27 January 2006

CRJ myth put to bed by Derry chairman

Daily Ireland

Eamonn Houston


A former Northern Ireland international soccer player today defends Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) projects across the North, saying that the organisation has been misrepresented by “political sound-bites”.
Tony O’Doherty, a CRJ chairman in Derry’s largest housing estate, has rejected recent claims that CRJ is a front for republican paramilitaries.
He was speaking as a fresh row broke out between the SDLP and CRJ over the role of the organisation.
Mr O’Doherty has never been involved in a political party or republican organisation.
He played in the same Northern Ireland team that featured George Best and Pat Jennings in the early 1970s.
In a wide-ranging interview in Daily Ireland today, he says he would resign with immediate effect if he thought CRJ was a front for republican paramilitaries.
He also reveals his hurt at being branded as a “RA Special”, referring to recent comments on the organisation made by SDLP justice spokesman, Alban Maginness.
“It has been said and believed that we [CRJ] take political orders. That is absolutely ludicrous – we will work with anybody,” Mr O’Doherty said.
He added: “I’m not a political puppet for any party or organisation”.
Last night, SDLP policing spokesman, Alex Attwood, lashed out at Mr Noel McCartney, a senior CRJ member. Mr McCartney was quoted in a newspaper, saying that the CRJ would not work with the PSNI until outstanding issues on policing were resolved by the political parties in the North.
Mr Attwood said: “How can you help administer real justice if you refuse to work with the police? That just won’t work.
“It won’t protect the public from crime. But it could frustrate police investigations, let wrongdoers off the hook and lead to serious human rights abuse.
“The SDLP has received numerous complaints about CRJ, including serious mishandling of sex abuse allegations.”
Mr Attwood said that the British government has attempted to “downplay” his party’s concerns and was “putting human rights in danger”.

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