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Restorative Justice in Northern Ireland

July 23, 2014

Next up were Shadd Maruna (“Desistance from Crime and Restorative Justice: Unstrange Bedfellows”) and Joanna Shapland (“Desistance from Crime and the Potential Role of Restorative Justice”). Shadd Maruna expressed his view that desistance theory is “having its 15 minutes of fame” and that it might offer some useful insights to restorative justice practitioners. He highlighted the way in which desistance theory takes a “long view” about the process through which individuals move from offending to desistance. He also focused on the theme of shame and the way in which desistance theory interprets “shame management” as “a process of identity construction over time”. Finally, he emphasised the importance desistance theory places on structural factors and political economy. Joanna Shapland then sought to identify some of the common threads that link desistance theory and restorative practice, not least in their shared focus on the human and social capital.

…During the three days I was in Belfast, I was staying in the University area, close to one of Belfast’s many “flashpoints” or “interface areas”, where nationalist and loyalist communities reside cheek by jowl. It was the first night of the World Cup and I was on my way to meet up with some friends when I walked past a betting shop I remembered from news reports in 1992 when I was not quite into my teens. I was relatively unscathed by “the Troubles” in comparison with those who experienced the loss of friends and family members but I do remember the names and details of various bombings, shootings and massacres – Enniskillen, Teebane, Greysteel, the Shankill and many more besides. Anyway, the Bookies in question was Sean Graham’s on the Lower Ormeau Road where five innocent Catholics were killed by two Ulster Freedom Fighter (UFF) gunmen. One of the victims was 15, only a few years older than me when he died. I could not help but link the memory of the shooting with the input I had heard from Bobbie Mathieson earlier in the day. For a moment, as I looked at the memorial that still stands on the wall outside Sean Graham’s, I wondered if he could have been one of the gunman before going back to my notes and working out that the dates did not match up and he would have been in custody. Nevertheless I remember the utter disgust and horror I felt at the time of the shootings. What an unnecessary waste of life it seemed. What hatred must have fuelled the actions of those who pulled the triggers? It is scars from these sorts of tragedies that many individuals and families in Northern Ireland continue to bear. Not surprisingly, individuals residing in particular communities often in areas of higher socio-economic deprivation bore the brunt of the casualties from the conflict, as both victims and perpetrators. It seems that the brutality of the conflict and the development of restorative justice in Northern Ireland are inextricably linked, that restorative justice practice grew out of the increasing recognition that “enough was enough” coupled with the dedication and commitment of those who believed in a form of justice that sought to address harms caused in a safe and constructive fashion.

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