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Community and Restorative Justice Newry/Armagh

Repairing harm through restorative justice is at the core of Community and Restorative Justice Newry/Armagh’s work. Its Digging Deeper Project coordinator Ewan Morgan says work creating structures and new ways of engagement throughout South Armagh is paying off.

At the core of Community and Restorative Justice (CRJ) Newry/Armagh is early intervention and mediation schemes.

The project is supported through the IFI’s Peace Impact Programme (PIP), which aims to reach out to communities where the Peace Process has delivered limited benefits. It also engages with marginalised youths who are more vulnerable to paramilitary recruitment.

Ewan says the community organisation, which is linked to the criminal justice system, is very proud to be accredited by the Department of Justice (DoJ) and has benefited hugely from working with the IFI over the last five or six years.

“Armagh has been neglected by all sorts of agencies over the years. That was recognised by the IFI when they gave us funding.”

Ewan says lack of trust and engagement with agencies, in particular the police, is an issue in places such as Newtownhamilton and Camlough so a Policing within the Community (PWTC) forum has been established to tackle this.

The project has helped teach new skills and access practical employment related training courses.

It is small steps but local inspectors and sergeants have been coming to neutral venues to meet key stakeholders in urban and rural areas for what is described as critical engagement.

“Police now see it as a template to be used in other ‘hard to reach areas’.”

CRJ Newry/Armagh have organised a number of residentials and workshops over the last year and worked with womens’ groups too. Being a border constituency Brexit has been one topic focusing minds and drawing discussion from men, women and young people in the area.

“My eyes were opened as to how clued in young people were,” Ewan said. “They spoke about EU citizenship, cross-border living and working and the risk of losing everything.”

The flagship project in the Digging Deeper project - ‘The South Armagh Community Council’ - has just launched to create a positive impact on communities.

Challenges around building trust are ongoing with lots of honest, up front, discussions. Ewan believes tackling problems along the way will be through improving understanding and by economic, cultural and social development of areas.

This project has enabled some communities to take part in peace building for the first time.

The forum is attracting local businesses and forming part of a “collaborative voice for South Armagh, which represents the entire community.”

Ewan notes as well as the mainly Nationalist population there is a strong, vibrant Unionist community in South Armagh so work is ongoing to encourage more people to get involved by making them feel more comfortable to “put their toe in the water.”

“My message is the forum will represent everyone through effective communication and partnership. If you go on your own to make a point it may be listened to but if you go as a whole community it is hard for statutory or anyone else not to listen to it,” he said.

There will be strength in numbers.

CRJ Newry/Armagh is organising a jobs fair, and encouraging young people to steer clear of what is known as the ‘unregulated economy’ in the border area.

“We are taking small steps to address that around areas likes washed diesel and illegal diesel plants. We are quietly working away in conversations with different people of influence to move people away from that.”

Safer driving and safer tractor programmes that have also been rolled out have seen police comment on a noticeable change in driving attitudes in the area.

Conversations are also taking place with the disaffected and disassociated people in South Armagh.

“We sit with people one on one. Encouraging people, and bringing people information so they can have a more progressive outlook. If we reach people it can only be a good thing.

“We are very proud of what we are doing through the funding awarded by the IFI.”

For further information about our funding programmes, or for information on how to apply for funding, please contact the person(s) or organisation(s) identifed at the end of the relevant programme summary in the areas of activity section.

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