Panel Discussion with Dr Ian Marder, Claire Casey, Sergeant Martin Moloney  Niall Counihan, Ingrid Colvin

Facing Forward Open Meeting: November 20th 2019. The Carmelite Centre, Dublin 2

On a rainy night in November, Facing Forward held an Open Meeting to discuss the impact of Restorative approaches in the community. Nearly 50 people attended to hear a panel of Dr. Ian Marder, Claire Casey, Sgt. Martin Moloney, Ingrid Colvin and Niall Counihan speak
on this topic. Firstly each of them gave examples of restorative practice at work in different types of communities.

Niall Counihan, as Co-ordinator of the Cabra Community Policing Forum, spoke of the success of applying restorative principles to problems in the community. The forum is an action based problem solving body where An Garda Siochana and Dublin City Council work in partnership with local residents and stakeholders to make the area a safer place to live in and enjoy.

The Childhood Development Initiative has brought restorative practice to many children and families. It has also delivered RP training to over 3000 teachers and community workers. However, as the best way to describe its work, CDI’s RP Manager, Claire Casey showed a school video where students spoke about the circle process and showed how the restorative questions support interpersonal accountability for them.

Ingrid Colvin of FLAC was formerly the co-ordinator for CoSA – Circles of Support and Accountability with PACE. These circles are based on restorative principles and provide an important support for sex offenders on their release from prison. They are matched with volunteers who help them to adjust to life post prison and also hold them to account for their behaviour. These circles have proved very successful and have reduced re-offending.

Sgt. Martin Moloney of Store Street Garda Station described S.29 conferences held under the Child Care (Amendment ) Act 2011. These conferences have a restorative ethos and are set up in the cases where children have committed a crime and acknowledged their guilt. They bring together those who care for the child to discuss how best to move forward
in his or her interest. Those attending include family members, Guards, relevant social welfare officials and others who may help in rehabilitating the young offender. They are particularly important now due to the negative influence of social media.

Dr. Ian Marder of Maynooth University, Department of Law and the EU Strategies for Change focused on the restorative work of An Garda Siochana in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. The Guards use a restorative approach to building relationships with the community of Direct Provision residents in Newbridge and also to promote understanding with other communities. A sequential circle is used to enable the residents to share their concerns and information with the Guards and staff. These circles also support the integration of the residents to make them feel welcome in Ireland. In addition, dialogue days have been set up with Traveller groups and it is hoped that these will be widened to include other groups in the future.

The discussion was then opened to the circle. Instances of restorative work and its positive impact in communities throughout the country were recounted. A discussion followed on how this could be built on with many useful contributions. Among the points raised were:

  • Restorative Practice has been very dependant on individual champions and this needs to change.
  • A community needs to be involved in the management of their services. It will operate on a restorative basis with or without professionals.
  • Modeling restorative practice is very important. When adults model it, others especially young people, will follow.
  • Awareness of restorative justice has increased partly due to its wider acceptance by Judges but the capacity to follow this up is not available in many parts of the country.
  • Society wants accountability i.e. prison sentences. While Restorative Justice in the Juvenile Diversion Programme is working well, there is no platform for extending it to adults.
  • It is important that high standards are always maintained.
  • An all-Ireland group should be formed to lobby the Government

The meeting then drew to a close.