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
I welcome Mr. Maguire and Ms Watters. Their presentation was wonderful. They have given a positive and constructive message that there were 600 cases dealt with.
I suppose the word "alternative" can be used down here as well. The only way we can do away with misuse of drugs and the drugs scene is to provide an alternative. If we reduce demand by providing the alternative, then we will make progress.
In their case, obviously, there is a different story. On the 600 cases, Mr. Maguire stated one may get a follow-up at the street corner, with someone in the local stores or something else, but is there a constructive follow-up in the community reflecting his work and moving it on to the next stage?
I would agree with Senator McAleese on our process. There are joint policing committees which are statutory bodies. When youngsters look in they see all these people and, suddenly, they feel they are not wanted. It is not community oriented. It is a worry in that regard. If we are to provide alternatives, we must do it with a community-constructed approach. We must use everything available to us. One of my big bugbears is that some of the sporting organisations cherry-pick in communities. They go in and pick out two or three good footballers, camogie players, hurlers, hockey players or whatever, and they leave the rest behind.
That is a huge problem. If we are going to do this we must use every alternative we can identify. Have alternatives been pursued in the areas where problems with anti-social behaviour arise? Have organisations attempted to emulate the wonderful work done elsewhere? It is not only about sport but also about recreation and drama.
I weep sometimes when I pass schools with big gyms and other facilities which are locked every Friday evening until the following Monday morning. It is a disgrace that taxpayers have paid money for these facilities when they are not being used by our communities during prime family times at weekends.
It is great to discuss a wider sphere of Ireland in terms of cross-Border co-operation. Are State agencies and other organisations responding positively to the witnesses' proposals? What is the next step if we are to be successful? We have to ensure the key is not turned in the lock of the school on Friday evening. Problem areas, whether in cities, towns or villages, must be able to access these facilities.