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IRELAND: Government must protect peaceful and pandemic-safe protesters

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– Statement by Irish Council for Civil Liberties, published on 16 March 2021, available here.

 

Protests planned for St Patrick’s Day have highlighted yet again the need for guidelines for people who want to protest in a peaceful and pandemic-safe manner, says the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

 

The anti-lockdown protests planned for Dublin have attracted much coverage, but there are also socially distant protests on the Sarah Everard murder planned for the major urban centres. Guidelines would help all protesters who wish to protest in a pandemic-safe manner, ie in very small numbers, outdoors, wearing masks, and practising social distancing.

 

ICCL’s Head of Legal and Policy, Doireann Ansbro, said:

“During an emergency, the right to protest can be restricted but not banned entirely. Right now, if you hold a one-person protest at the end of your street, you are acting illegally. People who want to protest but also protect others by holding very small socially distant protests are without the protection of the law at the moment, which is an untenable situation”.

 

The government have provided guidelines on the right to education, as well as on exercise and work via the Living With Covid plan. The right to freedom of assembly is as vital to our society and the public is entitled to know what kind of protests are safe at which levels. Failure to set out guidelines on safe versus unsafe protests creates a climate of uncertainty. This can be exploited by far right groups who are using discontent about the lockdown and a veneer of concern for human rights to recruit into their ranks.

 

Protesters must always balance their rights with their responsibilities. Protesters know that they must remain peaceful in order to have the protection of the law. Similarly, during a pandemic, many protesters want to ensure the safety of others while they voice their concerns. Organisers of the Sarah Everard protests have called for attendees to wear face coverings, and to keep socially distant. They should be afforded the protection of the law.

 

We are urging all protesters tomorrow to protest in a peaceful and pandemic-safe manner. We would also encourage protesters to research the organisers of your event, who may have a different agenda to yours.

 

 

ENDS/

 

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is Ireland’s oldest independent human rights campaigning organisation. We monitor, educate and campaign to secure human rights for everyone in Ireland.

 

For comment: Doireann Ansbro or Liam Herrick For media queries: sinead.nolan@iccl.ie