NUIG law postgrads create school teaching resources on Ireland’s institutional abuses

‘Survivors of Ireland’s institutions should not have to wait for the Department of Education to change the Leaving Cert History syllabus to have their voices heard in classrooms’

From LtoR: Helen McDonagh, Jessica Howard, Emily O'Reilly, Mary Harney, Tomás Carlos Biggins, and Sijia Shen.

From LtoR: Helen McDonagh, Jessica Howard, Emily O'Reilly, Mary Harney, Tomás Carlos Biggins, and Sijia Shen.

Postgraduate law students at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, have this week published secondary school teaching materials on institutional abuses in Ireland.

The resources, which were created with survivors, school teachers, pupils, activists, and artists, are designed to help secondary school teachers address the human rights violations suffered in the industrial schools, Magdalene Laundries, and mother and baby institutions. The resources are published on the ICHR and Open Heart City project websites, and will be available as a free download.

The teaching materials were designed by LLM students Emily O’Reilly, Jessica Howard, Helen McDonagh, Sija Shen, and Tomás Biggins. To do this, they worked closely with Mary Harney, a survivor, and Fionna Fox, a solicitor, as well as with the Clann Project. The students also researched education and memorialisation efforts in Germany, Canada, and Australia.

Educational resources

The educational resources include a guidebook for teachers; powerpoint presentations, including a Galway case study; lesson scripts on the human rights violations which occurred in institutions, as well as illegal adoptions and unmarked graves; and the legal obligations which the State has failed to meet. There is also a brochure for students, and links to an online database of further sources for independent research.

The LLM students trailed their classroom materials with transition tears in Coláiste na Coiribe in May, were they were joined by Mary Harney, who spoke to the pupils about her personal experience in a mother and baby home.

“Survivors of Ireland’s institutions are growing older, and they should not have to wait for the Department of Education to change the Leaving Certificate History syllabus to have their voices heard in classrooms,” said the LLM students.

Listening to survivors

“By listening to survivors we realised the importance of memorialising the abuses which occurred in these institutions to ensure they do not happen again. Given the important role education plays in preserving the historical record, and preventing human rights violations, we believe survivors’ testimonies need to be taught in Irish classrooms today.”

This project was carried out as part of the Human Rights Law Clinic at the ICHR, directed by Dr Maeve O’Rourke. It introduces students to theories and tools of ‘movement lawyering’ or ‘rebellious lawyering’, to enable them to collaborate with grassroots movements for social change.

“We hope Coláiste na Coiribe will be joined by many other schools in teaching students about this topic and helping to preserve survivors' testimonies,” said Emily O’Reilly. “It is our hope that the State will incorporate historical abuses into the Leaving Certificate Curriculum. Until then our pilot programme is available to teachers all over Ireland.”

 

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