societies. This would therefore include public inquiries into human rights violations in respect of institutional abuse.

More recently, in 2017, Pablo de Greiff, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, stated that the importance of a comprehensive approach incorporating the full range of judicial and non-judicial measures, including memorialization initiatives and processes to achieve shared narratives, is necessary in order to  ensure accountability, serve justice, provide remedies to victims and promote healing and reconciliation.

This development of memorialisation as a form of symbolic reparation is most notably connected to post conflict settings. More recently, scholarly literature has linked historical institutional abuses within the context of transitional justice and explorations of accountability, truth, acknowledgment and financial redress and symbolic reparation focusing on large scale human rights violations in settled democracies including public inquiries into institutional abuse.[7] Memorialisation is increasingly forming part of the process of public inquiries, with recommendations often at the end of these investigations.[8]

What is memorialisation and why do it?

Memorialisation as a form of symbolic reparation itself is a complex process. Memorialisation includes sites and activities of memorial practice such as architectural memorials, museums, dedicated sites of conscience, commemorative events, annual events, documentaries, art installations, online virtual events, school curriculum inclusion to dedicated archives.

Scholars working in the fields of memory studies and transitional justice claim that memorialisation matters because memorials (in as much as they can) restore dignity to victims and survivors and in some way offer some kind of vindication; stimulate and open up debate; recognise the wrongs of the state and in some way help rebuild a better society; and, crucially, aim towards ensuring the abuse is remembered so it will never happen again.[9]

For the most part, prior to being set up, inquiries and investigations into institutional abuse are driven by victims and survivors seeking justice for gross violations of human rights. Amnesty International Northern Ireland has spent years advocating with and on behalf of victims and survivors of institutional abuse from a human rights perspective. As recently as 2019 the United Nations Committee against Torture specifically called for the UK government to address issues of historical institutional abuse in Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalen Laundries (one inquiry into both due to their inter-connectedness), establishing an impartial and effective investigation into these institutions and providing victims and survivors with redress, further locating the claims within a human rights framework.

However, memorialisation and symbolic reparation in relation to public inquiries into institutional abuse has to date been handled by governments on a very ad hoc basis on the island of Ireland. Reports from inquiries show very little in-depth engagement with memorialisation experiences from the expertise of victims and survivors, nor expertise from artists that have engaged with victims and survivors on specific projects, (see Alison Lowry’s work (A)dressing our Hidden Truths and the recent Stay with Me Virtual Project), or expertise from other jurisdictions or indeed within the legal framework of symbolic reparation.[10] This is despite a public inquiry of investigation being a legal process which could include symbolic reparation as a mandated justice mechanism with victims and survivors and experts at hand to advise and assist.

So how have inquiries done so far?

To date there is no completed national memorial to institutional abuse on the island of Ireland emanating from a public inquiry process.[11] A detailed report on Ireland’s experience of memorialisation in the contexts of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law was sent from the Irish Centre of Human Rights in 2020 to Mr Fabian Salvioli, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. This report outlines the legal, advocacy, artistic, and victim and survivor led responses to memorialisation in the Irish state, with a call that the Irish government needs to address this gap in state responses. Similar legal issues apply to Northern Ireland and are cross-jurisdictional given the cross-border nature of victims and survivors being moved between both jurisdictions. No official memorial has come into fruition, or been realised as a symbolic reparation measure emanating from any public inquiry on the island of Ireland, despite being a recommendation in various inquiries since 2009.[12]

Three Inquiries – Three different approaches leading to memorialisation recommendations in Public Inquiry Processes

Three inquiries that have engaged with memorialisation on the island of Ireland illustrate some difficulties that arise in engagement with memorialisation practice which often takes place at different stages of a public inquiry into institutional abuse.

First, the first recommendation of the much lauded Commission to Inquiry into Child Abuse (in the Irish Republic – the Ryan Commission 2009) was that a memorial should be erected to alleviate, or otherwise address the effects of, the abuse on those who suffered. To date this recommendation has not been fulfilled. Push back came from a variety of stakeholders, including a 500-person petition (including victims and survivors) against a memorial  agreed by competition and awarded to a firm of architects to be located in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin. This recommendation was the first engagement with any idea of a memorial or commemorative process in relation to this investigation. There is no methodology or explanation as to why a memorial was recommended or any explanation of the connection of the memorial to the overall redress or justice mechanisms of the inquiry. So there is no way of knowing how the decision makers came to the decision they did, who they engaged with on this issue, or if they connected memorialisation to symbolic justice and symbolic reparation.

Second, the more recent Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation in Ireland may, on the face of it, be considered to have had a more robust memorialisation process in some aspects. A collaborative forum, made up of victims and survivors, with the function to build upon a process of engagement and consultation with former victims and survivors, had three sub-committees including one on memorialisation and personal narrative. Alongside this process a small grants memorial scheme was agreed with the Collaborative Forum (see report). In the final report of the Collaborative Forum the following recommendations specific to memorialisation, personal narratives and local monuments included;

  • a national monument to commemorate, respect and honour mothers and children held in these Institutions;
  • memorials to be erected at each Mother and Child institution and similar institutions;
  • a living memorial of Mother and Child Institutions, which could be in digital, audio or visual presentation of information and individual narratives;
  • and an annual commemoration day to honour and remember all survivors of Mother and Child Institutions, which could have both a national and local focus, with a recommendation that government could provide funding to support local groups organising events.

However, these desired outcomes were not specifically reflected in the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation recommendations, which stated in relation to memorials that:

  • local authorities should be in a position to provide funding;
  • that the question of an all-Ireland memorial was matter for various groups involved;
  • and they should be consulted before any funding is made available.

There was no resource guarantee provided and once again there was no methodology included in this report to indicate how the Commission reached this recommendation.

The Mother and Baby Home Report was rejected outright by victims and survivors for many reasons, highlighting the fact that memorials, in the absence of any other justice mechanism being accepted, may not work. All of these justice mechanisms – the report, findings and recommendations of any inquiry, an apology and a memorial – when government-mandated are seen as inter-connected in many respects and not separate and stand-alone justice mechanisms.

Third, the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) approached the question of memorialisation in another way. Uniquely, the HIAI is the first Public Inquiry on the island of Ireland to reference consideration of symbolic reparations in its Terms of Reference prior to the inquiry commencing, stating that the final report would make “recommendations on an apology and an appropriate memorial or tribute to those who suffered abuse.” Throughout the statutory inquiry at Banbridge Courthouse, victims and survivors were asked at the end of the evidentiary session for their opinion on a ‘memorial or tribute’ and in the final report a recommendation was made for a memorial in Parliament Buildings or in the grounds of Stormont (outside Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland). This is despite the findings of the report stating that only 11% of victims and survivors were in favour of a memorial and 12% opposed.

In a recent study, Prof. Brandon Hamber and Prof. Patricia Lundy[13]  interviewed 43 victims and survivors. They found that 13% of people interviewed were in favour of a memorial and 26% opposed. They also found, as my research has, that asking the question at the end of these hard and often traumatic evidentiary sessions may not have lent itself to ‘genuine engagement’ on the issue of memorialisation. Genuine engagement, in terms of the function of symbolic reparation, would require that, on being asked this question, victims and survivors would understand that the memorial or tribute can be connected to accountability, justice, remedy, and the promotion of healing which are just some of the symbolic reparation claims in terms of memorial practice.

There is no evidence that victims and survivors engaged in any formal way with memorialisation as a form of symbolic reparation before or during the HIAI statutory inquiry hearings, other than the question during the evidentiary sessions. Again, no methodology is included as to how decision-makers came to the decision they did regarding the memorial recommendation or their understanding of memorialisation as a form of symbolic justice and symbolic reparation.

The HIAI report acknowledges the views of victims and survivors, that many are very strongly of the opinion that a memorial was not appropriate as they did not want to be reminded of their experiences as children in residential institutions. The report goes on to say that ‘respecting that view’ they are ‘of the opinion a memorial should be erected to remind legislators and others of what many children experienced in residential homes’, and that they ‘recommend a suitable physical memorial should be erected in Parliament Buildings, or in the grounds of Stormont Estate.’[14] The report stated that the design of the memorial should be chosen by competition, conducted by the Arts Council, and that Arts Council should invite representatives from those who were abused in residential institutions in Northern Ireland in selecting the successful design, which would be paid for by the Northern Ireland Executive.

While this recommendation recognises that the majority of victims and survivors felt a memorial was not appropriate, there is no further explanation that represents the views of those in favour of a memorial, and what type of memorial they may have favoured.

On further review of the 10 volume HIAI report, there are only eight references to a memorial, and six of them are in this recommendation. The report itself is silent on whether it was only the replies of victim and survivors (to the question of a memorial or tribute at the end of their evidentiary session to the Statutory Inquiry) that influenced the decision of the panel members. The report also makes no reference to whether or not victims and survivors knew their views were going to be the benchmark for a recommendation for a memorial on their behalf when giving evidence during the Statutory Inquiry. It also does not mention whether the victims and survivor responses were in fact the benchmark for the panel decision on their consideration for a memorial. There is silence too on whether any consideration in relation to the final recommendation for a memorial made by decision makers includes analysis of international human rights standards on memorialisation.

Some views from victims and survivors during the Hart Inquiry (HIAI)

Views from victims and survivors are not homogenous or often in agreement, and some responses to the question on a memorial or tribute in the HIAI Transcripts from my research to date illustrate this.

  • HIA 352 – If you want to put a plaque up, certainly. If it’s positive, yes.
  • HIA 130 – A memorial of sorts – something better would be like a prize, a small, a nominal sum of money to be awarded to a carer that’s nominated, within reason, by those who were in their care, you know. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of money, but it’s something that would be a positive rather than a sterile memorial.
  • HIA 169 – Loved the ‘Little Shoes’ memorial in Dublin where survivors tied little shoes to the railings of the Dail/the Parliament Buildings.
  • HIA 233 – Said ‘There should be some memorial’ but when asked ‘Have you any views on what form that memorial ought to take?” Respondent says “I don’t know, it shouldn’t involve any staff anyway.”
  • HIA 127 –  Would like the ‘building tore down’.
  • HIA 13 – Would like ‘A lasting legacy in the form of either both maybe a monument of some sort or some sort of a bursary to help our children, our children’s children, because I didn’t get the chance to push myself forward educationally. I didn’t get the chance to be the person I could have been”

Some victims and survivors absolutely rejected the idea of a memorial.

  • HIA 49 – “…you know we are not shouting about memorials at the end of the Peace Bridge, because in the whole of Northern Ireland we are falling over memorials, you know. We are tripping over them. There’s going to be no walls left in Ireland for them….”

This also corresponds to earlier research commissioned by the Northern Ireland Panel of Experts with victims and survivors engaging with the HIAI in relation to what victims want from redress.[15] The section on memorials and memory projects highlights initial resistance to memorials from victims and survivors, but when discussions were progressed and possibilities further explored, victims and survivors began to link a memorial to acknowledgment, recognition, and generating public awareness.[16] These linkages are in line with formal processes and duties on states in relation to reparation outlined by the UN and other bodies regarding the function of symbolic reparation mentioned above. This work clearly illustrates and supports the need for a capacity-building process within any public inquiry model in relation to symbolic reparation and memorialisation.

Can this be done within the existing legal framework for public inquiries? Here are some initial thoughts:

What could be done under existing legislation?

Addressing symbolic reparation, what that means to and for victims and survivors, and how it is understood and supported by decision makers and inquiry panel members throughout any public inquiry process into institutional abuse, is not an easy task.

These little snippets give some insight into the complexity of public inquiry processes when engaging with symbolic reparation as symbolic justice in terms of memorial practice. Hamber and Lundy (2020) note that if victim and survivor justice needs were to be centre-stage and would drive the initiation, shaping and design and implementation of approaches to dealing with historical child abuse, this would require full participation of survivors from an early stage in its development, design and implementation (italics added).[17] Their research notes whilst survivors bring knowledge, resilience and resources, there is a need for capacity building, resources and appropriate support to enable genuine engagement, so that survivors have and can exercise power. This requires political will, and a paradigm shift towards a victim-led approach to historical institutional abuse. Another important reflection from their study is that a single mechanism is unlikely to address all of the survivors’ needs.

One way of assisting in a victim-centred approach with built in capacity building for victims and survivors and decision makers and inquiry panel members could be through an ‘Assessor’ mechanism. Holding seminars and appointing assessors and expert witnesses to assist in an Inquiry’s work can be a useful way for any statutory public inquiry to obtain specialist assistance. The role of assessor was introduced for the first time in the section 11 of the Inquiries Act 2005 in part to distinguish between panel members and expert advisors. While there are no provisions in either the Inquiries Act 2005 or the Inquiry Rules 2006 in respect of defining the role of the assessor, the explanatory notes say:

The role of the assessors will vary from inquiry to inquiry, but in essence they are experts in their own particular field whose knowledge, where necessary, can provide the panel with the expertise it needs in order to fulfil an inquiry’s terms of reference.

There is precedent for using assessors in a variety of public inquiries.[18] In England the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) at the outset appointed two separate panels of advisers, the Victims and Survivors’ Consultative Panel, and the Academic Advisory Board (AAB)[19], however the advisers were not formally appointed as assessors under s.11 of the Inquiries Act 2005, they were appointed as ‘expert advisers’.

There is also precedent for using assessors in a limited way as expert witnesses in the Northern Ireland Historical Abuse Inquiry (HIAI)[20] where opening evidence on the Child Migrant Module[21] was taken from assessors Dr. Margaret Humphreys and Dr. Ann McVeigh.[22] The Child Migrant Module focused on children transported from Northern Ireland to Australia. Dr. Margaret Humphreys[23] gave evidence about her extensive experience working with victims and survivors who were transported to Australia from various religious and government bodies in Northern Ireland.[24]

In relation to memorials her response was;

‘So, when you come to things like memorials I think there are different views on it. I have heard child migrants say, “That means nothing to me, I want my mum and Dad. That does not tell the story of child migrants coming here, it doesn’t tell the story of multiple rapes, it doesn’t tell the story of our life here. It says we came here and we are still here”.

‘But so much more is required, so much more. And that moreness is a sense of justice and what is justice and what does it mean to people, then the question has to be put to child migrants and their families may it be said, as well …This is family history. It’s not just the child migrant’s history, it’s the family history, and it becomes a generational history.

‘So I think things like remembrance, symbolic gestures, while perhaps they have a place, what I am hearing from child migrants is that is not their need.’ (Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, 2014)

This comment is indicative of the ambiguity that seems to permeate this straightforward yet deeply complex question.

Margaret Humphreys was also one of the few people giving evidence to the HIAI who was asked ‘What is needed now?’ Amongst other things she said;

Measures to support the spirit of the 2010 National Apology[25] to former child migrants, including practical and cultural initiatives that reinforce the lessons learned from a past which has been denied for too long.

Memorial practice is so broad that apologies and initiatives, such as lessons learned from the past, can be considered part of memorial practice. The difficulty is how can this broad scope of memorialisation and its connection to symbolic justice and reparation be understood, be victim and survivor led, and part of the public inquiry process, from its inception?

There is no particular precedent for an inquiry to follow when defining the role of an assessor to an inquiry (or an ‘advisor’ in the case of non-statutory inquiries), and the Inquiries Act 2005 is silent on their role and obligations in statutory inquiries. This could allow any new inquiry panel a certain amount of leeway in how an assessor undertakes specific functions.[26]

One could be to have an expert assessor, or assessors, who are able to engage with symbolic reparation and memorial practice and work with victims, survivors and decision makers in establishing how memorialisation as symbolic reparation is connected to acknowledgement, accountability, redress, healing and reconciliation. This could be done via a parallel process of engagement digging deep into these challenging and important claims and could include a series of seminars, artist talks, academic, site visits and other expert memorial evidence from victims and survivors already heavily engagement with memorial activity at grassroots level in Ireland. Thus fulfilling what Hamber and Lundy (2020) see as a model for dealing with institutional abuse that embraces survivor’s needs, with a starting point of determining what they want. This could also address issues of capacity building with victims and survivors and decision-makers (the inquiry panel). It could include resourcing and appropriate support to enable ‘genuine engagement’ with victims and survivors, and other experts on memorialisation practice. Victims and survivors could exercise power from the inception of the inquiry process and it could be a truly victim-led process. It could therefore work as a parallel yet intrinsic part of the inquiry process.

An opportunity for a new approach to symbolic reparation and memorial practice in institutional abuse inquiries

It seems that there is an opportune moment for the Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalen Laundry Inquiry in Northern Ireland to be the first truly more victim-centred inquiry, with amongst other justice measures, genuine engagement on the issues of symbolic reparation and memorialisation. On the back of an academic report, which had significant input from victims and survivors, an independent investigation into Mother and Baby homes and Magdalene Laundries was announced in January 2021. The Northern Ireland Executive also established a Truth Recovery Design Team[27] with the expertise to ensure that consideration of symbolic justice and symbolic reparation is a key part of the process, should the political will be there to allow the team to do this.

In this respect, I am mindful of the final comment in the Clann submission to the ‘Consultation Process on the Development of an Ex-Gratia ‘Restorative Recognition Scheme’ established as part of the Irish Government’s comprehensive response to the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters) which completely encapsulates why the whole justice process and related mechanisms such as symbolic justice matter in any public inquiry into institutional abuse:

The Government should not rely on the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Inquiry Report to devise the contents of its ‘Restorative Recognition Scheme’ and should consider repudiating the Report outright. An inaccurate official historical record is not only insulting to those who have suffered grave abuse; it denies the most basic element of a remedy, which is acknowledgement of the truth. It further impedes memorialisation [italics added], education, and efforts to ensure institutional reform and non-repetition of similar abuse in future.

Inquiries that consider or recommend a memorial are proposing a form of justice, by way of symbolic reparation, yet memorialisation is not simply ‘done’, it is connected to contested justice imperatives. When delivered without genuine engagement with victims and survivors, where they feel they aren’t heard and their needs aren’t fulfilled throughout the whole inquiry process, many difficulties arise.

However, should all of the other elements of the inquiry process fulfil therequirements of victims and survivors then symbolic reparation and symbolic justice by way of agreed memorialisation – be it statue, education bursary, living memorial, virtual online archive, annual event,  national day, inclusion in school curriculum or in whatever form – may contribute to some kind of vindication, stimulate and open up debate, recognise the wrongs of the state and go towards ensuring the abuse is remembered. Or victims and survivors may equally agree that no memorial is necessary beyond the agreed and accepted record of the inquiry.[28] This is ultimately their choice.


This blog only touches lightly on some aspects of the complex area of symbolic reparation, symbolic justice, memorialisation and public inquiries into institutional abuse.

In depth research on redress and reparation emanating from public inquiries into institutional abuse has mostly been done in relation to financial redress but evidence from this work applies also to symbolic reparation where it has been identified that ultimately redress is more than a financial payment. As Daly (2014, p. 115) notes, redress (and reparation) broadly conceived includes all processes that occur when victims and survivors are seeking justice. Including how well-informed victims and survivors are, whether they understand the reparation process, how they are treated and whether they have a role in shaping the desired process and desired outcomes. These redress outcomes include public apologies, memorialisation, commemoration and other types of memory projects. Therefore including wider audiences and having a larger purpose. These are symbolic justice mechanisms that in the end seek to remember and reinterpret the past wrongs, and in some way attempt to imagine new futures and identify wronged individuals and groups.[29]



[1] Adrienne is a former researcher on the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (Hart Inquiry, 2017) and is currently undertaking part-time distance Doctoral Research in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS) at the University of Strathclyde on ‘Symbolic Justice – Symbolic Reparation in Institutional Abuse Inquiries’. She works full-time as an Advocacy Caseworker at the Pat Finucane Centre, Belfast and has vast experience in inquest processes and public inquiries. Her twitter handle is @memorials123 where she tweets on all things related to Institutional Abuse.

[2] Prof. Patricia Lundy, Founder of Panel of Experts on Redress (Northern Ireland) discussed’ Assessment of the Hart Inquiry from the perspective of survivors’; Dr. James Gallen, Dublin city University, expert on Mother and Baby Homes discussed ‘Failing to centre survivors: An analysis of Ireland’s Commission on Mother and Baby Homes’;  and Breeda Murphy, Activist on mother and Baby Homes Issues and PRO of Tuam Mother & Baby Home Alliance discussed the ‘Opportunity Lost: From the perceptive of survivors and those affected in Ireland. Further panel of experts spoke on other sets of issues on Tuesday April 6th & Tuesday April 13th, 2021 and there will be further panels hosted in this format all available on Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland website at

[3] Redress and Reparation are often interchangeable, for the purposes of this article I will also refer to reparation and redress interchangeably, as some documents do not distinguish between these terms.

[4] Repairing Symbolic Reparations: Assessing the Effectiveness of Memorialization in the InterAmerican System of Human Rights Robin Ade`le Greeley,* Michael R. Orwicz,† Jose´ Luis Falconi,** Ana Marı´a Reyes,†† Fernando J. Rosenberg*** and Lisa J. Laplante, International Journal of Transitional Justice, 2020, 14, 165–192 doi: 10.1093/ijtj/ijaa002

[5] Ibid.

[6] Other UN documents also inform the broader discussion and debates on reparations in terms of acknowledgement and truth and inform part of my doctoral work but are beyond the scope of this blog, see UN ‘Updated Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity’ and Principle 3, the Duty to Preserve Memory at; see also Julia Viebach, Principle 3, The Duty to Preserve Memory also at

[7] All of these articles discuss different aspects of this, see Carol Brennan (2008) Facing What Cannot be Changed: The Irish Experience of Confronting Institutional Child Abuse, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 29:3-4, 245-263, DOI: 10.1080/09649060701752265; Johanna Sköld (2013) Historical Abuse—A Contemporary Issue: Compiling Inquiries into Abuse and Neglect of Children in Out-of-Home Care Worldwide, Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 14:sup1, 5-23, DOI: 10.1080/14043858.2013.771907; Kathleen Daly (2014) Conceptualising Responses to Institutional Abuse of Children, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 26:1, 5-29, DOI: 10.1080/10345329.2014.12036004; Jesus Wept: The Roman Catholic Church, Child Sexual Abuse and Transitional Justice

James Gallen International Journal of Transitional Justice 10 (2), 332-349, 2016; Redressing gendered mistreatment: Magdalen laundries, symphisiotomy and the mother and baby homes

James Gallen, Gender and the Law in Modern Ireland, ed. Lynsey Black and Peter Dunne, 263-280, 2019; Transitional Justice and Ireland’s Legacy of Historical Abuse

James Gallen, Éire-Ireland 55 (1), 35-67, 2020; Kate Gleeson & Sinéad Ring (2021) Confronting the past and changing the future? Public inquiries into institutional child abuse, Ireland and Australia, Griffith Law Review, DOI: 10.1080/10383441.2020.1855950; McAlinden, Anne-Marie and Naylor, Bronwyn, Reframing Public Inquiries as ‘Procedural Justice’ for Victims of Institutional Child Abuse: Towards a Hybrid Model of Justice (September 26, 2016). McAlinden, A-M., & Naylor, B. (2016). Reframing Public Inquiries as ‘Procedural Justice’ for Victims of Institutional Child Abuse: Towards a Hybrid Model of Justice. Sydney Law Review, 38(3), 277-308., Available at SSRN:; Brandon Hamber & Patricia Lundy (2020) Lessons from Transitional Justice? Toward a New Framing of a Victim-Centered Approach in the Case of Historical Institutional Abuse, Victims & Offenders, 15:6, 744-770, DOI: 10.1080/15564886.2020.1743803

[8] There are global examples of victim and survivor engagement with memorial practice in the aftermath of public inquiries, however, this blog article due to brevity focuses specifically on what has happened on the Island of Ireland in relation to symbolic reparation as a form of redress with a focus on memorial practice in relation to public inquiries into institutional abuse.

[9] Some good sources transitional justice and symbolic reparation and memorialisation as well as memory work are Barsalou J. and Baxter V., (2007) The Urge to Remember: The Role of Memorials in Social Reconstruction and Transitional Justice at;  Susanne Buckley-Zistel & Stefanie Schaefer eds., Memorials in Times of Transition: 17 (Series on Transitional Justice), Intersentia, 31 Mar. 2014; The politics of reparations and apologies S Wolfe, Springer Science & Business Media, 2013; From “Collective Memory” to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices Jeffrey K. Olick and Joyce Robbins, Annu. Rev. Sociol. 1998. 24:105–40; Young, James E. The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meanings. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993;  LaCapra, D. History and Memory after Auschwitz; Dominick LaCapra; 2018; Book; Published by: Cornell University Press; For recent exploration on the difficulties of memorialisation see Lea David, The Past Can’t Heal Us, University College Dublin. Publisher: Cambridge University Press, 2020.

[10] Currently a group of academics and victims and survivors and activists are working on a proposal for a Site of Conscience at the site of an old Magdalen Laundry at Sean McDermott Street in Dublin ‘Open Heart City Collective’, Republic of Ireland and have held a number of consultative workshops with victims and survivors and interested parties in respect of this see

[11] One national memorial in Dublin, Ireland, not the result of a public inquiry, is the result of the Magdalen Memorial Committee (Patrica McDonald, Bláthnaid Ni Chinnéide and Margo Kelly). They spent three years lobbying the Office of Public Works in the Republic of Ireland to get permission for a small plaque on a late Victorian park bench in St. Stephen’s Green, the main people’s park in Dublin’s City Centre in the Republic of Ireland.  The plaque itself is a small metal coppery coloured plate with the following inscription:

“To the women who worked in the Magdalen laundry institutions and children born to some members of these communities – reflect here upon their lives”

This memorial was unveiled by the then President Mary Robinson on 20th April 1996.

[12] The Commission to Inquiry into Child Abuse, 2009, (Ryan Commission) was the first public inquiry in the island of Ireland to recommend a memorial, despite a plethora of inquiries from 1936 onwards both North and South.

[13] See supra note 2. Prof. Lundy is one of the Experts referred to above from the March 29th Panel see

[14] Historical Institutional Abuse, Volume 1, Recommendations, p. 230 and 231, para’s 12 and 13 at

[15] Panel is made up of individual survivors, survivor groups, human rights organisations, academics, practitioners, members of the legal profession, and national and international experts and are named in Annex 1 in the commissioned report, Historical Institutional Abuse: What Survivors Want From Redress Professor Patricia Lundy Ulster University Commissioned by the Panel of Experts on Redress March 2016

[16] Ibid., pp. 26-28, para. 12 Memorials and Memory Projects.

[17] Hamber, B., & Lundy, P. (2020). Lessons from Transitional Justice? Toward a New Framing of a Victim-Centered Approach in the Case of Historical Institutional Abuse. Victims & Offenders: An International Journal of Evidence-based Research, Policy, and Practice, 15(6), 744-770.

[18] Victoria Limbié Inquiry, Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, The Victoria Limbié Inquiry (Cm 5730, 2003); The Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry; The Leveson Inquiry which included a Protocol on Assessors.

[19] This Board was later dissolved and the work was taken forward by a Steering Group with members continuing to give expert and ethical advice

[20] In Northern Ireland, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have used their powers under the provisions in the Inquiry into Historical Abuse Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 to make rules that governed the Northern Ireland HIAI, section 4 refers to Assessors and unlike s. 11 of the Inquiries Act 2005 the chairperson of the Inquiry has more decision making powers and flexibility, whereas the Minister in the Inquiries Act  2005 has deciding powers.

[21] The Child Migrant Programme commenced on 1st September 2014 and spanned 9 sitting days.  This module examined the experiences of 50 applicants who were in institutions in Northern Ireland before being sent to Australia as a child migrant. It was determined that there were approximately 130 young children in the care of Northern Ireland voluntary institutions or state bodies who were sent to Australia as child migrants between 1922 and 1995. Victims and Survivors that could describe the events which occurred to them before they left Northern Ireland as a child migrant were asked to provide oral evidence by video link at the public hearings.  Others gave their evidence in person or had their written statement read out. See

[22] Dr. Ann McVeigh had written a thesis on The History of the Child and Juvenile Migration Scheme to Australia. This thesis along with evidence she gave to the HIAI Statutory Inquiry was considered by the HIAI Panel.

[23] Margaret Humphreys is a British social worker and author from Nottingham, England and has been working with child migrants since 1986.

[24] See


[26]  Mitchell, I., Watkin Jones, P.W., Jones, S., and Ireton, E. Eds. (2020). The Practical Guide to Public Inquiries, Oxford: Hart Publishing. 2020, p. 227.

[27] Domestically and internationally recognised experts  on this Truth Recovery Design Team are Deirdre Mahon, Prof  Phil Scraton and Dr Maeve O’Rourke.

[28] For further discussion on forgetting see Rieff, D. (2016). In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

[29] Daly, K. (2014) Redressing Institutional Abuse of Children. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.