Seminar on Violence in Irish Society
“There is a clear need for all of us to actively engage with [the problem of violence] … As a society we need to replace a culture of violence with a renewed sense of justice, responsibility and community. We need to rediscover values that are in danger of being lost – love for our neighbour and respect for human life.” (Bishop Éamonn Walsh)
This seminar aimed to promote a multi-dimensional, community-based response to the problem of violence. The event was attended by a wide-range of community and voluntary organisations working to address aspects of the problem of violence in our society.
Opening the seminar, Bishop Éamonn Walsh stated that: “There is a clear need for all of us to actively engage with this problem. The Government and the Gardaí cannot by themselves alone remove violence from our midst. As a society we need to replace a culture of violence with a renewed sense of justice, responsibility and community.”
Rev Dr Eoin Cassidy of the ICJSA explained that one of the key aims of the Commission in producing this document was to convey the full complexity of the problem of violence, challenging everyone, as a member of society, to reflect on our responses to violence, and not see it as something “at the margins of our experience”.
During the first part of the seminar five speakers, representing a range of relevant areas, gave a brief response to the analysis and recommendations presented in the paper, highlighting what they perceived to be the key issues.
Paul Reynolds, RTÉ Crime Correspondent said: “The main reasons, as I see it, why people end up involved in crime lie in the failure of adult guardians in the home and the schools – the failures of parents, teachers and society at large.”
Stephanie Holt of the Children’s Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin, also responded to the document from a child-centred perspective, stating “children are often the forgotten and silenced victims of what is frequently but mistakenly understood to be an adult issue”.
John Fitzgerald, Chairman of Limerick Regeneration Agencies, focused in a particular way on the theme of social exclusion. He said: “Social exclusion breeds violence and the communities affected are the most vulnerable victims of violence. Dealing with this is not a cost for society: it is an investment which repays itself many times over – not least in terms of avoidance of unacceptable levels of human misery.”
A response from the perspective of the victims of violence was provided by Ray McAndrew, Chair of the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime. He said that the goal of organisations working with victims “is to empower victims to return to living their lives in constructive ways. This is particularly relevant for victims of violent crime.”
Chief Superintendent Pat Leahy, of the Dublin Metropolitan North Central Division of An Garda Síochána, gave a response to the document from a policing perspective, advocating “a move to a community policing philosophy and an integrated/partnership approach to the delivery of policing services”. He illustrated this with the example of the partnership approach currently employed in the case management system for juvenile offenders, which aims to get juveniles “out of the criminal justice system”.
The second part of the seminar took the form of a Questions and Answers session, chaired by Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Affairs Editor of the Irish Independent. This session provided an opportunity for the members of the various organisations represented to put questions to the speakers and contribute to the debate.
Notes for Editors
- The role of the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs is to support the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in promoting the social teaching of the Church and to advise on issues of social concern, both nationally and internationally. Its mission is: To promote the social dimension of the Gospel with a view to building a civilisation of love.
- The ICJSA is based in the Columba Centre, Maynooth, Co Kildare. It is chaired by Bishop Raymond Field, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Dublin and its Research Coordinator is Ms Nicola Rooney.
- A copy of the paper Violence in Irish Society: Towards an Ecology of Peace, as well as speaker texts and further details of today’s conference, are available from the ICJSA website: www.catholicbishops.ie/icjsa.
Francis Cousins, Catholic Communications Office, 087 2185664
Nicola Rooney, ICJSA Research Coordinator, 087 7406290