You’ve gotta fight for the right

As previously noted (SF and DUP seek to restrict right of Public Assembly) proposed legislation (not approved by Justice Minister) could seriously undermine the right to Public Assembly. This theme has been picked from two very different angles.

The News Letter reports, Rev Brian McClung, minister of Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian Church has serious concerns on the impact to open air religious meetings:

Freedom of peaceful assembly, which our forefathers fought and died for, instead of being a fundamental right will now become a privilege that has to be applied for and by inference can and will be restricted or denied in certain circumstances.”

While éirígí have concerns over the repercussions for Union protests and campaigns:

The legislation will impact upon and restrict the ability of trade unions and others to mobilise demonstrations in support of workers. A case in point to illustrate this is the stance taken last year by trade unions, community groups and political parties of the left in mobilising rallies at very short notice in support of the workforce at the Visteon plant in Belfast.

Under the proposals set out in the draft legislation, entitled Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests, the state would have to be notified of such rallies 37-days in advance and the organisers would have to specify which trade unions or community groups would also be taking part. Failure to do so could result in jail terms of up to six months for the organisers and any participants.

Pickets of workplaces by trade unions which involve more than 50 workers will also find that these, too, come under the new laws.

White-line pickets, a feature widely used by many campaign groups and one that has been used almost exclusively by political activists within republican and nationalist communities in the Six Counties with great impact, to organise effective and spontaneous public demonstrations to highlight incidents which often require a speedy and immediate response at very short notice will also fall under the remit of the new legislation.

The DUP/SF endorsed proposal, which pays little regard to international standards on Human Rights including; Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 21 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is here and consultation responses can be emailed.

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