“Unfinished Restorative Business – Restorative Justice within a body of wider restorative actions underpinning the Peace Process in Northern Ireland.”

Derick Wilson

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    Since the early 60’s, before, during and post- conflict, many people and small groups from diverse social, cultural, religious and secular backgrounds have worked to promote a more fair and reconciled society here, one which nourishes new strength and restores a vigor to new, more open relationships, structures and institutions. Restorative Justice in Northern Ireland, as a concept and as a way of working, contributed to the wider inclusion of a wider range of citizens and identities in the Peace Process in NI than could have been previously imagined. The formal development of RJ as a community led approach within NI from 1994 on has been an, eventually, creative tension between how new community based initiatives and traditional state practices and institutions have navigated one another and negotiated a new, more restorative platform, to the benefit of all.The gift of a wider informed citizen and community base that is more open to restorative practices has had political significance and contributed directly to groups who have been previously marginalised and ‘beyond the pale’ coming into, and infusing, the process. These developments have been essential to securing an agreed, locally devolved, policing and criminal justice system, as one of the last jig-saw pieces in the 1998 political agreement.And yet, in a society where our common history has often, with some notable exceptions, been to be ambivalent about violence and participate, too readily, in silent or direct support for those willing to be violent to ‘different others’, we cannot too quickly present ourselves and this society as being ‘restorative models par excellence’. The fourth paragraph of the 1998 Belfast Agreement is a continuing challenge to all parties.4. We reaffirm our total and absolute commitment to exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences on political issues, and our opposition to any use or threat of force by others for any political purpose, whether in regard to this agreement or otherwise.In essence, when there is a restorative encounter, the participants experience something of what it means to be in a new, more open experience of community, a place where each is, in a sense, responsible for the safety and security of the other and not just themselves. Such an experience is a fundamental building block this society needs, emerging from conflict. Those people who facilitate and participate in such quality experiences, when they occur, become potential carriers of new models on which a more restorative society culture can be promoted and built. This applies whether they have been involved in: conferences associated with the juvenile justice system, in family group conferences, in restorative school cultures, in residential care, in prison; in mediations associated with civil society groups, in the often painful meetings of victims and survivors of the conflict, in meetings between those who were previously opposed, in new community / police partnerships or in innovative, more inclusive, youth work practices, to name only some. If we are to move on beyond conflict, and address our inability to deal with our common violent and excluding past, such experiences need multiplied.If Restorative Practices are promoted, and eventually embedded, in diverse relational and structural practices associated with public, private and civil society organisations within the society we will become a more healed and cohesive society. It is important that this practice is promoted through policies and the practical actions of people within: civic, trade union, women’s groups, men’s groups and sporting groups; the cultures of faith, business, educational and welfare organisations; the practices of local councils, housing and health authorities serving the needs of citizens; and the curricula, practices and relational atmospheres of our special, primary, secondary, further and higher educational communities.Everywhere the sometimes-restrictive interpretations of restorative justice by professionals and their agency cultures can work against a wider civic embrace of the restorative concept. We need a societal space where citizens are more empowered in restorative ideas and practices as pupils, students, parents, residents and where agencies engage more restoratively with civil society, the business community, trade unions and public agencies. Restorative Practices are practices that have a meaning and significance outside the CJ system in terms of healing relationships and nurturing new life and possibilities in existing, and new, structures and institutions. Becoming a more restorative society?Some challenges now are that the umbrella terms of ‘community’ or ‘communities’ often used in public policy, as well as in service delivery by public and community agencies, can be too quickly equated with the historically competing identity communities here. As such, they may dilute movements to develop a ‘shared society’, a more inclusive future society of diverse citizens.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
    Place of PublicationBelfast
    PublisherUlster University
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 12 Jun 2014
    EventBeyond Crime-Desistance, Social Justice and Peace Building - The Titanic Centre, Belfast
    Duration: 12 Jun 2014 → …


    ConferenceBeyond Crime-Desistance, Social Justice and Peace Building
    Period12/06/14 → …
    Internet address


    • Restorative Justice
    • Restorative Society
    • Reconciliation
    • Shared Society


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