John Lonergan: Violence a result of not dealing with community conflict
AGGRESSION and violence are the consequences of not dealing with conflict in communities, a former prisoner governor has claimed.
John Lonergan said responding to confrontation with confrontation leads to further anger and frustration, while facing those difficulties could cut crime.
More than 700 adults and schoolchildren in Tallaght in Dublin have been trained in restorative practice, an international initiative which empowers people and repairs damage in communities rather than just punishing offenders.
Mr Lonergan said the scheme, which is seeing colleagues and neighbours in the area resolve any conflict themselves, needs to be rolled-out nationwide in the education system.
"Relationships and inter-community relationships are at the very heart of the quality of life that people have," said the former governor of Dublin's Mountjoy Prison.
"Unless we have the skills and the knowledge to deal with them, then you are going to have the consequences which are confrontation, aggression, violence and all the other negatives that arise if they are not dealt with.
"To respond to confrontation with confrontation you lead to further confrontation, anger and frustration.
"This is about dealing with it in a mature, civilised, skilled way, dealing with the issues, resolving the issues and repairing the relationship."
Marian Quinn of Childhood Development Initiative (CDI), which started the scheme in Tallaght west, said restorative practice is about finding solutions, taking responsibility and not blaming others.
A survey found six out of ten people in the community said relationships were better between service providers and users, 47% reported improvements with work colleagues, and 14% said they got on better with neighbours.
Elsewhere more than a third said they would be more willing to report crime or anti-social behaviour as a result of restorative approaches being employed across the community, including with gardai.
Ms Quinn said teachers, youth workers, local authority staff and people in the community have been trained, while similar schemes are ongoing across Dublin, Limerick and Donegal.
"Given the findings relating to improved productivity and reduced work-based conflict, this programme can usefully inform the Government's public service reform agenda," she added.