Paula Shilliday

Paula Shilliday


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Research Focus

My PhD thesis investigates the role and significance of memorials and memorialisation in the aftermath of historical institutional abuse, from the perspective of victims and survivors and the general public. It focuses specifically upon the abuses within the Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby institutions in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The increasing importance of memorialisation in this context is demonstrated by its recommendation in official inquiries in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Australia as a response to historical clerical sexual abuse, and in Canada and Australia in relation to historical institutional child abuse against indigenous populations. Memorialisation has also been recommended following the Irish government’s investigation into the Magdalene Laundries, and is an anticipated outcome of the ongoing investigation into Mother and Baby institutions.

Transitional justice literature is the main strand of the research's twin theoretical framework, given the recent extension of this field, including memorialisation as a form of reparations, into the area of historical institutional abuse. Transitional justice literature informs the public dimension of remembrance in terms of non-repetition of the abuse, and the official (Church-State) dimension, as regards issues of acknowledgement, responsibility and accountability. Research in the field of death and cultural studies, including grief works literature, is the second strand of the theoretical framework. This informs the private dimension of remembrance, in terms of how memorialisation might address the deeply private trauma and grief of victims and survivors, as well as the absence of proper burials for women and children who died in the institutions.

Research Interests

Transitional justice; transitional societies; restorative justice; human rights; law and justice; memorials; memorialization and remembering; reparations; social justice; institutionalization; shame; private grief and trauma experiences of historical institutional abuse victims and survivors in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; failure of the state; Church denial; issues of acknowledgement, responsibility and accountability; the role of society; empirical research to gain indepth understandings of the views of victims and survivors on remembrance of historical institutional abuse as well as public opinion


Awarded a Mitchell Institute (GRI) Scholarship from the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast (2017 - 2020)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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