ALTERNATIVE Films from Northern Ireland
Across frontiers, community led restorative justice in Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland film presents stories about work in the cities of Belfast and Derry. In the edge of South Belfast the narrative attends to the growth of CARE since 2013. This is a community based restorative justice project in a working class estate on the edge of Belfast. The film also reflects the emergence of RESOLVE in 2014, a community restorative justice project in inner east Belfast.
The film outlines the ambitions and some of the work of local volunteers, how they were trained and some of the issues they encounter in their restorative practice. Both projects are striving to counteract violent responses of Loyalist paramilitaries by demonstrating the credibility of restorative methods of addressing harm. The film also illustrates how these local volunteers are working to build a new relationship that legitimises the role of the police service in neighbourhoods where they were shunned for decades. Two other themes that are prominent in the film are the contribution of women in establishing restorative justice and the emergence of race hate crime in working class communities. In the case of CARE the film also reveals that at a local level “restorative justice” as a concept has limited meaning for residents.
The second half of the film focuses on restorative approaches to mapping the impact of drugs and alcohol abuse in Derry city, a place of 100,000 residents some seventy miles from Belfast. The story of harm here is characterised by multiple efforts at community level to deal with the harm caused, violent attempts by gangs to control drugs trade and a sense that “things may be out of control”. The film shows how the ALTERNATIVE research s striving to help local people develop a deeper narrative that can be shared citywide in order to see how responses may need to be adjusted and co-ordinated. What is known is that lives have been lost, controversy abounds around the role of the police and there is a strong will at community level to restore a city to its full health.