Good Relations and Probation: An Outline of a Developmental Initiative by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland

Derick Wilson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In societies emerging from conflict a central theme is finding ways for people to acknowledge those different to them as equal and different citizens and secure an agreed law and order system. Whilst work on equality and diversity is essential in societies emerging from conflict, however, it is insufficient to work on these areas alone has, in Northern Ireland, been found to be insufficient. The need to secure an agreed law and order system and the experience of being equal and different citizens under that law system are also fundamental and deeply intertwined requirements (Wright 1996). It is therefore imperative that criminal justice agencies see the goal of wider ‘good relations’ as central for to their practice. In July 2002 the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) and the Future Ways Programme, University of Ulster entered into a joint developmental action research programme entitled ‘An Equity, Diversity and Interdependence Approach to Good Relations’. This article charts the key steps taken by the PBNI/Future Ways partnership to establish a framework for action on good relations. Promoting ‘Good Relations’ between people from ‘different religious beliefs, political opinions and racial groups’ is a legally required duty of public bodies in Northern Ireland (Section 75 (2) NI Act 1998). ‘Good Relations’ practice in the contested society of Northern Ireland has to engage people in seeing the ‘other’ as a potential gift, not a danger. Such good relations practice demands that staff in public bodies work to a mental model in which people are viewed primarily as equal and different citizens rather than as members of opposed and partisan traditions. This is a demanding shift presents personal and professional challenges that must be supported by requiring institutional organisational leadership and support for staff from their employing body. The Future Ways Programme worked with several such institutions from 1998-2002 to develop a framework for organisational learning and change. The focus of this paper is to chart the key steps taken to develop this partnership and encourage the promotion of good relations within PBNI. This paper outlines how a framework for action on ‘good relations’ was established by PBNI. It argues that a process initiated by training had to first become a whole organisation approach. Once the organisation, as a whole, had committed itself to the good relations agenda then the PBNI’s learning and training arm of the organisation, once again, are taking this theme on as assumed lead responsibility for leading the programme.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)56-70
    JournalIrish Probation Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Sept 2006

    Bibliographical note

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    Eyben, K. and Wilson, D.A. (2002), Conversations About Promoting Good Relations – A Report to PBNI, Coleraine: University of Ulster
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    • Good Relations
    • Citizenship
    • Sectarianism
    • Racism
    • Organisational Learning
    • Organisational Change
    • Equity
    • Diversity
    • Interdependence
    • Northern Ireland


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