Committee on the Administration of Justice’s latest newsletter

The Committee on the Administration of Justice have just produced their latest newsletter. The annual Stephen Livingstone lecture delivered was delivered by Martin O’Brien, Programme Director of Atlantic’s Philanthropies’ Reconciliation and Human Rights Programme and a former Director of CAJ.

The lecture was summarised by a Sarah Lorimer a CAJ volunteer. She reported that:

Mr. O’Brien found it telling, for example, that those areas of the Criminal Justice Review which were most concerned with increasing transparency and human rights compliance are the ones where least progress has been made. For example, we still do not have an equity monitoring system or a representative workforce strategy for the criminal justice system.

Mr O’Brien commended those involved for the work they had done, and who saw their brief as building on what already exists and adapting that to the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. He suggested that it was precisely because they had done their job that they were subjected to attack. He believed that those who argue now that we do not need a Bill of Rights are out of step with ordinary people.

Exactly which ordinary people Mr. O’Brien consulted is of course somewhat unclear.

In terms of dealing with the past Mr. O’Brien noted that there did not seem to be a consensus on the Eames Bradley (what shattering insight: you could not pay for such razor sharp analysis) and was also concerned that the cost was being used as a reason not to have further enquires.

In addition the Committee on the Administration of Justice has further helped Northern Ireland by supporting the Public Interest Litigation Support Project (“the PILS Project”).This marvellous organisation launched itself at a meeting at the Waterfront Hall in October and is an independent organisation set up with a grant from Atlantic Philanthropies. The PILS mission statement is to advance human rights and equality in Northern Ireland through the use of and support for public interest litigation. Public interest litigation is defined as the use of litigation or legal action which seeks to advance the cause of minority or disadvantaged groups or individuals, or which raises issues of broad public concern.

What would we do without such useful organisations?

  • igor

    Isn’t it great to see such money developed to the protecting the human rights of the families of impoverished lawyers now forced to even contemplate the horror of attending a state school since the flowing tap of legal aid has been significnatly turned off.

    Still if it keeps them off the streets

  • wild turkey

    ‘Public interest litigation is defined as the use of litigation or legal action which seeks to advance the cause of minority or disadvantaged groups or individuals, or which raises issues of broad public concern.

    What would we do without such useful organisations?’

    ah, maybe put your question to the Equality Commission as they supposedly do litigate and take legal action on behalf of minority or disadvantaged groups or individuals.

    in spite of the economic downturn, the equality and rights industry continues to grow. inspiring stuff. really.

  • oneill

    “Exactly which ordinary people Mr. O’Brien consulted is of course somewhat unclear”

    Unfair. When the NIHRC have put the question “Are human rights a good thing (and by the way wouldn’t it be grand to have our own Bill of Rights)?” consistently over 105% of the ordinary people have replied “Yes”… according to the NIHRC opinion polls.

  • wild turkey

    ‘Mr O’Brien pointed to the growing numbers of disadvantaged people from across the community who feel much more comfortable with the language of rights as one of the great achievements of the peace process.’

    It is an achievement. An achievement that over the past decade has manifested itself in civil society across traditional sectarian divisions. No doubt those responsible for the murder of Harry Holland, Kevin McDaid or the all weather fuck-up at the Belfast Christmas lights gig last week feel comfortable with the language of rights.

    igor, give the lawyers a break already.
    things are getting so bad that the other day i saw a lawyer with his hand in own pocket.

  • igor

    “the other day i saw a lawyer with his hand in own pocket.”

    I bet there was someone else’s money in it

  • igor

    By the way, what is CAJ for?

  • joeCanuck

    Igor,
    What is CAJ for? Do you meant cadge?

  • John East Belfast

    I am more interested in transparancy and justice involving the behaviour of Roman Catholic Priests and the Catholic hierarchy in Northern Ireland in the last 40 years now

    “The PILS mission statement is to advance human rights and equality in Northern Ireland through the use of and support for public interest litigation. Public interest litigation is defined as the use of litigation or legal action which seeks to advance the cause of minority or disadvantaged groups or individuals, or which raises issues of broad public concern.”

    I think PILS could be well served looking into an area of broad public concern that actually unites people as evidenced by the reaction to the Murphy report.

  • “CAJ takes no position on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and is firmly opposed to the use of political violence.”

    Very commendable. Perhaps someone could point me to its ruthless exposure of paramilitary ‘justice’, organised crime, etc.

  • igor

    John

    They could never do that. It would be breach of the rights of the priests and Bishops. All this naming and shaming is truly shocking you know

  • igor

    I am also delighted to see CAJs commitment to equality and equity. Perhaps they can let us the the data for its casework:-

    1 in how many cases were the victims supported perceived to be from the protestant / catholic communities

    2 in how many cases were they male / female

    3 can they give us a complete list of the rights they believe were infringed, again broken down by these parameters?

  • andrew white

    so with all this talk of equality form McGuinness and CAJ can someone tell me which rights protestants/unionists have that nationalists/catholics dont. or which laws apply to one set and not the other??

  • joeCanuck

    Certainly, Andrew.
    Catholics can walk down Garvaghy Road any time they want. Protestants can’t (well, some of them).

  • FairPlayForAllPlease

    Hmmmm, this claim by Martin O’Brien that a majority of people in NI “support” a NI Bill of Rights wouldn’t just happen to from a “poll” done for the NIHRC and/or its lobbying arm for the B of R, paid for by O’Brien’s Atlantic Philanthropies ?
    And A P of course has given Monica McWilliams’s NIHRC at least 200,000 quid to date and with, what is it, 1.3-million quid more now being sought for Monica’s wish-list of projects close to her heart ?
    But how “independent” is NIHRC OR A P when A P’s billionaire creator, Chuck Feeney, happily forked out hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund Sinn Fein’s offices in the USA? Chuck clearly loves S F. Has he funded the SDLP ? The Alliance Party ? The UUs…sorry, stupid to have asked the latter question.
    Hmmmm…..not very “equal,” bit of a double standard in operation here. O’Brien heads CAJ, then gets the top NI job at….A P. How nice for him.
    So NIHRC doesn’t plan to fund its major activities from here on forth from its own 1.7-million quid budget? No, it has a FOREIGN organisation fund its activities! So much for an even-playing-field and “independence.” It gets a lot of money or wants a lot of money from SF-friendly Chuck Feeney’s A P.
    Time for full disclosure. CAJ, O’Brien’s former employer, got at least 1.767-million quid from A P. No conflict of interest there for Mr. O’Brien or CAJ ?? No question of standing aside there ?
    The list of grants under “Human Rights Trust” shows a staggering 3.492-million! British-Irish Rights Watch 949K. Community Restorative Justice 1.352-million quid! Plus another 1.110-million for CRJ work!
    If anyone wants to see who gets Chuck Feeney’s largesse, just go to A P’s website and look under grantees and Northern Ireland and zero in on who gets what dough. All under Martin O’Brien’s aegis. Try: http://www.atlanticphilanthropies.org
    Nice money, and a hell of a lot of it, as long as you’re politically correct enough and pass a CAJ-type sniff test. Is there an agenda here ? I’d say….Fairness across the board, balance, equal treatment ? No, heavily tilted in one direction.

  • rapunsel

    Well what a nice wee circle of people feeding of each others prejudices. sure we don’t want any uppity fenian lawyers ( or any ethnic sorts) trying to and succeeding in challenging breaches of rights.

    I have no great knowledge but is Atlantic Philanthropies not a private organisation. id say they can do whatever they want with their money? At least they’re getting up the noses of the small minded posters hers

  • igor

    Ah yes, Community Restorative Justice. Where is it now?

    Wasn’t that the one where ‘local people’ went around to have a chat with young people involved in ‘anti-social behaviour’ {like not doing what the Shinners told them or annoying ‘the community’} and tried to ‘mediate’ the problems after blowing their kneecaps off became unfashionable.

    It still seems to exists and if you google it and look at Street View, it looks a very high class operation for the £1.35m

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?layer=c&cbll=54.554082,-6.024410&cbp=12,,,1,&ved=0CBAQ2wU&sa=X&ei=r_YWS_T0OJS9jAflmY35DA

    They obviously spend all the money on the volunteers, not the offices

    I assume it is all done in the nicest possible taste and fully respecting the human rights of the poor victims and the young people who may have strayed from the true path.

    Anyway, has CRJ produced a report on it?

    On on the exiling of people from NI?

    The disappeared perhaps?

    The environmental and health damage caused by laundering diesel in South Armagh?

  • ejusdem generis

    Fact check:
    The PILS Project anticipates that lawyers will undertake work on a pro bono basis.

    Small minded and ill informed petty jealousy is alive and well on Slugger I see. Equality and Human Rights ‘industry’? This is a familiar insult refrain from the ‘political industry’, which is every bit as reliant on the public purse for its dysfunctional, querulous, navel-gazing nonsense – a public purse to which lawyers contribute plenty in tax.

  • Slugger / Turgon: do keep up. This speech (from October!) was blogged in detail weeks ago, section by section, by Patrick Corrigan over at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast and Beyond. Well worth a full read.

  • Link to start of Corrigan’s blog series on Martin O’Brien’s lecture.

  • FairPlayForAllPlease

    Rapunsel, in my university days I was a member of Amnesty International and what attracted me to their Prisoners of Conscience programme was that the POCs had to be people who didn’t use violence to achieve their political objectives, unlike the IRA or their equally bloody Prod equivalents. CAJ and AP are far far more interested in perpetrators’ rights, and, especially in CAJ’s case, never took up the “rights” of victims with any enthusiasm. Anti-state, always. And the state’s first responsibility is to safeguard the rights of its citizens. We are now in a position in NI where that should be the case. And the social contract between citizen and governed involves RESPONSIBILITIES of the citizen too. Why do we never hear about that ? Some of us never voted Unionist in our lives but you would brand us anti-rights because we are critical of a FOREIGN funder coming in here to put millions of pounds into politically correct agendas which could not be fulfilled out of NI budgets ? And that’s OK ?
    That’s fair ? That’s equitable ? We ELECT people to make our decisions, however bad or good, we elect them. NOBODY elected Chuck Feeney and he is not a citizen of Ireland or the UK. He’s a Yank. It’s called foreign imperialism or US capitalist imperialism. But that’s OK, is it ? And is it OK for Sinn Fein to be the wealthiest party on this island because it can raise millions in the US from gullible Irish-Americans ? Can the SDLP do that ? Alliance ? The UUs ? Hardly. Is that a level playing field ?
    Raise the money you want for your political purposes in NI and then you won’t be open to charges of playing local politics with foreign filthy lucre, with getting your own way by getting your money to do your work from outsiders. Let’s keep it fair, right ?

  • Realised that my previous link only linked to the first blog, so here’s a link to the whole Stephen Livingstone lecture series of blogs.

  • just wonderin’

    First of all, it is regretable that Martin O’Brien chose the memorial to Stephen Livingstone to produce the views outlined above – Stephen was a person to be admired.
    Secondly, I am surprised that noone has mentioned so far that well known fact that AA system of funding is such that noone can apply to them! No, they believe that their staff are so talented (and so objective presumably) that they identify what is important to fund (I rest my case).

    Thirdly re the Human Rights Trust which receives so much from AA – my understanding is that it was set up by – Martin O’Brien when he was Director of CAJ so that CAJ would be secure (hence pensions for people who work for the CAJ …geddit) – it now ‘receives’ monies too for Human Rights Consortium …which I doubt knows its CAJ history. In its Annual Report CAJ does not mention the Human Rights Trust side to its ‘business’. Would be interesting to know who are the Directors of the Human Rights …could be people we know. When the Charities Commission gets going people will have a way of finding out.

    But a more important point is – why on earth did the NIHRC buy into this money mess – making it vulnerable to accusations of lack of independance? But then why is NIHRC embriolled in discussions with NIO regarding the request by its 10 Commissioners to have pension rights (as well as £10,000), given that many give service to quangos for no money at all?.

    Seems to me that with money, comes vulnerability. Will they never learn?

  • just wonderin’

    Sorry about mistake when posing the question as to who are the Directors/Trustees of the Human Rights …should have added,Trust.

  • George Windrush III

    Looks like everyone thinks NI is some sort of international basket case that good people around the world want to help.

    Annoying it may be, but it’s clear that NI can’t help itself,

    It certainly can’t pay its own way, and is something of a vagrant on the world stage.

    There’s a limit to how much others are prepared to pay for a unionist unwillingness to relate to and work with their neighbours.

    We stopped that nonsense in Alabama in 1960/70s. Why should we still have to be playing wetnurse to unionists in 2009.

  • oneill

    Well what a nice wee circle of people feeding of each others prejudices. sure we don’t want any uppity fenian lawyers…

    Rapunsel

    Why the use of the sectarian epithet? Does it mean that criticism of lawyers is now to be filed under the “religious bigotry” classification?
    Are there any other professions that we should go easy on?

  • The CAJ to the best of my knowledge have only ever supported one case involving Protestants, the UDR 4 case. Their personnel have in the main been Nationalist/Republicans with Directors who have been leading lights / Chiefs of Republican Prisoners groups.

    As to Stephen Livingstone, many’s the argument I had with him over the CAJ and other self-styled ‘yuman rites’ organisations, who had no problem colluding with terrorists throughout Northern Ireland, as they both sought to demean the state, one through terrorism, the other through perceived wrongs and questionable allegations of abuse by these self, same terrorists.

    By the way, did Stephen’s body ever turn up? It was sad that he seemed to suddenly vanish off the face of the earth. He was a very bright guy, an excellent legal mind and not scared of articulating his views.

  • AlanAlan

    No matter what you think of CAJ, and my own views are substantially different from the majority of posters, there is still a need for public interest litigation. Yes, organisations have consistently chosen the cases that they take, and perhaps they need to consider the balance of those cases from a range of perspectives.

    Nevertheless, is there anyone who would deny that the following paragraph from the article on the launch of PILS (quoted above) does not provide sufficient evidence for the potential benefit afforded by public interest litigation.

    “Previous PIL cases in Northern Ireland
    taken by other organisations have resulted
    in the right to transport to school during
    respite care for a severely disabled young
    person; a successful challenge to the
    decision to continue to detain a mental
    health patient in hospital which was based
    largely on a lack of adequate suitable
    community accommodation; and a
    successful challenge to a Health and
    Social Services Trust’s decision to move
    an elderly man to a less expensive
    residential care home because neither he or his only relative could afford to pay the third party top up charge of £20 per week. “

  • Trev

    CAJ’s own ‘workforce balance’ has been pretty impressive. I wonder if it has too many Prods?

  • just wonderin’

    Trev – there is not diversity in the CAJ as only Republican or possibly nationalist Prods or Taigs are welcomed.

  • Seamus O’Riordan

    I see via Google that Stephen was presumed dead as of 20th March 2004….was his body ever found….does anyone know?

    He was a great legal academic….but wouldn’t have been a great advocate in the courts…he’d have got you 6 months jail for riding a bike without lights!!

  • just wonderin’

    Seamus O’R: sadly, Stephen’s body was never found but he is presumed dead. May he rest in peace.