Pro-life activist opposes 'blatant attack on freedom of speech' proposed in Belfast City Council bylaws

Belfast City Council is currently running a public consultation on proposed new bylaws aimed "at reducing noise nuisance" in the city centre.

The issue has come to a head after debate over open-air preaching on LGBT issues and pro-life campaigners displaying photographs of abortions.

The proposed bylaws would require a council permit to use an amplifier or place a stand, stall or vehicle carrying any form of promotional literature in the city centre.

The council has confirmed that councillors must treat "restricted reports” and “closed discussions” about the process as "confidential information".

Director of pro-life group Precious Life, Bernadette Smyth, said: “We launched our 'Protect Free Speech' Campaign to oppose this blatant attack on freedom of speech. While the council are claiming the new bye-laws are to tackle a so-called noise nuisance, they will specifically target Christian street evangelists and pro-life groups.

"If these laws are passed by Belfast City Council, it will set a dangerous precedent, encouraging other public authorities to ban free speech from other towns and cities across Northern Ireland."

Breaching the bylaws could incur fines of £500, she added.

She said “nuisance” issues can already be dealt with under The Public Order Act, but that the proposals contradict human rights of freedom of assembly and expression.

“Free speech is a right not a privilege granted by Belfast City Council,” she added. “We will continue distributing our ‘Protect Free Speech’ Campaign leaflets at our stall in the City Centre and we encourage all members of the public to take part in the consultation and make their voice heard."

She also questioned whether any party supporting the proposals could claim to support freedom of religion and expression.

A spokeswoman for Belfast City Council responded that details of the permit scheme have not yet been decided, but will be informed by the current public consultation - which is open until Monday 4 March.

The goal, she said, will be "to strike a balance between freedom of expression and tackling the nuisance" from people in pedestrian areas sharing their views, often using amplification devices.




Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights – both protected under Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act.

The Good Friday Agreement safeguards the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community, in particular, the right to freedom and expression of religion.

RESPOND NOW to the Public Consultation and tell Belfast City Council that you want them to uphold and protect religious liberties, and the fundamental human rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

Precious Life has produced GUIDANCE on how to respond HERE...





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