Debbie Watters

Debbie is a co-director and founder member of Northern Ireland Alternatives (NIA), a community based restorative justice organization working within grassroots loyalist communities in Northern Ireland. NIA was established to address the issue of summary justice practices carried out by armed groups and restorative practices provided a non-violent intervention. This innovative work involved mediation between ex political combatants and prisoners to move them away from violence. Debbie has been involved in the area of justice work, peace building, reconciliation and youth work for the past 30 years. She completed her degree at the Ulster University and has worked as a restorative justice practitioner for the past 25 years including the management of the first restorative justice programme in the USA from 1993-1997. She has been involved with the development of restorative justice initiatives in Northern Ireland since 1997 and played a key role in transferring her learnings from the USA into the Northern Ireland context. Debbie is actively involved in lobbying, advocacy and training in restorative practices, mediation and youth work both within local communities, schools, universities and statutory agencies. She has provided training, consultancy and lectures at a local, regional and international level including Colombia and South Africa. She is currently working with Wheelock College, Boston to develop a restorative programme. Debbie is Vice Chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the body that holds the police to account.