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

11:45 am

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Chairman for the opportunity to welcome the two delegates. As with Deputy Michael Kitt, I must also leave, albeit for a different reason. I arranged an appointment a long time ago and, unfortunately, I cannot stay. I will not hear the delegates' responses but I will read them in the Official Report.

Ms Watters' last remarks ring true for me in that the principle of restorative justice ought to be the correct way in which people recognise that they have harmed somebody and must assume responsibility. That is now part of the discipline programme in primary schools and, I hope, secondary schools. There is an effort to achieve what has been outlined in the education system. If people recognise they owe a debt to somebody as a consequence of their actions and if they assume responsibility therefor, it has a beneficial effect. This is why there is no recidivism to the same degree. Everything Ms Watters said is correct.

How do the delegates stand on the mandatory reporting dimension? It must be tricky. If in the process of the delegates' work they discover criminality, be it sex abuse or other crimes, how do they proceed? How do they maintain a relationship with the youngsters and the courts, bearing in mind that 600 people have used the service to date?

I recently came across an organisation called Extern. It has a residence at Lavey in Cavan which is close to where Deputy Smith and I have offices and work. It seems to do considerable work by way of intervening before young adults get into trouble. Do the delegates' work closely with that organisation? Is there a conflict between the two operations or are they mutually complementary? How does the relationship work? I was very impressed by Extern and what it does. I was brought to its premises because I have a relative who works for it. That is how I got to know the organisation. I was very impressed by its work.

Deputy Michael Kitt's comment on policing boards and open discussion was interesting. He referred to the differences between rural and urban areas. I will be interested in the answer to his question.

This is a very worthwhile exercise. The approach outlined is correct because if one can internalise what one has done, work through it and offer a means of restoration to the victim, one will not do what one has done again.


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