Ex prisoners left in employment limbo

Brian Feeney notes that for all the hype around the Belfast (and latterly St Andrews) Agreement, one group (at least) is being rather conveniently forgotten by the main negotiators – ex prisoners:

The problem is this. It’s estimated that since the early 1970s, between 24,000 and 30,000 prisoners and internees spent time in custody in the north. After the Good Friday Agreement 447 prisoners were released. They all face difficulties finding jobs, in some cases insurmountable difficulties. Although many republicans and a few former loyalist prisoners have degree qualifications and some have also professional qualifications, their criminal record disbars them from the professions. However, it is not simply access to professional jobs that is the problem. Ex-prisoners find it difficult to land any job.

He then cites a recent decision by a Fair Employment Tribunal to uphold a contention from The Simon Community “that they were entitled to refuse to employ the men because the 1998 Fair Employment and Treatment Order specifically excludes any political opinion which consists of or includes approval or acceptance of the use of violence for political ends connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland”.

People convicted of offences over 30 years ago, people released on licence because the state is satisfied they no longer pose a threat to society, people released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, all fall foul of the same handicaps.

Bear in mind that the vast majority of them would never have seen the inside of a cell were it not for the circumstances of the conflict here. Bear in mind the fact that the ex-prisoners are not the only people condemned to live in the poverty consequent upon permanent unemployment. Many of them have families whose futures are also affected by the ex-prisoners’ inability to find work.

He is critical of Sinn Fein, but nevertheless argues it is time the British took action to update the law in light of changed circumstances in the last two years:

Sinn Féign is the party which bears most responsibility for these people but they have been singularly ineffective in promoting their case almost a decade after the Good Friday Agreement.

It is true that any public push by SF would automatically result in opposition from the DUP, who would be quite happy to see former loyalist paramilitaries they marched beside and conspired with go to the wall as long as republicans got nothing. It really is up to the British administration here to act to put flesh on the promises in the Good Friday Agreement and at St Andrews. Talking about working with business, trade unions and so on is just so much hot air.

None of it will work unless the 1998 Order is amended to take account of the new circumstances of the last two years in particular when decommissioning has taken place, the IRA has stood down and SF has voted to support policing and justice.

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  • Jocky

    OK, you are an employer, you have spoke to an amount of people for the job, do you give it to a) the enthusiastic young polish person b) the person who spent the last 10/20/30 years trying to kill the folk that lived across town.

    Let me think.

    How many are actively seeking employement? How many are on benefit?

    Bearing in mind in other deprived areas, ie Liverpool or Glasgow, that didn’t have a 30 year conflict the extremely high >50%, from memory, that are on incapacity benefit.

    “Bear in mind that the vast majority of them would never have seen the inside of a cell were it not for the circumstances of the conflict here.” Debatable. Now words such as some, minority, many, majority, significant proportion are all phrases he could have used but “vast majority” pushing the realsm of creidbility.

  • barnshee

    Hard luck- put it down to part of the price of the “struggle for IRISH FREEDOM” [text removed – moderator]

  • phillis scott….

    Won’t be long til Informant One – Mark Haddock will be set free if there are no further charges regarding Miss McKenna or Young McCord’s murders.
    Going by the ombudsman report on collusion with the UVF, it looks like one senior member, namely Cowhead, is getting one hell of a lucky escape – literally escape. It was Eurodisney last week, where will he end up next???
    If I was him, I’d have stayed in France.

    Cash in your chips Gaz & go….

  • hmmm

    Sinn Féign? Is Feeney trying to tell us something?

  • mickhall

    jocky

    Whilst not a proven fact, it is a probability that the majority of people who went to jail for para-military activity would not have done so if the insurgency had not erupted in 1969. One only has to look at the pre 69 prison population to conclude this. The fact that very few para militaries have ended up in jail for common crimes post ceasefire also adds to this proposition.

    There are also much wider issues here way beyond employment, for example my friend who is married to an american woman is still unable to visit his in-laws in the USA as a family unit and the same is true about travel restrictions for many other ex prisoners.

    Many para-military prisoners post Blanket/hunger strikes studied, some to doctorate level, others learnt a trade or gained other qualifications which should have stood them in good stead in the labour market. Many of these individuals when they joined the para-militaries were young working class people who had left school at 15 without a qualification to their name, and it is a credit to both themselves and it must be said the educational establishments within the prisons and on the out who assisted them in there studies.

    But what good are qualifications when one is unable to put them into practice and what does this tell us about our society. To date the peace process has been about offering leading republican and loyalist politicians redemption, whilst their foot solders are excluded from this brave new worked and by any fair persons calculation that just cannot be right.

    Lets wipe the slate clean; and what better way of doing it than a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for in that way the innocent victims of the war will also get their say.

  • DK

    This obviously doesn’t just apply to the ex-paramilitaries, but also to the criminals. I wouldn’t want to employee an ex-criminal because I’d be worried they’d nick the office PC; but I’d also be wary of hiring an ex-paramilitary as most workplaces are mixed and such a person would inevitably be divisive.

    Basically, unless you force employees to take them, they won’t risk it.

    Maybe they could get jobs in the security services? Set a thief to catch a thief and all that.

  • gerry

    They’ve outlived their useful ness.

  • Diluted Orange

    [i]Many of them have families whose futures are also affected by the ex-prisoners’ inability to find work.[/i]

    What about the people’s families who they maimed and killed? This really is the ultimate in liberal pandering to scumbags who set this country back for decades – Oh it’s not their fault that they’re terrorists.

    Maybe Mr Feeney should delve a little into employment in the Black Economy before making his assertions about ex-prisoners. I’m sure you’ll find many of them currently indulge in drug-dealing and other illegal activities so they wouldn’t show up on the radar when searching for those involved in an honest day’s work.

  • Plum Duff

    ‘I’m sure you’ll find many of them currently indulge in drug-dealing and other illegal activities…’

    As I am equally sure that Diluted Orange has four heads, two of which have blue tentacles to their rear while the outer two don’t speak to each other.

    A little bit of proof would help in your allegations.

  • mickhall

    “They’ve outlived their usefulness.”

    The whole point is they have not out lived there usefulness, certainly not to their own families who they wish to provide for, nor if they were given the chance to society as a whole. Diluted Orange attitude is wrong and ignorant imo, but oh so typical of the Unionist and to a lesser extent nationalist middle classes.[ I am presuming DO comes from a unionist middle class background] For members of this community were willing to use young loyalists paramilitaries and in some cases cheer lead them when they hit at Republicans, but now it seems they are all scum bags.

    [Also slightly off the point, I wish people would get real about those who import and deal in drugs, sure some look like John Adair but others wear smart suits, as these people come from all races, creeds and from all classes.]

    Finally the reason I mentioned any wiping of the slate clean being accompanied with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was so those who have been maimed and the families of those who have been killed by the security forces and paramilitaries could have their say.

    However I am certain individuals like DO would consider this liberal pandering, as to would members of the Unionist parties, although this is hogwash and I would ask what is to be feared by the truth being outed, for in my estimation most of the families of those who lost their lives in the insurgency would like to have their day before a TRC. After all as things stand this is not an either or situation.

  • Diluted Orange

    As I said before – scumbags.

    We seem to be more concerned with helping the thugs emanating from the Troubles in Northern Ireland than helping the victims who suffered during it.

    Mick

    This is not a class issue and who are you to judge what class I am. The vast majority of working class people in Northern Ireland are able and were able to lead productive lives without resorting to criminality, including members of my own family. I don’t think that being working class makes you any more likely to support the actions of paramilitary cowards, especially when the negative impact of such people was felt more profoundly by members of the working class than any other community in Northern Ireland.

    [i]For members of this community were willing to use young loyalists paramilitaries and in some cases cheer lead them when they hit at Republicans [/i]

    Catch yourself on. I don’t need to have been a Nationalist to have only been appalled by loyalist terrorist activities – the only difference here seems to be that on this site you have to be a Unionist, by and large, to have been equally appalled by the actions of the IRA over the same period.

    It certainly doesn’t fill me with nostalgia, more like utter contempt, when I think of people like Torrence Knights, for example, who shouted,”Trick or Treat,” before opening fire on a pub in Greysteel. Personally I feel that such people should remain behind bars not be ushered into employment against employers’ wishes because being a killer doesn’t look good on your CV.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    mickhall: “Whilst not a proven fact, it is a probability that the majority of people who went to jail for para-military activity would not have done so if the insurgency had not erupted in 1969. One only has to look at the pre 69 prison population to conclude this. The fact that very few para militaries have ended up in jail for common crimes post ceasefire also adds to this proposition. ”

    While not a proven fact, it is probable that were you to have gills instead of lungs, you’d be suffocating to death at this moment. One has only to look at the behavior of freshly landed fish to conclude this. The fact that very few fish can survive out of water also adds to this proposition.

    Contra-factual thesis and alternate history belong in the realm of speculative fiction, not in a discussion of public policy. You may “what if” all you like — but it doesn’t change what is.

  • susan

    Actually, Dread Cthulhu, it is a proven fact that if Mick Hall had gills instead of lungs, he would be suffocating to death at this moment, unless Mick happens to be posting from a submersion tank.

    How can you begin to discuss public policy re: reintegration of prisoners into society without weighing the context and circumstances of prisoners’ arrests and sentencing and their conduct post-release?

  • mickhall

    Dread,

    It is a shame that neither yourself or DO have dealt with the substance of Mr Feeneys piece or my suggestion about a Peace and Reconciliation Commission etc.

    In many ways I feel DO posts highlight why such a commission would be of worth. In todays world, politicians taking their lead from the likes of Blair, Clinton and Bush, seem to believe that when they do something wrong it is enough to go before the electorate heart on sleeve and to profusely apologies, and then we all are expected to move on.

    The world in which most of us live in is a little different, hence if the communities in the north are to have any real hope of moving forward and agreeing democratically on the future of the island of ireland, then much of the poison of the last 30 odd years must, if at all possibly be excised, otherwise it will simply fester silently below the surface to break forth when we least expect it sometime in the future.

    Thus I say again a clearing of accounts and an independent TRC should in the very least be considered. Those who wish to have their criminals records expunged from the public record could apply to this TRC for this to happen. It should also have the power to call before it servants of the State to answer for the loss of life which came about due to whatever they set in motion or carried through on.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Susan: “How can you begin to discuss public policy re: reintegration of prisoners into society without weighing the context and circumstances of prisoners’ arrests and sentencing and their conduct post-release? ”

    It’s simple, actually. Most professions have a morals clause — lawyers, generally, cannot be licensed if they have a felony. Why, pray tell, should the fact that their felony had political overtones make any difference?

    Unless they were wholly ignorant of the consequences of their actions, they should be accountable for those actions. Even then, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

  • Jocky

    Mick, 3000 odd people dont wind up dead and countless thousands injured by cuddly rascals. I just do not buy the big “It’s not my fault, the troubles made me do it” Individuals have got to accept responsibility for their actions. You cannot claim the entire horror of the troubles was caused by basically good guys that had no other choice.

    While you could argue that the environment of the troubles made an individuals suceptablitiy to violence increase or make it more severe, well who the feck created that environment? you reap what you sow.

    Unless your going to pull some cold hard facts to back you your proposition it’s sounding like nothing more than wishful thinking.

    And re the truth and justice commission, what’s the deal? you dont get you record wiped clean unless you fess up? You honestly think folk will fess up (unless it’s in a smug wind up way?)

    If your proposition had an basis there would be far more remorse than there is on show, the process would have started on it’s local small scale. But there has been nada, zip, nowt. Everyone is keeping mum.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    mickhall: “Thus I say again a clearing of accounts and an independent TRC should in the very least be considered. Those who wish to have their criminals records expunged from the public record could apply to this TRC for this to happen. It should also have the power to call before it servants of the State to answer for the loss of life which came about due to whatever they set in motion or carried through on.

    And I ask you, why should professional societies overturn their long-standing policies to suit the wants of those who took up the gun? Your whole argument is premised on “whataboutery,” specifically, these folk would not have become criminals but for the Troubles. Such blanket assumptions are suspect — criminals come from all sorts of backgrounds, so simply waving a wand and giving everyone a clean slate is unrealistic. Likewise, would not such a move be discriminatory to “ordinary decent criminals?” If not for the economic displacement caused by the Troubles, those “ODCs” would not have turned to crime either, or so the *next* argument would be made.

    I am not impressed with the whole “The Troubles made me do it” argument.

  • mickhall

    “It’s not my fault, the troubles made me do it”

    I am certainly not saying this and you both know it, far from it in fact, indeed a majority of those who took part in the insurgency saw it as their duty to do so, whether loyalist or republican.

    The whole problem with this peace process is that it has wiped away the period between 1922-69. To read dread and jockeys posts to this thread highlight just how far away many unionists are from a new beginning. Every now and again we get a glimpse of the truth and it is a very reactionary thing.

    Many unionists, especially if they come from the middle classes, are simply unwilling to even consider why young working class nationalists took up the gun in defense of their communities, to them they are all criminals or scum who must pay for the rest of their lives for being on the losing side.

    To the victor go the spoils is the attitude, this standpoint is that of imperialist braggarts from days gone by. Sack cloth and ashes is what they demand of these republican men and women, well they may be getting this from the likes of Mr Adams and Martin McGuinness, but they will never get it from the majority of volunteers, what ever organization they belonged to, and I include the loyalist para-military’s.

    People either try and come to terms truthfully with what has occurred and just as importantly why it occurred and was allowed to run on for thirty odd years, or they can doom future generations to periodic out breaks of blood letting, having acquiesced in the creation of Irelands very own groundhog day.

  • deadmanonleave

    I’ve read some rubbish on this site over the years, and no doubt people from all political corners would say exactly the same about certain individual posts and posters.

    However, this thread has reached, for me at least, a new low. Mick has posted something eminantly sensible about the difficulties facing ex-prisoners in a part of the world that is, if we could all agree on one thing it’s this, f**ked up.

    What does he get in response, “The ex-prisoners are all evil and I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole.”. Now aside from my own views that constitutional Unionist politicians used paramilitaries to further their aims when it suited, and Provisional leaders have used the sacrifices of their own movement to gain a seat at the British table, nobody can surely argue that those who have been caught up and participated in this conflict are there simply because they’re ‘bad’ people. That would be naivity or hypocrisy on a scale surprising even in NI/O6!

  • Jesus H Christ. This is getting ridiculous. Reap what you sew is right. These people knew the consequences of their actions when they signed up, the same as any other criminal.

    It’s bad enough they got out early, now we’re supposed to act like they never did anything wrong. For the love of God, wise up.

    Sorry deadman, but we are dealing with bad people – murderers to be precise. It doesn’t get much badder than that. Your views that “Unionist politicians used paramilitaries to further their aims when it suited, and Provisional leaders have used the sacrifices of their own movement to gain a seat at the British table” doesn’t change how bad the paramilitaries are. Two wrongs and all that.

  • Wilde Rover

    The Whataboutery Expo could be set up across the road from the Norn Iron B1g0t Oscars.

  • deadmanonleave

    Right, so to be clear people here in the North are for some reason more evil than those in the south or on the mainland.

    I mean, how many political bombers and murderers Britain and the southe spawned in comparison?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    mickhall: “I am certainly not saying this and you both know it, far from it in fact, indeed a majority of those who took part in the insurgency saw it as their duty to do so, whether loyalist or republican.”

    Then they should be able to accept the natural, logical consequence of their actions, should they not?

    mickhall: “The whole problem with this peace process is that it has wiped away the period between 1922-69. To read dread and jockeys posts to this thread highlight just how far away many unionists are from a new beginning. Every now and again we get a glimpse of the truth and it is a very reactionary thing. ”

    Firstly, I’m not Unionist. I am, however, anti-hood and anti-knuckle-head, whilst being pro-law and order. As for new beginnings, look to the plank in your own eye before worrying about the mote in others.

    mickhall: “People either try and come to terms truthfully with what has occurred and just as importantly why it occurred and was allowed to run on for thirty odd years, or they can doom future generations to periodic out breaks of blood letting, having acquiesced in the creation of Irelands very own groundhog day. ”

    Then why not let all this truth and understanding start with the gunsels and thugs who perpetuated the Troubles? Let them understand that, because of their choices, society looks at them with a jaundiced eye?

    Secondly, as for all this “going forward” pap, I would note that there is no shortage of looking back by both sides, Loyalist and Republican.

    You’re not going to get a civil society by simply forgiving the hard men their sins, mickhall. Choices have their consequences.