Industrial Memories - a UCD digital humanities witnessing project - takes a closer look at Ireland’s legacy of institutional child abuse to reveal new and important findings.
What we learned
Abuse was the defining characteristic of the Industrial School system for children in modern Ireland. Children in these institutions experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse: they were beaten and raped; they were neglected and malnourished; they were deprived of education.
One survivor testified to the Commission: 'They all said “that couldn’t have happened” but they can’t say that to 5,000 of us when we all have a similar story to tell.'
How hidden patterns were revealed
Digital representations show us hidden patterns in the Report, illustrating the system of abuse in action. By tracking transfers through the Report we reveal the systemic response at the root of the abuse of children, and its cover-up.
Across society, people knew
We applied data analytics to create a map of who knew about the conditions in the schools. Using our tools, you can see that it was not only the Catholic Church that were involved: the State was a central player, with extensive knowledge of the system, from the Gardaí, to legal representatives, to the Department of Education and politicians. These were the people who knew.
Beyond the data, the patterns & the big picture of a state-supported industry of abuse, this project was about prioritising the experience of the survivor. By listening to their voices, by exploring the spaces they were held in as children, we can glimpse a small part of their history, and act as witnesses to their experiences.
Article on witnessing abuse using data analytics, by Emilie Pine, Susan Leavy and Mark T. Keane
Éire-Ireland 52.1 & 2 Spring/Summer 2017
The official digital record of the Child Abuse Commission, published 2009 (commonly known as the Ryan Report)