St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Editor’s note: The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) is an independent civil liberties organisation formed in 1981 to work for the highest standards in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. The Committee is affiliated to the Federation Internationale des Droits de l’Homme and its membership is drawn from all sections of the community, including lawyers, students, community workers, unemployed people and academics. This talk was not recorded.
Martin O’Brien began by emphasising that the CAJ is opposed to the use of violence to achieve political goals in Northern Ireland. It takes no position on the constitutional question and does not get involved in party politics. Its main aim is to stimulate awareness of justice issues in Northern Ireland and encourage the adoption of safeguards. In the Committee’s view, not only are abuses of civil liberties wrong in themselves but, in the Northern Ireland context, they hinder the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Outlining the work of the Committee, Martin O’Brien explained that in the early years its main focus was on the emergency legislation but gradually its range of interests extended to broader civil rights issues. It has recently published a handbook on Civil Liberties which deals not only with issues such as the powers of the police and the army, the questioning of suspects, and the impact of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, but also covers a wide range of social and economic issues. The CAJ has also campaigned for the introduction of a comprehensive Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland which it sees as a prerequisite to permanent peace and justice.
After the talk a lively discussion was held and questions were asked on a wide variety of issues including the question of human rights abuses by paramilitaries. The speaker explained that while the CAJ’s remit does not extend to this issue, it is now being addressed by Amnesty International and the F.A.I.T. group who recently came to Navan at the invitation of the Meath Peace Group.
March 4th, 1994
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park,
Navan, Co. Meath
Editor’s note: At the public talk in Dalgan Park, the speakers outlined the various activities of the group and gave an account of their own experiences. A summary of the work of FAIT is given below. The group visited Navan secondary schools on the following day, and were interviewed by local media. The talk was not recorded.
Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT) was founded in 1990 by Nancy Gracey, after the “punishment” shooting of her son, Paddy, following sustained intimidation and harassment over a period of six months. Nancy decided to break the silence of fear and do something about the violence and intimidation that had become a part of life in many areas of Northern Ireland since the present “troubles” began. At the time her son was shot, no organisation existed to highlight and challenge human rights abuses by terrorists, so, with local community support, Nancy founded FAIT to help those who have suffered at the hands of the IRA and Loyalist organisations.
Membership: The membership of the organisation is representative of all shades of opinion of those who support the democratic process.
The management committee includes families, survivors, ex-paramilitaries and concerned individuals.
Range of work undertaken:
Support for individuals and families under threat.
Research and information.
Documenting and highlighting human rights abuses by terrorists.
FAIT collects statements about paramilitary atrocities, counsels victims and their families and supports those with the courage to speak publicly about their experiences. It also helps the families of known terrorists on the grounds that they too are victims. FAIT sends victims’ statements to human rights organisations such as Helsinki Watch and Amnesty International, as well as to the media. FAIT estimates that 90% of human rights abuses in Northern Ireland are perpetrated by paramilitaries. FAIT receives referrals from all the constitutional parties, from voluntary and statutory groups, from the RUC, from the clergy and from media work on it’s own behalf.
“It’s hard for you, or even me, to appreciate the bravery of Nancy Gracey” (Fr. Denis Faul)
FAIT: Washington House, 14-16 High St., Belfast BT 1 2BB