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 Martin FerrisMartin Ferris (Kerry North-West Limerick, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the witnesses for their presentations. I commend Community Restorative Justice Ireland on its outstanding work over the years, and particularly on the great service it provides to communities. It helps to empower communities, and it helps the victims in addition to dealing with the perpetrators in a manner that is humane and caring. It offers the latter an opportunity to realise the injustice they have inflicted on their own community.

In the Twenty-six Counties, we have a policing board system. I sit on the policing board in my area. If I have a criticism of it, it is that it is not community-oriented and operates outside the communities. Gardaí and others make presentations but the system does not deal with what is actually happening within communities.

Mr. Maguire outlined a number of reasons for the social problems that exist, including unemployment, poverty and family break-ups. He suggested how they might be dealt with. He has approached the matter with an understanding of the causes in communities and of the way the system deals with people who step outside the norm within those communities, through punishment and so forth. Mr. Maguire outlined that the latter approach was not achieving anything because there is no intervention to help young re-offenders in the way the witnesses' intervene in their respective areas.

The programmes seem to be very urban in orientation.

I can understand that because this pertains to the accumulation of poverty within communities in working class areas. Consequently, it is orientated towards urban areas such as those mentioned by Mr. Maguire like Derry, Newry, the greater Belfast area and so forth. Have the delegates made interventions outside these areas into rural communities and so forth? Mr. Maguire has mentioned that he has made presentations in the South. Again, I assume they were in urban, as opposed to rural, areas. There is no difference because there is poverty in both rural and urban communities. I note the latter have a tendency to be better organised because there is a cumulative effect and it also helps to deal with the problem in a more community-based way. What advice do the delegates have for those members who are on policing boards and work within communities? I represent a constituency in which there is a great deal of social deprivation, as well as the associated consequences of such deprivation. Most of the kids I know who end up in prison come from poor working class areas and so forth. While there must be a link with education and so on, it must go further than this. It also must deal with the underlying causes which Mr. Maguire named and that reverts to poverty and unemployment. Do the delegates have suggestions as to how members, as political representatives, can continue to try to help to deal with these emerging problems?

I again thank the delegates for their fantastic presentations.


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