John recently co-wrote a paper with Kirsty Campbell (St Andrews University) and Derick Wilson (Ulster University) called Ending residual paramilitary domination in Northern Ireland? Restorative economic and social inclusion strategies.

The paper considers options for  dismantling residual pockets of paramilitary domination and draws insights from restorative justice and complexity theory. It places Northern Ireland as one of many stories of oversimplified peace in the mind-maps of educated publics.

In matters of war and peace, peace processes tend to get simplified into successes and failures. Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq are prominent ‘failures’ in those mind maps, even though elements of peacebuilding success can be found in those places. Northern Ireland was simplified onto the list of successes—along with cases like South Africa, Timor Leste, El Salvador and Mozambique—even though success in those places has been patchy and interrupted by episodic rekindling of conflict.

Paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland is unfinished but finishable. Campbell, Wilson and Braithwaite write in response to the Northern Ireland Government’s ‘Fresh Start’ Panel report, that perhaps it is time to finish the violence through a restorative peace.

This would require a focus on building justice as a better future for excluded working class neighbourhoods, challenging political and civil society organisations to unequivocally embrace the task of reconciliation, and resourcing a restorative strand of victim support complementing the valuable work of the current Commission for Victims and Survivors and the Victims and Survivors Service.

They argue that so long as Northern Ireland builds on its exemplary history of taking restorative standards seriously, there is no reason why the restorative transformations of the Provisional IRA, the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association could not be replicated by dissidents and other radical flanks—Loyalist and Republican. This can only be achieved if there is a credible commitment to enforce the law against those who continue to rule neighbourhoods through violence. Their policy suggestion is that any potential weakness of community restorative justice in ending paramilitary violence might be covered by the strengths of variegated enforcement tools under an ‘Operation Cease Paramilitary Punishment Attacks’.