Summer School Input

Today, 10 July 2020, the Hume O’Neill Chair, Professor Brandon Hamber, made an online input to the “Summer Institute in Northern Ireland: Lessons in Community Peacebuilding”. The Institute was moved online due to the Covid-19 context. The Institute is led by Professor Marie Breen-Smyth and is based at the University of Massachusetts (Boston) in partnership with a consortium of local residents and International Peace Education Resources (IPER). Professor Hamber’s input focused on the issue of Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland.

Briefing: Historical Institutional Abuse

Professor Patricia Lundy and Professor Brandon Hamber have now published a Policy Brief based on work on historical institutional abuse and transitional justice.

This policy briefing draws upon the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry to explicate the nexus of historical institutional abuse inquiries with transitional justice approaches. Through detailed analysis of empirical research with those who gave testimony to the Inquiry, the briefing explores to what extent the Inquiry was victim-centric, participatory and responsive. Drawing on lessons from transitional justice, the brief outlines five recommendations that could strengthen the victim-centred nature of approaches to dealing with the legacy of historical child abuse. The brief concludes that addressing victims’ needs should be the linchpin for both transitional justice and historical institutional abuse approaches.

To download the Policy Brief, click here.

To download the longer Research Article, click here.

Statues, History & Commemoration

Writing in Medium, the Chair, Professor Brandon Hamber shared his views on the recent controversies surrounding statues of the past.

The article entitled “Statues Don’t Teach History, They Applaud It” begins:

“Recently I saw a piece quoting the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, Louise Richardson, saying removing from Oriel College the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, the colonial administrator and financier, risks hiding history. The UK Prime Minister has also expressed the view, in a series of Tweets noting, particularly in relation to the statue of Winston Churchill, that “statues teach us about our past, with all its faults”. Am I the only one who thinks this is nonsense? Statues are not about history or pedagogy but commemoration. Should we commemorate people like Cecil John Rhodes today?

“Statue of Cecil John Rhodes at UCT” in Cape Town by barbourians is licensed with CC BY 2.0. The statue was removed in April 2015.

If the Vice-Chancellor is so concerned about history you can take down the statue and leave a large plinth explaining Rhodes brutal history and Oxford’s relationship with colonialism. Or better still teach history in one of the esteemed colleges, or make a podcast, a movie or build a website, or even consult a book. I don’t learn history from statues. Does anyone? Statues tell us who society values and about the values of those commemorated.”

To read the full article, click here.

NIAC Submission: Mental Health

In early 2020 the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) launched a new consultation on “Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s past: The UK Government’s New Proposals”. This consultation specifically focused on the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis’, proposal around dealing with the past, i.e. the Ministerial Statement: Addressing Northern Ireland Legacy Issues: Written statement HCWS168 (18 March 2020). The NIAC consultation sought views on this statement.

In response to this consultation, the Chair and Professor Siobhan O’Neill, Professor of Mental Health Sciences, Ulster University, made a submission to the Committee. Our submission (download in full here) argues that the new proposals aim to address some of our concerns about the Stormont House Agreement by reducing the number of institutions that victims and survivors will need to engage with. This minimises the risk that victims will be re-traumatised by having to engage with multiple institutions. However, the new proposals also emphasise the process of gathering information rather than justice. We argue that this will cause significant hurt to many for whom justice was required for meaning-making, and who had awaited justice in order to process the trauma and recover. You can read more here.

Seminar: Trauma-Informed Approach

The second seminar in the Dealing with the Past series was hosted online on 18 May 2020, with some 250 people joining online.

The seminar was entitled “The need for a trauma-informed approach to address the conflict’s legacy” and was delivered by Professor Siobhan O’Neill on 18 May 2020. In this seminar Professor O’Neill presents the evidence on the transgenerational impact of trauma, and highlights the importance of a “trauma-informed” approach to addressing the conflict’s legacy to protect the population from further harm.

The seminar is part of the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and INCORE, in partnership with Healing Through Remembering and the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, online seminar series. The seminar was chaired by Professor Brandon Hamber.

Transitional Justice & Historical Abuse

Professors Brandon Hamber and Patricia Lundy have published a new article on “Lessons from Transitional Justice? Toward a New Framing of a Victim-Centered Approach in the Case of Historical Institutional Abuse”. The article was published in the journal Victims and Offenders in April 2020.

The article critically examines transitional justice mechanisms to determine if historical abuse inquiries can learn from this field of practice. The article explores the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry which reported its findings in January 2017 as a vehicle for addressing what lessons might be learned or shared between the fields of transitional justice and investigations into historical abuse. Through a detailed analysis of empirical research with those that gave testimony to the Inquiry, including fourthly-three victims and Inquiry transcripts, the article explores to what extent the Inquiry was victim-centered, enabled victim participation (beyond giving testimony) and addressed victim needs. The article shows that many of the flaws of transitional justice mechanisms have been replicated when dealing with historical child abuse.

Drawing on lessons from transitional justice – both positive and negative – the article outlines five broad areas for consideration that could strengthen the victim-centered nature of approaches to dealing with the legacy of historical child abuse. The article concludes that addressing victims’ needs should be at the center and drive approaches and processes for both transitional justice and historical institutional abuse.

To request the article contact Professor Hamber. If you have journal access the article can be downloaded here.

Seminar: Breaking Binary History

The first of the “Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland” seminar series is now available online. The seminar was entitled “Breaking Binary History: Can the Stormont House Agreement facilitate a broader and more representative understanding of the past?”” by Dr Adrian Grant on 7 May 2020.

The seminar is part of the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and INCORE, in partnership with Healing Through Remembering and the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, online seminar series. The seminar was chaired by Professor Brandon Hamber.