Peace building through the development of Restorative Practice will leave a lasting legacy
In response to recent media attention about CRJI’s meeting with the PSNI Chief Constable, the organisation wishes to put on record the sense of deep frustration and disappointment it feels regarding deliberative attention focused on its Director, Harry Maguire, about legacy and issues of the past.
As an organisation comprised of staff and volunteers from a variety of backgrounds, CRJI deals with a range of community-based issues on a daily basis totalling some 1800 cases per year. From local disputes to anti-peace process armed groups, community safety to drugs, the organisation plays a pivotal role in developing safer, more inclusive communities - and particularly those most impacted by the effects of socio-economic marginalisation and deprivation. With offices across all areas of Belfast, Derry and Newry & Armagh, CRJI also engages with the statutory sector bodies and on a cross-community basis as part of its work.
A key part of that process for CRJI is the unequivocal need for cooperation with the PSNI, underscored by our licensed and accredited status through the Department of Justice and Criminal Justice Inspection NI. We therefore work with PSNI on a wide range of issues with established protocols for cooperation. In terms of CRJI’s status and role in helping communities move forward and work with the police, it is also no coincidence that the first public engagement of the former Chief Constable, George Hamilton, was at a restorative justice event run by the accredited restorative justice organisations back in 2014. From the most senior levels to the neighbourhood teams on the grounds, building relationships with PSNI is part-and-parcel of everyday working practices.
We see the recent meeting with Simon Byrne as an extension of those long-established working relationships And especially as part of our open and transparent approach to working with PSNI and all other statutory agencies.
Our Board of Directors, which has members from a variety of academic, statutory, community and human rights backgrounds further hold the Director to account for all aspects of CRJI’s work. This includes a range of projects developed and managed by the senior management team of our organisation. This includes specific work undertaken in the Communities in Transition Areas identified in Fresh Start. This work we view as our continued commitment and contribution to peace building. Our Director has been to the fore of this work for many years.
It is therefore part of our frustration that such negative attention has been focused on a recent social media post when cooperation between our Director and PSNI has long been in the public domain. We accept that many aspects of the past remain unresolved as part of wider legacy issues. But equally, we feel a partial focus on individuals, vis-à-vis legacy issues and the past, without reference to wider circumstances in the present, can do little to foster positive relations.
Moving forward, CRJI will continue to engage with all sections of the community, statutory and governmental bodies, as part of its community-based restorative ethos. And in specific reference to our Director, remaining committed to the principles of the peace process, cross-community working and ending so-called ‘punishment violence’ remains as ever, a work in progress. Both he and CRJI remain unshakable in this respect.