“he could vouch for them as honest and law-abiding citizens..”

“Whatever happened to..”, indeed.. Funding wasn’t mentioned in the reports on the unaccredited Belfast community-based Restorative Justice scheme but, via Newshound, we have a report on an attempt to secure funding for the Barcroft CRJ scheme from Newry and Mourne Council, as proposed by Sinn Féin councillor Brendan Curran – despite the scheme not signing up to the NIO protocols. The Newry Democrat report ends by noting that

It was then decided that money will be ring-fenced for Barcroft CRJ from council funds until the group signs up to the protocols.

The condition should, surely, be “until the group receives full accreditation”? But a second SF councillor adds the quote of the day

However SDLP councillor Gary Stokes expressed his concerns that the group had not yet signed up to protocols required by the Northern Ireland Office for CRJ funding. Sinn Fein’s Pat McGinn said that knowing the members of the group personally he could vouch for them as honest and law-abiding citizens and accused the SDLP of demonising the CRJ.

It’s not the first time the issue has come up at Newry and Mourne Council, as the minutes of the Council’s monthly meeting on 5 June 2006 show [pdf file]

M/171/2006 – SPECIAL STAFF AND POLICY COMMITTEE MEETING TO CONSIDER AND ASSESS VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION APPLICATIONS UNDER THE ‘N’ CATEGORY (REF: M/4/2)

Read: Report of Special Meeting of the Staff and Policy Committee, to which all Councillors were invited, to consider and assess Voluntary Contribution Applications under the ‘N’ Category for 2006 / 2007 held on Friday 19 May 2006. (Copy circulated)

Councillor Hearty proposed and Councillor McDonald seconded that the above Report be approved and the recommendation contained therein, i.e. that:-
“Funding for applications which scored 22 points or more, and which requested £5,000 plus, would be capped at £5,000 and that applications requesting less that £5,000 and scoring over 22 points would receive 75% of the amount requested i.e. at a total of £147,175”

As an amendment to Councillor Hearty’s proposal, Councillor Carr proposed and Councillor Kennedy seconded the Report of the Special Meeting of the Staff and Policy Committee held on Friday 19 May 2006 to consider and assess Voluntary Contribution Applications under the ‘N’ Category for 2006/2007 be approved subject to the following amendment: –

“Voluntary Contribution Applications from Greater Barcroft Community Restorative Justice Group (ref 1346) and the Gap of the North Community Restorative Justice Group (ref 1345) be taken out of the Voluntary Contribution Applications for 2006/2007 and the groups be advised and encouraged to apply to the Northern Ireland Office for funding.

The Voluntary Contribution Applications from Dromintee Community Safety Group (ref 1284), Meigh Safety Awareness Association (ref 1310), Jonesborough Community Safety Group (ref 1347) and Forkhill Community Group (ref 1348) be taken out of the Voluntary Contributions Applications for 2006/2007 and the Groups be advised and encouraged to apply to the Community Safety Unit, Belfast for funding”

Councillor Carr said he was concerned that people were encouraged by Community Safety Groups to ring a mobile telephone number as opposed to contacting the PSNI.

Councillor Kennedy said he believed that the 6 groups needed to be removed from the Voluntary Contributions list, as none of those groups were actively working with the PSNI and other lawful agencies engaged in this work.

Mr McCall reminded Members of the legal advice that had been given to the Council during 2005 in relation to grant application from CRJ Groups.

He advised that any decisions taken must be in line and in accordance with these legal advices.

He advised Members that copies of the legal advices were available for them at tonight’s Meeting.

There followed a lengthy discussion on the procedures involved in compiling the Voluntary Contribution Applications list from the initial advertising stages to the scoring and assessing stages.

Councillor Reilly pointed out that when Councillor Hearty had made his proposal at the Special Staff and Policy Meeting held on Friday 19 May 2006, he had agreed in principle but would adhere to the legal advice previously given to the Council in relation to this matter.

Councillor Mussen said he believed the scoring system for Voluntary Contribution Applications should be revisited before next year. He said the Community Safety Groups may be viewed as complimentary rather than replacing policing. He said community pressure on those who did commit anti-social behaviour must be mindful of Human Rights and he did not in any way support vigilante groups.

Councillor Connolly asked that it be recorded that he had at no time attempted to block any Group in the Mournes area from receiving Council funding.

Councillor Carr said he wished it recorded that he did not discriminate against groups from the South Armagh area.

The amendment proposed by Councillor Carr and seconded by Councillor Kennedy “that the Report of the Special Meeting of the Staff and Policy Committee held on Friday 19 May 2006 to consider and assess Voluntary Contribution Applications under the ‘N’ Category for 2006/2007 be approved subject to the following amendment: –

Voluntary Contribution Applications from greater Barcroft Community Restorative Justice Group (ref 1346) and the Gap of the North Community Restorative Justice Group (ref 1345) be taken out of the Voluntary Contribution Applications for 2006/2007 and the groups be advised and encouraged to apply to the Northern Ireland Office for funding.

The Voluntary Contribution Applications from Dromintee Community Safety Group (ref 1284), Meigh Safety Awareness Association (ref 1310), Jonesborough Community Safety Group (ref 1347) and Forkhill Community Group (ref 1348) be taken out of the Voluntary Contributions Applications for 2006/2007 and the Groups be advised and encouraged to apply to the Community Safety Unit, Belfast for funding” was put to a recorded vote and the voting was as follows: (copy attached)

FOR: 14
AGAINST: 12
ABSTENTIONS: 3

The amendment was declared carried.
The amendment became the Substantive Motion and was put to a vote and voting was as follows:-

FOR: 14
AGAINST: 12
ABSTENTIONS: 1

The Motion was declared carried.

Councillor Curran said he wished it recorded that he was against the Motion, as the only groups that were ever excluded from the Voluntary Contributions List were the Restorative Justice Groups.

Councillor Reilly said he wished it recorded that his vote was based on legal advice received last year.

It was further agreed that Mr R Dowey, Director of Finance prepare a Report detailing the funding which had not now been taken up under the ‘N’ Section and that this Report be tabled for consideration at the Finance Committee Meeting to be held on Thursday 15 June 2006, to which all Members were to be invited to attend for discussion on this item and to agree allocation of this money.

On the proposal of Councillor Kennedy seconded by Councillor Oliver it was agreed to convene a Fews Area Councillors Meeting with Tullyvallen Football Club and appropriate Council Official to discuss their Voluntary Contribution Application.

And the issue reappears in the minutes of the Annual General Meeting on 19th June 2006 [pdf file]

D.D/209/2006 – TO SEEK LEGAL ADVICE RE ‘N’ SECTION VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS (REF: M/4/2)

Read: Minute of Finance Sub Committee Meeting held on Thursday 15 June 2006 in respect of ‘N’ Section Voluntary Contributions was which referred to the District Development Committee Meeting.

The recommendations were as follows: –

Councillor Kennedy proposed the existing issue regarding ‘N’ Category Voluntary Contributions 2006.2007, including correspondence from Mr E Morgan, Community Restorative Justice and correspondence from Mr Brain Finnegan, Slieve Gullion Community Safety Forum be referred to the Council’s Solicitor for up-to-date legal advices on if and how the Council may proceed.

Councillor McArdle seconded the above proposal.

Councillor McDonald proposed that no letters of offer be sent regarding Applications amounting to £126,908, until such times as the Council had received legal advice on sending letters of offer to these particular Applications.

Councillor Murphy seconded the above Proposal.

Councillor Carr proposed that the Council proceed to send out the letters of offer regarding the successful Applications amounting to £126,908.

Councillor McArdle seconded the above proposal.

A vote was taken on the first Proposal, and voting was as follows:
For: 8
Against: 6

The Proposal was declared carried, and it was therefore agreed that no letters of offer be sent regarding Applications amounting to £126,908, until such times as the Council had received legal advice on sending offer letters to these particular Applications.

It was further agreed that when seeking the above legal advices, the Council also ask for clarification as to whether or not it is legal to allocate funding to a group which meets the same criteria as the groups who were refused.

It was also agreed the above decisions be referred for consideration at the District Development Committee Meeting to be held on Monday 19 June 2006.

In reply to Councillor Stokes Mr McCall clarified that the Council had sought legal opinion over a year ago on this issue and he was not aware of any changes in the legislation at this point in time.

Councillor Reilly felt it would be prudent to seek up to date legal opinion as it seemed unfair not sent out the letters of offer to those successful applications.

Mr McCall said that as a different marking system had been used this year in respect of the ‘N’Category Voluntary Contributions it may be prudent to seek further legal opinion.

Councillor Stokes proposed and Councillor Reilly seconded that authority be granted to proceed to send letters of offer to those successful applications amounting to £126,908 at this time and that detailed legal opinion be sought in respect of the 6 No applications which are withheld detailed as follows:-

(1) 1284 Drumintee Community Safety Group
(2) 1310 Meigh Safety Awareness Association
(3) 1345 Gap Of The North CRJ
(4) 1346 Greater Barcroft CRJ
(5) 1347 Jonesborough Community Safety Group
(6) 1348 Forkhill Community Safety Group

It was agreed to seek legal opinion in this matter at the earliest opportunity with the legal opinion to be brought back to the Council at a Meeting with the Council’s
Solicitor being in attendance.

Authority be granted to the Council’s Solicitor to appoint Counsel if necessary.

Read: Letter dated the 19 June 2006 from Elliot Trainor Partnership Solicitors in respect of the applications made by the Gap Of The North CRJ, Drumintee Safety Group, Meigh Safety Awareness Association, Jonesborough Community Safety Group and Forkhill Community Safety Group inviting the Council to reconsider their decision to refuse to make a voluntary contribution to the above named groups.

It was agreed to refer correspondence dated the 19 June 2006 from Elliot Trainor Partnership Solicitors to Mr Rory McShane, Council’s Solicitor.

And, in the August 2006 Monthly Meeting minutes [pdf file]

FINANCIAL MATTERS
M/218/2006 – SPECIAL STAFF AND POLICY COMMITTEE MEETING – LEGAL ADVICE REGARDING VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS
(REF: F/3/75)_________________________________________

Read: Report of Staff and Policy Committee Meeting held on Tuesday 25 July 2006 re: legal advice from R McShane & Company Solicitors regarding voluntary contributions (copy circulated).

On the proposal of Councillor Feehan, seconded by Councillor W Burns, it was agreed to approve the above report and the recommendations contained therein.
Mr T McCall, Chief Executive, advised that he would be meeting with the Barrister on Tuesday 8 August 2006 in relation to voluntary contributions and would report back to the Council on the outcome of this meeting as soon as possible.

Following further discussion it was agreed that Mr McCall ask the Barrister if it would be in order for the Council to release all other applications on the voluntary contribution list which were not CRJ related as many groups throughout the area needed the money from the Council to cover the costs of events, many of which had already been held.

It was agreed that Mr McCall raise this matter with the Barrister and if an indication was given that all other voluntary contribution funding could be released, an urgent meeting be convened with the Group Leaders and Independent Councillors to discuss this matter.

I can’t find any reference to more recent discussion on CRJ’s in the Council until the Newry Democrat report already noted above.

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