Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

Restorative Justice Programmes in Northern Ireland: Discussion

11:15 am

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal North East, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Members know the drill in terms of switching off their mobile telephones as they cause interference with the electronics.

Apologies have been received from Deputies Regina Doherty and Clare Daly, Senator Maurice Cummins and Mr. Alasdair McDonnell, MP.

I welcome the members of the delegation, Ms Deborah Watters, assistant director of Northern Ireland Alternatives, and Mr. Harry Maguire, acting director of Community Restorative Justice Ireland. Having regard to our preliminary discussion with Senator Martin McAleese, we can use this as an opportunity to offer a range of perspectives. We are delighted the members of the delegation are here today. Ms Deborah Watters has been a restorative justice practitioner for more than 20 years. We are very interested in the programmes she worked on in the United States in 1997 and the learning she brought back from those to her work in Northern Ireland. Her work is very much engaged in a Northern Ireland context but we will also examine her experience in terms of gangland activities in our own cities, as Senator McAleese pointed out at the beginning of the meeting. Ms Deborah Watters is assistant director of Northern Ireland Alternatives, a community-based restorative justice programme operating at a grassroots level in north-west Belfast, east Belfast, south Belfast and Bangor, which works closely with young people involved in crime, anti-social behaviour and gang violence, and she is also an independent member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. She is very welcome.

Mr. Harry Maguire became involved in Community Restorative Justice Ireland in 1998 following his release from prison. Community Restorative Justice Ireland is a government-accredited community-based conflict resolution group, of which Mr. Maguire is currently acting director. Since 2008 he has focused on engagement with the criminal justice system and on building a strong relationship with the PSNI. He is a member of the Restorative Justice Forum Northern Ireland and of the new policing and community safety partnerships. The two witnesses are very welcome and we look forward to hearing their presentations. I understand Mr. Harry Maguire will be the lead speaker and following his presentation I will open the discussion to the floor for observations and questions.

Before I invite the members of the delegation to make their presentations, I would like to advise them that they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their utterances to this committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease making remarks on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their remarks. They are directed that only comments or evidence in regard to the subject matter of this meeting are to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against a Member of either House of the Oireachtas, a person outside the Houses or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I invite Mr. Harry Maguire to make his presentation.


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