Ending Residual Paramilitary Domination in Northern Ireland? Restorative Economic and Social Inclusion Strategies
33 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2016 Last revised: 17 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 13, 2016
Paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland is unfinished but finishable. In response to the 2016 ‘Fresh Start’ Panel report (Northern Ireland Government 2016) on disbanding paramilitaries, is it time to finish through a restorative peace? This would require a focus on building justice as a better future for excluded working class neighbourhoods, challenging political and civil society organisations to unequivocally embrace the task of reconciliation, and resourcing a restorative strand of victim support complementing the valuable work of the current Commission for Victims and Survivors and the Victims and Survivors Service. Responsive adaptation of an ‘Operation Ceasefire’ policing strategy might also help underwrite restorative communities and restorative learning networks that do most of the work. Today’s elites could consider a shift from their neoliberal frames to acknowledge their own ambivalence around the complete rejection of violence and the class character of the Northern Ireland Troubles, so often trumped by the identity politics of that ‘ethnic frontier society’ (Wright 1987: 1-54). Restorative economic and social inclusion strategies at the level of micro-communities, within a ‘shared future’ vision (Northern Ireland Office 2005), for ending the domination of the excluded by paramilitaries and other violent gangs are options. So are Operation Ceasefire strategies layered within a restorative societal fabric; not losing sight of the empirical insights of Toft (2010) and Walter (1999; 2002) that unless there is credible commitment in the years ahead to enforce the law against those who continue to rule neighbourhoods through violence — by the stick of locking them away if necessary — the carrots of peace will be gamed by the most ruthlessly militarised leaders. Complexity theory, responsive regulatory theory and restorative justice theory inform this policy analysis in response to the 2016 Paramilitaries Panel Report.
Keywords: Restorative Justice, Paramilitary Violence, Northern Ireland, Operation Ceasefire strategies, Responsive Regulatory Theory
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