SF and DUP seek to restrict right of Public Assembly

More on the consultation on Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests (not endorsed by the Justice Minster) – SF and the DUP have moved beyond reviewing legislation on parades and associated protests under the Public Processions Act and are seeking to place restrictions on all Public Assemblies/Protests.

Public Assemblies are currently dealt with under the Public Order Act and only subject to restrictions:

(a)it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, or

(b)the purpose of the persons organising it is the intimidation of others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do, or to do an act they have a right not to do,

Now with the review on parades, Public Assembly would become a privilege to be applied for and treated the same as parades and protests. OFMDFM are also seeking the ability to arbitrarily define the numbers that constitute an assembly at will.

Public assembly

5.—(1) In this Act “public assembly” means—

(a) a public procession (including parades) (see section 6),

(b) a public meeting (see section 7), and

(c) a protest meeting (see section 8).

Public meeting

7.—(1) “Public meeting” means a meeting of 50 or more persons—

(a) held in a public place, and

(b) which the public, or a section of the public, are invited to attend.

(2) In this section “public place” means—

(a) a road or footway within the meaning of the Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993, or

(b) any other place, apart from a building, to which the public or a section of the public has access (whether or not on payment and whether by right or by virtue of express or implied permission).

(3) “Section of the public” includes a class consisting of all or some of the members of a club or organisation.

(4) This section is subject to section 8(3).

(5) The First Minister and deputy First Minister acting jointly may by order amend subsection (1) so as to substitute a different number for the number specified there.

While the First and Deputy First Minister have clearly approved this plan  it remains to be seen if the Minister for Justice, who has not been consulted, will support it.

  • Keithbelfast

    Technically, flash mobs would have to apply for permission…

    Dear Minister Ford,

    We would like to hold an impromptu pillow fight in custom house square….

  • Mark McGregor


    Not techically, that would be the case for flash mobs, anti-racism protests, white line pickets etc – any gathering at all would potentially be only permitted with Stormont approval. Big brother how are ye.

  • Alias

    I think the idea, as set out in Section 8, is to ban protests to Orange marches.

    While it wasn’t a good idea to elect criminals, psychopaths, and members of state-sponsored murder gangs to make your laws, there is some advantage to international law in that it circumscribes their ability to circumscribe the rights of others, e.g. Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (transposed into sovereign UK law under the Human Rights Act.

  • Cynic2

    The definitions are so wide that under 7(1) (b) every sports event that attracted a crowd of more than 50 would have to apply for a licence for every match and get the approval of the MoJ eg all Irish League Matches, GAA matches, The Marathon, etc.

    Funerals with more than 50 mourners are also caught by the proposals if they take place in a public place. This may cause a few problems as they need to give 37 days notice of the proposed event, by which time Granny will really need buried.

  • Procrasnow

    brilliant – does this mean we will not have these christian sects assembling to preach, unless they apply for permission.

    crackerjack if it does.

    boy they dont like me shouting ”what about Iris – God wasnt enough.”

    woops would i be arrested for that in the future

  • Mark McGregor


    Funerals are an exception. I had to snip some bits for the sake of space.

  • Cynic2


    Interestingly, as published, the draft proposals would require the Chief Constable to give 37 days notice to the new commission etc every time he assembled more than 50 police officers in a public place. Every large TA / Military convoy probably needs permission as a parade. So does the Lord Mayors Show in Belfast and technically even more than 50 passengers boarding a flight (or a Ryanair check in queue) would need permission

    Wee Davy will be busy. Still it will keep the unemployment figures down

  • iluvni

    Reading that tosh would drain the will to live from anyone.

  • iluvni

    (I mean the consultation document, not cynic2’s comment!)

  • Lionel Hutz

    I am pretty amazed by this. This has to be incompatible with The ECHR. peaceful assembly can only be curbed in the interests of public safety. A strike action would quite clearly be caught by this draft