When the Executive committed to tackling paramilitarism in the Fresh Start agreement there was an intense focus on the extra money allocated to the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF) and the subsequent operations that have seen many people brought before the courts.

But at the same time - and to less fanfare - the Communities in Transition project also launched, and in many ways was the more radical step in changing our society. CIT is a central competent of the wider community element built into this ambitious programme.

Part of the Executive Action plan on addressing paramilitarism, criminality and organised crime; it isn’t about ‘tackling’ criminals head on, but more about growing the positive elements with communities to reduce the space for criminal and paramilitary groups to operate.

Communities in Transition is working to build capacity in eight areas were there is a history of paramilitary activity, criminality and coercive control and Co-operation Ireland, along with partners, is looking after this part of the programme.

Change at a community level is best achieved when driven by local people, passionate about improving their area and the lives of those who live there. The Communities in Transition project is about providing people with the opportunity, skills and confidence to change their local area context over the longer term.

The project is taking a participatory approach to delivery – enabling participant groups and individuals to work together to develop initiatives that will address underlying issues exploited by paramilitary and criminal groups, or to develop positive pathways away from paramilitarism, criminality and coercive control.

So what does that mean in practical terms? 

After around a two years of development the project has gained significant momentum over the last six months.

We now have 29 projects in delivery across the eight CIT areas, with over 300 groups and 700 individuals now involved.

This includes locally based projects around community safety, health and wellbeing, arts and culture, area regeneration, personal transition, community development and a regional project to increase the use of restorative practice in non-justice settings.

All projects have a significant focus on training and skills development as well as learning through the delivery of social action projects. 

There is a significant amount of activity now going on or in the planning stages, so expect to hear much more about this project in the months ahead!

The Communities in Transition project is just one of 38 actions being taken forward through the Executive Action Plan which it is hoped will collectively led to a society where ‘paramilitarism has no place’ and ‘communities feel safe and confident’.

More information on the whole programme can be found by clicking here

Ending paramilitarism is a long term goal, well beyond the scope of this project to achieve alone. However sustained community action alongside a law enforcement response will bring rewards.

Lucy Geddes

I first joined Co-operation Ireland back in 2005 on a six-month maternity cover contract and 15 years later I’m privileged to be leading delivery of what I believe to be a project that will make a real difference to the future of Northern Ireland.