25/10/2005

Ex-prisoners role in society being hindered by criminalisation

Former loyalist and republican prisoners feel they have a role to play in the transition of Northern Ireland to a normal society, but that their efforts have been undermined by the existence of criminalisation.

This is according to a study conducted by senior academics from the University of Ulster and Queen’s University, which forms an in-depth analysis of the impact of imprisonment on Republican and Loyalist prisoners and their families and the role of former prisoners in developing the peace process.

Authors of the study Professor Brian Graham and Dr Peter Shirlow from the University of Ulster and Professor Kieran McEvoy of QUB, said that former prisoners contended that the media had failed to provide adequate coverage of the positive role that they and the groups that represent them play in developing modes of conflict transformation.

Professor McEvoy said: “Many of the former prisoners questioned felt they had a role to play in the transition from conflict to conflict transformation.

"For example, 81% of former Republican prisoners and 47% of former Loyalists had been involved in some form of community work since their release with 63% and 33% respectively becoming involved specifically in interface areas.

"In the report we identify different styles of leadership which has been provided by former prisoners in the process of moving our society from conflict. Finally at a grass roots level, we believe that significant numbers of former-prisoners have been involved in proving moral and community leadership in for example advocating for non-violent response to community tensions.”

The report also highlighted how many prisoners felt that their experience of the conflict and prison could be used to benefit others, particularly as a ‘deterrent to young people’ and ‘to show the motivations and help explain the cause’ of the conflict. The sentiment of numerous comments was that lessons should be learned from those involved in the conflict so as not to repeat them.

Launched today the report was produced in conjunction with Tar Isteach and EPIC, two organisations representing the interests of former Republican and Loyalist prisoners respectively.

(MB/SP)

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