Memorandum submitted by the Maranatha
1. THE MARANATHA
1.1 The Maranatha Community is a dispersed
Christian community with 10,000 active members drawn from all
the churches in the United Kingdom and beyond. The Community has
been active in work for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland
for 20 years. It has helped countless families caught up in the
troubles and in particular has assisted those who have been expelled
from their homes and settled in Britain. It is strictly non-political
and responds to requests for help which have been made to it over
the years. Its members include substantial numbers of people drawn
from both communities in Northern Ireland and include Protestants
and Roman Catholics, Nationalists, Unionists and others.
1.2 The Maranatha Community Trust is a registered
charity and the movement receives no financial support from any
other source than its own members. It has close relationships
with countless individuals, church and public organisations, charities
and voluntary groups throughout Northern Ireland.
2.1 Throughout the period of the past 30
years in Northern Ireland, there has been sustained activity on
the part of organised groups who exercise or threaten violence
in local communities, ostensibly in furtherance of their political
2.2 The nature of this violence has been
demonstrated through the use of firearms, explosives, and weapons
such as baseball bats and iron bars. The mere threat of this form
of violence creates and instils fear within the community and
individual families. In particular in "hard-line" areas
many, and perhaps most, people obey the dictates of these groups.
Alternatively, they run away.
2.3 When specific threats are made, people
have the choice of remaining and being assaulted and perhaps killed,
and having their home burnt down or of removing themselves without
delay on the order of the paramilitary group. These groups may
insist that their victims move to another part of Northern Ireland,
but more usually to Britain, or in a few instances the Irish Republic.
2.4 Some victims who have been told to leave
are allowed to return to their community on the condition that
they pay substantial sums of money to the groups.
3. THE INCIDENCE
3.1 The incidence of terror has fluctuated
over the years and the number of assaults within the Province
has varied between approximately 10 and 50 each week. In some
instances a substantial number of assaults have taken place in
the same district during the same night, particularly where so-called
"knee-capping" by the use of guns or staves takes place.
3.2 Many expulsions and punishment beatings
go unannounced and unreported. This is often because the victim
has been warned that there will be further punishment to himself
or herself or their family if the offence is reported to the police,
or even recorded in the press.
3.3 During 1994 and 1995 it was hoped that
the first cease-fire agreement and the peace process would bring
about a diminution, not only of attacks and threatened attacks,
but also of the expulsions. Sadly, this was not the case. Similarly,
after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement it was again hoped
that the situation would improve, but it did not. Yet again, after
the implementation of the prisoner release programme, it was hoped
that there would be an improvement in terms of expulsions and
assaults, but there was not. After each of these three periods
there was undoubtedly a temporary improvement, probably because
of perceived damage to the image of the combatants. Similarly,
there was a slight improvement after the debate in the House of
Commons in February 1999 but this was not sustained. Expulsions
continue to take place every week.
4. THE NATURE
4.1 Some victims are subjected to sadistic
assault and torture, sometimes in front of their relatives and
friends. Other assaults may be less serious, but are carried out
in order to exercise control over the victims and also to transmit
a clear message to neighbours, friends and relatives that the
paramilitaries must be obeyed. The "punishment" frequently
precedes an immediate expulsion order. This regime of fear has
forced many, particularly young people who have gone through higher
education, to leave Northern Ireland in disgust. Most, however,
are unable to do so for social and economic reasons.
4.2 The instruction to leave their home
may or may not be carried out at gunpoint. It invariably has a
precise time limit and breaking the deadline carries the immediate
threat of death, as many have discovered.
4.3 It should be noted that some expulsions
and assaults are carried out in order to settle old scores, sometimes
going back many years. Sons are often punished for what their
fathers have done or vice versa. Others relate to controversies
about such issues as control of areas and drug prices.
4.4 It is often stated that most of the
victims of "expulsion orders" or "punishment beatings"
are criminals. Although some undoubtedly are, it is the experience
of those who work with them that many are not. Some have already
been punished through the legitimate judiciary system and are
then punished again or expelled.
4.5 Many have been expelled for speaking
out or for their refusal to donate to specific collections, or
to give "protection money" or to allow their property
to be used for flag displays or painted slogans.
5. PURPOSE OF
5.1 The policy of expulsions and terror
is a fundamental part of the consolidation of control by the paramilitaries
over specific areas, rural and urban. This policy has been steadily
implemented during the past six years.
5.2 People are systematically intimidated
and coerced into accepting that the paramilitary presence is the
de facto authority, which must be obeyed.
5.3 The paramilitary presence in many areas
constitutes a quasi-judicial system. The majority of people living
there, however, deeply resent their continuing and growing power,
particularly as the possible threat of expulsion destroys their
sense of security.
5.4 Those who were originally supposed to
be their guardians are now regarded as their oppressors, apart
from the minority of activists, but are totally unable to express
their views because of the consequences.
5.5 The paramilitaries have clearly had
to impress upon the various communities that they, and only they,
have the ultimate authority. This authority is exercised against
all those who in any way disagree with them or disobey them.
5.6 Over the years, as the expulsions and
punishments have gone unchallenged, the position of the various
paramilitary groups has become much stronger. Each time they issue
an expulsion order, which is obeyed, their power is reinforced.
Each time they mete out "punishment beatings", the fear
of them by the local community grows. Understandably, when violent
people, exercising such authority, hold a strong grip on their
communities, ordinary people are unwilling or afraid to speak
out against them, or in any way be seen as disagreeing with them
5.7 The message of expulsions and assaults
being beamed to the community by the paramilitaries is basically
that there is no rule of law as it is generally understood in
the civilised world.
6.1 In some areas when an internal and often
violent power struggle takes place between individuals or factions
within the same group, seeking the authority and prestige which
often go with it, ordinary residents, year by year, have to stand
by helplessly. The struggle is exacerbated in those areas where
the paramilitaries are deeply involved in drug trafficking, the
financial rewards of which are far higher then the income derived
from the traditional protection rackets and other criminal activities.
6.2 It should be noted that, after 1994,
the nature of expulsions from the Province changed. Initially
expulsions related to individuals, but these were then applied
to entire families. In the same way some people are punished for
the activities of other members of their family. Families or individuals
may be publicly stigmatised, their names being put up on walls
and anonymous accusations circulated. Other people in the community
then become wary of having any connection with these families
because they too may be ostracised and targeted for attack.
7.1 There is undoubtedly enormous public
opposition to the activities of the gangs which are associated
with the various paramilitary groupings, but over the years the
public has, in large measure, been silenced through fear and intimidation.
There is a widespread feeling in the "hard-line" areas
that nothing will ever change.
7.2 There is considerable evidence that
during both cease-fires the recruiting of young people by the
paramilitaries continued to take place, and in some areas today
it is accelerating.
7.3 In view of public outrage against highly
publicised atrocities, considerable efforts have, from time to
time, been made by the paramilitaries to persuade their own communities
that they are genuinely seeking to protect them. Doubtless in
most instances the overwhelming majority resent this. Sadly, opposition
is stifled by fear and the hurried exit and disappearance of neighbours
and also the knowledge of nightly visits by gangs.
7.4 The paramilitaries often artificially
create supposedly popular support for what they are doing to punish
miscreants. Undoubtedly, the public are, in many places, concerned
about the incidence of youthful lawlessness and drug-related crime.
However, instead of this problem being faced openly by the entire
community, the situation has often been exploited for propaganda
8.1 A significant trend in the past few
years has been the more open inflicting of injuries upon people.
Although a large proportion of the assaults still take place at
night, there is an increase in assaults taking place in broad
8.2 Significantly, the victims are often,
but not always, fully aware of the identity of their assailants,
but dare not admit this for fear of fatal reprisal. Their assailants
often do not bother to wear their familiar balaclava masks.
9. PROBLEMS INHERENT
9.1 Most of those who have had to flee from
Northern Ireland have done so after specific threats or acts of
violence. A substantial proportion of them has been told that
they, and sometimes their families, will never be allowed to return.
There is considerable evidence that those who have tried to do
so have been severely attacked or even killed.
9.2 Those who have left Northern Ireland
have frequently done so with only a few hours notice, and in some
cases less than one hour. They have been given no time to put
their affairs in order: they have had to leave their job and in
some cases the house in which they have lived all their life.
9.3 On arrival in Britain they are invariably
frightened, penniless and without any immediate support. In some
cases they have never been out of Northern Ireland in their lives.
In others they have never been separated from their loved ones.
Most of them feel flung into an alien environment and, in addition
to continuing threats on the mainland, experience acute emotional
problems. Many experience breakdown.
9.4 There is no Government agency or service
with specific responsibility for them and their total lifestyle
is changed and life anticipations are shattered. Most have no
relatives or friends in Britain and on arrival are in desperate
10. THE ROOTS
10.1 The roots of the disorders are complex.
Historical events, inherited attitudes, a real sense of injustice,
together with the personal experience of pain and trauma all contribute
to the bitterness, anger and hatred, which finds expression in
violence and expulsions. This applies equally to both communities.
10.2 The activities of the groups responsible
for expulsions are undoubtedly controlled by those in authority
in the paramilitary organisations. It should not, however, be
overlooked that the groups putting pressure on people to leave,
include those who use their position to settle old scores, sometimes
going back over many years. Some of them have personality disorders.
The problem in terms of the diminution of the activities of these
groups lies in the fact that many of the participants have spent
much of their adult life engaged in this kind of activity and
feel a need to defend their supposed "street credibility".
11. THE PRESENT
11.1 The victims of expulsion orders understandably
believe that they have been grievously deprived of their basic
11.2 They feel isolated, rejected and forgotten,
without an effective voice and destined to years of separation
from their home, family, friends and community. In addition to
this, many have lost their means of livelihood.
11.3 The immediate need of those who have
been expelled is for a house in which to live, for friendship
and support, and for help with social benefits, housing and health
11.4 In a number of instances the injuries
inflicted upon those who have been expelled require immediate
and continued medical support in Britain. The majority require
counselling for the trauma which they have experiencedand
in many instances such specialist support is not readily available.
They arrive in Britain, often traumatised and tense, taking medication.
Their tension manifests itself in the fear of the night, the fear
of answering a doorbell or a telephone call, and the fear and
suspicion of strangers.
11.5 Some of those who come to Britain settle
in happily, but most have a real and continuing sense of hopelessness.
Some have committed suicide.
11.6 There is now a need for the whole issue
of expulsions of people from Northern Ireland to be addressed
with extreme urgency. The situation affects thousands of people
whose lives are being disrupted and in some instances destroyed.
16 November 2000