Cross-community opposition to CRJ…

THE debate over restorative justice continued yesterday with two attacks on CRJ Ireland. Alternatives, the loyalist equivalent of CRJ, blames the Government for allowing CRJ to hold up funding for other schemes until Sinn Fein accepts policing. In the Irish News, Dominic Bradley reflects SDLP concerns over CRJ’s willingness to work within the structures of the law. Bradley’s letter is copied below the fold.If CRJ isn’t good enough for Tony Blair’s constituents it’s not good enough for you and me

By DOMINIC BRADLEY MLA

JIM Auld of Community Restorative Justice (July 28) accuses the SDLP of having a ‘political agenda’ against Community Restorative Justice (CRJ).

In fact, the political agenda is Sinn Fein’s since they are behind setting up many CRJ groups as their own alternative police.

But don’t take our word for it.

Take the word of Sinn Fein human rights spokesperson Caitriona Ruane.

She let the cat out of the bag when she told The Mourne Observer that “Community Restorative Justice was recently launched in Downpatrick and is proving a minor success. In the coming months Sinn Fein plans to set up similar initiatives throughout south Down in order to offer a viable alternative to the PSNI.” (January 28 2004)

And she is not the only one.

Other Sinn Fein elected representatives have also said as much.

Now Sinn Fein gives out about ‘political policing’.

But here is Caitriona admitting that a political party, Sinn Fein, is behind setting up an alternative to the police service.

It’s Community Restorative Justice – Sinn Fein’s policing wing.

Now it’s true that CRJ invited an SDLP representative onto the board.

But when he wrote back asking for basic information about CRJ’s procedures, they never bothered responding.

And, contrary to what Jim says, there are many who have profound concerns about Sinn Fein’s CRJ.

The director of the Rape Crisis Centre has spoken out about CRJ.

She has stated publicly that “they’ve hampered cases by interfering with evidence which meant the perpetrators weren’t brought to court”.

The area coordinator for Foyle Women’s Aid has also been critical: “An ex-prisoner arriving at the door and threatening a man who is beating his wife can make things even worse. The CRJ person departs and the woman is left with a partner perhaps even angrier than before. In one case where CRJ was involved, the woman went on to commit suicide.”

Catherine McCartney has also stated that “there were 15 people involved in the murder of Robert and the cover-up. Some of those were active in CRJ.”

Further, she has made clear that some of the people involved in trying to set up CRJ in the Short Strand picketed the house of Robert’s fiancee Bridgeen in an attempt to intimidate her and her two small children out of her home.

Just last September a very senior member of CRJ was present when Jeff Commander was beaten savagely by an IRA mob – simply because he was a friend of Robert McCartney.

That CRJ man, who himself did time for a savage double murder, subsequently visited the Commander family on three occasions and asked if they would “accept mediation with the republican movement”.

The Commanders refused and insisted on their right to go to the police.

The IRA were so incensed with this that the Commanders were threatened and had to move from their home.

The Commanders subsequently wrote to CRJ head Jim Auld, drawing his attention to the fact that one of his senior CRJ colleagues had not given a statement to the police about what he witnessed.

Jim wrote back to say it was his right not to give a statement to the police.

In fact, it is a crime to withhold this information.

And the senior CRJ figure to this day refuses to give a statement implicating the IRA men involved.

There is another disturbing case from August 2000 when a number of republicans contacted The Sunday World alleging that a senior IRA man who was also a leading CRJ worker had abused two children.

The SDLP does not know if the allegations are true.

What we do know is that the police never got the allegations – despite Jim Auld telling The Sunday World at the time:

“We have a clear understanding of what is required in cases like this. We contact Social Services about these matters and we know that Social Services contact the RUC. And we have no problem or difficulty with that.”

Reminded of the case late last year, Mr Auld stated of his colleague: “I haven’t heard that man’s name for years” and added that he had no idea where he was now.

Nor, presumably, do the police.

Jane Dorrian has also gone public about what happened to her at CRJ’s hands.

She was visited by two CRJ workers and told that if her paranoid schizophrenic son, who had been involved in anti-social behaviour, was seen again in the neighbourhood she would be put out of her home.

Other families have also gone public about being threatened with exile by CRJ.

The SDLP has received many other complaints.

But the people involved are simply too scared to speak out.

They range from CRJ intervening in planning disputes to CRJ workers telling people that there were paramilitary death threats against them to scare them into attending CRJ meetings.

A feature common to many is CRJ again and again backing the Provos in local disputes.

Which leads us to ask: does CRJ take the IRA’s definition of a crime?

Does CRJ – like Mitchel McLaughlin and Gerry Adams – believe that shooting a mother of 10 in the head is not a crime if the IRA authorises it?

Jim accuses us of raising these matters to ingratiate ourselves with the British Government.

But when was the last time anybody heard a British minister talking about any of these cases publicly?

They don’t – because they don’t really care.

They are too busy doing side deals with both the DUP and Sinn Fein, regardless of the cost to the rights of people on the ground.

Meanwhile, the dangers inherent in a political party having a policing wing are ignored.

That is precisely why the SDLP has been so loud about CRJ.

We are determined to embarrass the British government into providing decent human rights protections.

Tony Blair would never state fund groups that behaved like this in his constituency.

It would not be good enough for his children.

So why should nationalists have to accept less?

Aren’t we all entitled to the same human rights protections?

DOMINIC BRADLEY MLA