As many within the local community know, Clonard Monastery has experienced issues with youth anti-social behaviour over the past year. On several occasions, teens have broken into the property, entering the private garden and uprooting plants and smashing flower pots and destroying exterior lights. In one particular incident, they broke a window and entered into the kitchen, throwing food and damaging some of the instruments and items within the kitchen. The teens have also been disruptive to church services, gathering outside the doors of the chapel and shouting. When Monastery staff have tried to address the behaviour by speaking to the teens, the youth have been disrespectful and abusive to Monastery staff.
Not only has this type of behaviour resulted in significant financial costs for the Monastery (the Monastery was required to pay upwards of £1,000 to repair the damage), but the priests and staff on the premises have also felt unsafe and uncomfortable in the area. They were especially worried that the youth might become violent or physical towards them in future interactions. While the priests were eager to address the problem, they did not want to expose the youth to the formal criminal justice system or cause them to acquire a criminal record, and they therefore reached out to CRJI for assistance.
CRJI collaborated with the PSNI, youth organisations, and the local residents organisation in an effort to design a restorative approach to the situation. CRJI reached out to some of the families of the youth that had been identified and invited them to participate in a mediation process with representatives from the Monastery. Four different families agreed to engage in the process and subsequently met with CRJI staff and Monastery personnel. Members of the Monastery were able to put across their concerns and relay the incidents they had witnessed to the families, while underscoring their desire to support the youth and prevent criminal sanctions. Families were able to hear about the incidents their children had been generally involved in, and were able to reassure Monastery staff about the conversations they had had with their children and the steps they had taken to prevent future incidents.
By becoming involved, CRJI was able to help avoid criminal justice proceedings as well as deter the involvement of anti-peace process armed groups. Since this case had been shared widely on social media and attracted media attention, many in the community had voiced opinions favouring physical punishment of the teens. CRJI’s involvement ensured the use of nonviolent approaches and held the youth accountable while preventing more negative methods of addressing conflict.
The families were thankful for the opportunity to handle the incidents in this manner and the Monastery staff felt satisfied that the problem was addressed. The mediations were successful and there have been no further incidents at the Monastery since then.