“This is an attempt to curtail liberties and rights…”

As I mentioned yesterday, there is a growing lobby opposed to the DUP/SF drafted legislation on contentious parades public assembly.  The Guardian has a short post by Dr Vicky Conway of the Human Rights in Ireland group blog.  As the post at the Guardian points out

The Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill, published on 20 April of this year, stems from the Hillsborough Agreement of February which established a committee to deal with parading issues. Recognising the competing rights of all relating to parades in Northern Ireland the committee was tasked with developing new procedures for submitting notifications of parades and resolving any objections raised to these. You’ll note this aim relates to parades, not protests or assemblies, but nonetheless the bill extends into those territories.

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Certainly some approach to handling the thorny issue of contentious parades in Northern Ireland must be found but why have protests and other public assemblies been dragged into this debate? At a recent rally in Belfast speakers from trade unions and the Anti-Poverty Network expressed the fear that these moves were designed to prevent members of the public from expressing their disquiet at budget cuts and possible job losses, likely to flow from the recession, through peaceful protest. This is an attempt to curtail liberties and rights and whether or not you personally participate in protests we should all recognise the rights of others to do so.