In June of 2002 a cross-community delegation of four from Northern Ireland came to the University of Minnesota, in St. Paul, to participate in a 6-day advanced training seminar on “Victim Offender Dialogue in Crimes of Severe Criminal and Political Violence.” Along with people from numerous other parts of the U.S. and several other countries, from the moment of our first contact with each other it became very clear that the terms “victim” and “offender” do not clearly apply in the Northern Ireland context, particularly in the context of political violence, as they do in the U.S. or other parts of Europe. Over the next four years, other cross-community delegations from Northern Ireland, coordinated by the Seeds of Hope project and the Koram Centre, came to the annual 6 day advanced training seminar on the use of restorative dialogue, often called victim offender dialogue or transformative dialogue, in crimes of severe criminal and political violence.
Each year we learned more from each other and those from Northern Ireland began to see how the growing experience in the U.S. could be adapted in a culturally appropriate manner to help contribute to individual and community healing in the wake of the lengthy and violent political conflict in Northern Ireland. Our colleagues in Northern Ireland who represented a number of different organizations determined that the term “transformative dialogue” that distinguished itself from other restorative justice initiatives in Northern Ireland was the most appropriate approach. From 2005 through 2007 our colleagues in Northern Ireland conducted numerous planning meetings and initiatives to invite others into the process.
In March of 2008, these colleagues and the groups they represent, now referred to as CPR (Consolidating Positive Relationships), conducted a series of larger community planning sessions and trainings to “role-out” the Transformative Dialogue initiative and to actively engage stakeholders in the design of this initiative. CPR is a collaborative project between Omagh Self Help and Support Group, United Services Club Victims and Survivors Group, Relatives for Justice/Tyrone, the Regimental Association of the UDR, and the Koram Centre. Mark Umbreit and Janine Geske were part of this on-the-ground March CPR initiative in Northern Ireland. A cross-Atlantic partnership is being developed between the CPR project in Northern Ireland and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking (represented by Dr. Mark Umbreit) and the Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI) Law School’s Restorative Justice Initiative (represented by Justice Janine Geske). This partnership will likely involve cross-Atlantic exchanges, additional training, research, and technical assistance