Coronavirus: Civil Liberties group urge Govt to reconsider protest ban

A protest outside Debenhams in Cork was broken up on the same day that a number of people gathered to support journalists Gemma O'Doherty and John Waters at a High Court hearing.
Coronavirus: Civil Liberties group urge Govt to reconsider protest ban
People made redundant from Debenhams in Cork protesting on Monday. A similar protest in Dublin was dispersed by gardaí. Picture: Dan Linehan

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has asked the government to review the decision to exclude protest from the list of reasonable excuses to leave your house during the Covid-19 pandemic

The call comes after protests in Cork and Dingle were broken up in recent days by gardaí, according to the ICCL, as well as one outside Debenhams in Dublin's Henry St.

Members of the force have increased the number of checkpoints across the country and are stopping motorists on their way to work to produce a letter from their employer.

However, they came in for some criticism after breaking up a protest outside Debenhams in Dublin on the same day that a number of people gathered to support journalists Gemma O'Doherty and John Waters at a High Court hearing. There was also a protest outside the Debenhams in Cork on the same afternoon.

“The right to protest, to voice dissent and dissatisfaction without fear of breaking the law, is a core tenet of a democracy," said the ICCL's Doireann Ansbro.

"Although the right to protest can be justifiably restricted in a public health crisis for a limited period, the longer the restrictions are in place, the higher the threshold for their justification and the more urgent the need for their review.”

“We’re concerned that recently protesters have been escorted away from protests and prevented from speaking to journalists," she added.

"While the necessity for restricting some of our rights in the current context is evident, the restrictions must be equally applied, regularly reviewed, and proportionate to the risk.

Where a protest is small and complying with principles of physical distancing, as we saw in Cork and Dingle lately, there is a very good argument that they should be facilitated.

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