Unintended consequences of CRJ?

Garret FitzGerald, in his Irish Times op ed slot, looks at the outstanding business (subs needed) from December 2004, and its subsequent outworking. It makes for timely and fascinating reading. Cycling back to just before the Leeds Castle talks he outlines five issues that remained outstanding from the Trimble/Adams era of Unionist/Nationalist democratic encounter.Specifically:

…unequivocal Sinn Féin/IRA repudiation of criminality; decommissioning of arms; government action in respect of members of the IRA “on the run”; explicit Sinn Féin/IRA acceptance of and involvement with the PSNI in respect of policing; and, finally, the problem of “restorative justice” schemes in the North.

His precise recollection records that:

…the two governments proposed to the IRA a wording to be used that would explicitly and unambiguously repudiate criminality. Significantly, this was rejected by the IRA, which omitted this phrase from its response to the two governments. The two national leaders appeared to condone this omission, but the PD leadership – it was in government and close to the issues – was not prepared to go along with this. So two days later Michael McDowell publicly challenged the dropping of the criminality assurance by the IRA. Thus exposed from within the Irish Government, Mr Blair and Mr Ahern were forced to act and, as a result, later in 2005 the IRA finally faced reality by repudiating criminality in explicit terms.

He clips in fairly short order to the issue of CRJ. He begins by noting, as Breige Gadd had back in November the widely accepted parameters for Community Restorative Justice, which were primarily to bring together “victims and perpetrators of various forms of anti-social behaviour to work in repairing relationships and compensating victims of crime”. However:

…on January 28th, 2004, anticipating the ending of IRA “knee-capping” and other brutal forms of local paramilitary justice, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane announced her party’s intention to set up in Co Down what she described as “restorative justice groups” specifically “in order to offer an alternative to the PSNI”.

He further notes that “Sinn Féin acceptance of the PSNI may now be postponed until after the DUP agrees to devolution”. He continues, “it seems highly significant that the final version of the consultation document, published on December 5th, does not require that these restorative justice bodies communicate on crime matters with the police”. Although this allows for an extra judicial provenance to CRJ’s work that does not occur anywhere else in the world, it is legally facilitated by an ambiguity in the British Criminal Law Act of 1967. FitzGerald continues:

There is, moreover, no provision for an overall regulatory body for these schemes, and there is no provision for an independent complaints body. Furthermore, the official Criminal Justice Inspectorate does not have power to look at individual cases handled by restorative justice groups or to call for papers and persons, so it could not invigilate their activities.

Finally, and almost as an aside, he writes:

I have in front of me a number of leaflets issued locally by these schemes. About half of the names of those involved in the schemes – they are printed on the back of the leaflets – are those of people with IRA records. In one instance the telephone number that residents are invited to ring is an 087 mobile number in the South. Some of these groups have been established in Border counties where smuggling and crime are rife. We are entitled to ask what steps our Government has taken to secure assurance from the British government that, in its concern to satisfy Sinn Féin/IRA demands, it does not leave a law and order vacuum in parts of the North, including some Border counties. This is a matter where the State [ie the Republic] has a vital national interest.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • I have received CRJ training and we have CRJ groups in South Armagh. The reason 087 numbers are used is because that is the only mobile signal that is available in our area.

    Some of these groups have been established in Border counties where smuggling and crime are rife

    Leaving aside the smuggling issue, which has got nothing to do with CRJ, he says crime is rife in border areas?

    Is it not rife in Dublin? Belfast? Limerick?

    People in our area are pro-active on the issue.

    We have also set up local Community Safety Groups that have proved very sucessfull.

    These committees are made up of people from the entire community as are the CRJ groups, not just Republicans.

    87% of people in South Armagh vote Sinn Féin, what does he want, for the 13% to be involved and the 87% marginalised?

  • martin ingram


    Come on be honest here, CRJ is a means to maintain PIRA influence in these communities.

  • onanothermanswounds

    Slugger, why was my last post pulled? Is Martin Ingram going soft? Is the heat of the Historical Enquiries Team getting to him already? Remember this a man who, it seems, takes great delight in putting peoples lives at risk day and daily by either directly referring to them as informers or by a process of nods and winks alluding to the fact that they are agents for the Brits.

  • martin ingram


    I disagree, I worked diligently and within the law to defeat terrorism.

    You may contact me directly with your points and I will respond to you directly off forum.


    I have no idea what the post that this man is refering to, but dont censor for my benefit I have heard it all before and have become immune to it. If you have done it for legal reasons OK.


    PS The chances of these police officers coming within ten mile of me is 1000/1 but I might go searching for them though?

  • Come on be honest here, CRJ is a means to maintain PIRA influence in these communities

    Not true but then again I wouldn’t expect you to be interested in the truth.

  • Reader

    Chris Gaskin:
    An assurance that there will be no higher a proportion of people with criminal records in the CRJ than in the general population would be nice. Is that something that you and Garret Fitzgerald could agree on?

  • An assurance that there will be no higher a proportion of people with criminal records in the CRJ than in the general population would be nice

    There isn’t!

  • west belfast resident

    The ‘wooly faces’ were all over the area where DD used to live last nite. They even used the ‘name’ but were surrounded and outnumbered by young thugs. It is the accepted opinion that they were only there to be seen to be there. A cosmetic exercise. The CRJ are only a cosmetic exercise in place of proper law and order. Not that the PSNI could give good law and order, but neither the wooly faces nor CRJ can give it either. The ra are a joke. It was once a badge of honour to be a member. If the CRJ is there to give status to the ra then they will make a bigger joke of themselves than they already are.
    We are to be left to the elements.

  • Reader

    Chris Gaskin: There isn’t!
    It seems that there is. According to Garret Fitzgerald:
    “I have in front of me a number of leaflets issued locally by these schemes. About half of the names of those involved in the schemes – they are printed on the back of the leaflets – are those of people with IRA records.”
    Of course, I can see a bit of wiggle room in that some people think that the IRA committed no crimes. But if the CRJ contained people with convictions for Loyalist attacks, you would be among the first to complain, surely?
    How can CRJ groups give confidence to the whole community? Is there such a terrible shortage of volunteers for CRJ work that the organisers are left with no choice but to accept just anyone?

  • OAMW:

    I pulled it because it was making MI the subject of the thread – nothing more or less than that.

    Now what MI or any other contributor to Slugger’s comments zone has to do with the substance of the post I don’t know.

    If you try to remember the ball not man rule, then no one’s post will get pulled!

  • It seems that there is. According to Garret Fitzgerald:

    I don’t care what he said

    Many CRJ people are SDLP, I know that becasue many went nuts when they heard that their party was attacking CRJ.

    We have priests and nuns in CRJ back home as well.

    CRJ is made up of people from the community, I doubt Fitzgerald has ever even been to a CRJ meeting or found out what is entailed in CRJ training.

    I didn’t join CRJ becasue you have to be totally neutral and I didn’t believe that I could be.

    It is totally non-violent and non-political.

  • west belfast resident

    ‘we have priests and nuns in CRJ as well.’

    Never heard any of them on the radio or tv discussing CRJ. I am not disputting there could be the odd one or two, as there could be the odd one or two SDLP person, but the bulk of them are ex-IRA men.

    Not so long back on the politics show they had a member on and he never mentioned priests or nuns. You may have ‘independent’ priests like Fr Wilson but I doubt its church policy. I am not saying Fr wilson is, I must add just an example of an independent priest.

    Can’t see too many priests clear up rape scenes. Or get involved between neighbours, like the example Pat Mc Larnon gave in another post.

    Infact I know one CRJ member who comes from a well known shinner family, a household name, who is under the care of a psychatarist for alcohol related problems and who is a member of CRJ dishing out ‘community justice’. Can’t say that enriches their reputation too much.

  • but the bulk of them are ex-IRA men

    A total, total lie!

    Or get involved between neighbours, like the example Pat Mc Larnon gave in another post.

    The Priest in question does actually

  • west belfast resident

    So we have one priest and no ex-IRA men. What colour is the sky in your world.

    BTW are there any statistics as to the backgrounds of the people who get involved in CRJ? For example are they run thru any police checks? No records kept. if there were then you could prove the bulk of them are ex-IRA men a total lie. Until then in our communities and in our news media we can see that most of the faces of the CRJ are ex-IRA or shinners.

  • no ex-IRA men

    I didn’t say that, I refuted your cliam that the bulk were ex-IRA men/women. About 10% are, if that.

    For example are they run thru any police checks?

    Seeing as CRJ don’t work with the police I would think not.

    Until then in our communities and in our news media we can see that most of the faces of the CRJ are ex-IRA or shinners

    You have no authority to speak for community perception, catch yourself on!

  • west belfast resident

    You have no authority to speak for community perception.

    Neither have you. You say you did not join CRJ because you are not totally neutral but have received CRJ trainning. ‘WE’ have set up local community safety groups – meaning SF? Safety from who – the local hoods I already told you they were outnumbered.

    You have absolutely no right to say that another person cannot have community perception simply because they are not a member of your party. How arrogant of you!! My perception is as good as yours. You do not speak for 87% of south armagh, as you have said you are not even there. So how is your perception spot on.

  • Belfastwhite

    West Belfast Resident

    If you don’t like the current membership of CRJ you have a choice go to the PSNI or the courts. Who voted you spokesperson for who or who doesn’t make up the membership of CRJ?

  • west belfast resident

    BW whether I like the current make up of CRJ is irrelevant the topic of this thread is about their current make up or hadn’t you noticed?

    Belfast white, tell me where I have nominated myself as spokes person for CRJ? Chris Gaskin is effectively telling me that I cannot say what I see going on around me. I can. I will not be told to shut up. Because a person says that he sees the faces of CRJ on the media and in communities and that those faces are faces belonging to shinners and ex-IRA does not mean I am speaking for the whole community, neither can chris gaskin speak for the whole community.Since he is not even there, neither can you, but each are entitled to say what they believe to be going on around them and no view point is more valid than another. Effectively CGs is telling me to shut up.

    He may have received CRJ trainning and SF may have had 87% of the votes in S Armagh but CRJ was not an election issue. If it was can you point me to the evidence?

    Chris Gaskin also says less than 10% are ex-IRA well figures please?? Can you back up what he says or are you just a party supporter who gets behind another and opens their mouths? Lets see your figures. Lets see any documentation that says there are less than ten percent of CRJ members that are ex-IRA or shinners? Since they are to be funded by public money and I am a member of the public and a tax payer I am entitled to know.

    Now BW do you have those figures?

  • Belfastwhite

    No I don’t have any figures and I’m not being kept awake at night worrying about them neither. Maybe the fact that members of the republican movement are involved in CRJ would stem from the fact that they have been instrumental in setting up these valuable resources for our community where the normal channels of justice ie the police and courts are at the least suspect or corrupt in peoples eyes.

    My point to you is if you don’t want to use CRJ go to the cops or courts to sort out your problems you are free to do so. You are also entitled as anyone is to get involved in CRJ work yourself.

  • west belfast resident

    ‘My point to you is to go to the cops’

    BW are you having me on?? This is not a personal issue!! This is about public money going to an organisation that does not seem to be accountable to the law of the land, has no figures as to what it is made up off,no background checks on its members or where the money goes that it gets, and it is about accountability. As can be seen from the extract above.

    Other organisations including charities must have this information is CRJ to be immune from this also??

    This is a politics forum, where issues such as this are discussed not personal information or preferances. What nonsense!!

  • belfastwhite


    It is you that is personalising this debate because your preference in CRJ membership. You have attacked individual unnamed members of CRJ on this thread as if your word was ” the accepted position”. Unless these allegations are backed up with facts then they appear only as slur on this forum.

    I don’t pretend to know everything about CRJ but you are wrong in saying that they are not accountable to the law of the land.

    If you are so interested in getting information why don’t you go round to your local CRJ centre or even better volunteer to go out and do so much needed work in your community. In that way you would be boosting the numbers you’d like to see working in your area.

  • west belfast resident

    BW the personalisation came in the first instance in that I was told by both you and CG that i had no authority to speak on community perception. I was not I was merely making an observation on what I see around me, as all are entitled to do.

    CG has also mentioned people whom he knows in CRJ and has not backed up his allegations with facts, therefore what is good for the goose. BUT o that is right I am questioning things whereas both he and you are saying CRJ is what these communities want. Facts please….. Otherwise neither of you have any authority to speak on community perception. Catch yourselves on!!!

    What I want to know about CRJ is not available at the local centre? It is not a transparent organisation. I have already stated in this thread my reasons.

    ALL public funded bodies must be accountable. CRJ is now in a position that its hand is being held out for money from the public purse since its american millionaire backers charity will give no more money. If CRJ is to be publicily funded then it must be publicly accountable. Transparent open, and answerable, especially if it is to hand out justice.

    You may be able to argue these points if you read the article, instead of coming at another poster and suggesting that that person gets ‘involved’. I am not here for personal advice from you as to what I should get involved in. That is my affair and nothing to do with the topic of this thread.

    Play ball with the topic of the thread and please do not offer me advice, although I suspect you are well intended. No offence meant.

    As a tax paying person I am entitled to ask what my tax money is being spent on and to discuss that in a political forum with out being offered advice on which means of justice I should use should I need it. Thank you all the same.