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The Silenced Majority

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | press release author Wednesday May 03, 2006 05:14author by Seán Ryan Report this post to the editors

Four opinions on the Dublin ban on posting public notices. The fourth is a statement explaining tomorrow's (Thursday) picket outside the Mansion House between 11am and 12pm.

This article is the effort of four people, my own and three others. We are but a tiny representation of the silenced majority. I’d like to thank the three authors who contributed to this, they did so at very short notice and they did so very well.

Many have offered argument that public notices constitute litter.

Others have argued about the illegality of spraypainting notices.

All to the effect of lending a pseudo-legitimacy to Dublin City Council’s illegal ban on the freedom of speech and the freedom of association. The ban on the posting of public notices by the public.

Anarchist Youth highlighted the fact that Shannon is not the only staging point for the War Machine in Ireland when they went to Baldonnel at Easter. They put up hundreds of posters, only to have them all ripped down again the very same day. Some spraypainting occurred by parties unknown. The nature of this act may have been illegal, but it was used to counter an act of illegality that was of a far greater magnitude. For example if I assault a man about to shoot another man, the nature of my act is definitely illegal but the act itself is very legal and quite moral.

The Black Shamrock got a good showing the day our government/capitalist dictatorship usurped the memory of the 1916 Rising. The Unmanageables took to the streets and took our many and varied protests with them and offered the only legitimacy to be found at that ceremony. Our native symbol does not last long on Dublin lampposts.

Anyone who wishes to argue the legal merits of the ban should do so with Terence G. O’Keeffe. He’s the law agent for Dublin City Council. His telephone No. is 01-2223211. Into his lap, falls the justification for the ban on free speech and association.

I’d be one of the first people to point to an advertisment and scream ‘litter!’

I could walk around Dublin or any other county and point to many billboards and roar ‘pornography!’

My old dictionary defines pornography to be: “writings, pictures, or films intended to stimulate erotic feelings by portrayal of sexual activity.” The great comedian Bill Hicks would have defined it the same as my dictionary has but would have added a condition that it must have no artistic merit. Think about it and have a look around, next time you’re out and about.

I would actually need to see a public notice in order to judge its merits, whether it be legitimate, criminal or whatever. My point being that the notice must exist and have been posted before I may judge it.

A former United States Supreme Court Judge once said, (I’m paraphrasing here), “To quell the voice of dissent is to assume infallibility.”

Sláinte,
Seán Ryan – associate of Cosantóirí Síochána and a member of the Indymedia Collective.
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The poster ban in Dublin is a clear violation of the right of every Irish citizen to engage in free speech. It is an undue prior-restraint on freedom of speech, disguised as a litter law, which should be tested in the courts if no satisfactory action is taken as a result of these public requests to have the issue addressed at the local authority level.

Article 40 of the Irish Constitution (1937) declares that 'It is the right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions'.

Article 19 of the Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.'

Since its inception, over a year ago, the law has made it impossible for me to easily and affordably inform the public of matters of public interest relating to the Hill of Tara / M3 motorway issue.

It is not only the blanket ban on public notices itself that stifles speech, it is the lack of designated areas provided as an alternative, which would be easy to maintain. This exhibits a complete lack of desire on the part of the Dublin authorities to allow a healthy democracy to flourish here.

I support the actions taken here today, and hope that the Lord Mayor kindly entertains some constructive proposals to rectify the situation.

Vincent Salafia
http://www.tarawatch.org and http://www.hilloftara.info
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Experiences of the Poster Ban.

The Irish Anti-War Movement and a number of other campaigning organisations have had considerable experience of the attempts by local authorities to ban street postering over the last number of years.

The first moves by Dublin City Council to physically remove Irish Anti-War Movement street posters advertising demonstrations seemed to begin around spring of 2004. This became particularly apparent in the run-up to the 1st anniversary of the US led invasion of Iraq where Dublin City Council employees were systematically pulling down all posters in the city centre area advertising the demonstration to mark that event.

It is significant that this policy was not at all evident in the advertising for the big 100,000 strong protest in Feb 2003 and a number of large demonstrations in March and April of that year. The IAWM made widespread use of posters to advertise all these events. Large colour posters were produced and erected in quantities of tens of thousands for these protests. The IAWM is in no doubt that our ability to engage in this kind of advertising was a major contributory factor to the success of the protests in this period.

It became equally clear from 2004 onwards, when the Council appears to have begun its new policy of removing posters, that the absence of advertising contributed to declining numbers on subsequent anti-war marches. The IAWM is absolutely convinced that there is a connection between the success of the large protests in 2003, in which posters played a significant part and the policy change to ban posters that occurred in the months following.

In 2004 when the effects of the new policy became apparent we contacted Dublin City Council and were informed that a new policy had been put in place banning any street posters. We were told that Assistant County manager, Owen Keegan, had made this decision.

We pointed out to the Council that according to the litter Act 1997 Section 19.7 that poster advertising public meetings and election posters during an election period were specifically exempted from the prohibition on posters in the act.

We were aware of this from the experience of some bin tax activists involved in the IAWM in the Dun Laoghaire area several years earlier. They had been summonsed to court under the act for posters. In that case the judge found the defendants not guilty of an offence under the act because he said the law was clearly written with a view to exempt political type posters. In fact the judge went on to say, that even though they might be unsightly, the law clearly gave the right of any group to, in his words, “festoon” Dun Laoghaire with posters that advertised public meetings.

The only restriction on this in the Litter Act, is that the poster must be taken down within seven days of the meeting advertised.

This interpretation of the Litter Act was confirmed in 2004 when Richard Boyd Barrett – Chairperson of the IAWM - was summonsed to Athlone District Court under the same act. Athlone Town Council litter wardens produced photographic evidence of posters advertising the February 15th demonstration in 2003 attached to litter bins. The photos had been taken a couple of days after the date of the advertised protest. Richard drew the Judges attention to Section 19.7 of the act and he agreed that the poster would only breach the law if it were still up seven days after the advertised event. The case was dismissed.

So it is clear that when tested on two occasions in the courts, before two different judges, that the litter act does not provide a legal basis for banning posters that advertise public meetings. In fact, the act, specifically allows for such posters to be freely erected as long as they are removed within seven days of the advertised event. The Irish Anti-War Movement has made this point on several occasions to officials in Dublin City Council and they have never been able to provide any legal justification for the policy of banning posters.

In Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown following the successful case in the District court establishing the right of groups to advertise political meetings with street posters, the council changed policy and allowed posters to be put up as long as they were down within the seven days specified in the act.

However, in the last two years, there have been more moves in Dun Laaoghaire-Rathdown to roll back on this. The Council’s current policy is that those seeking to advertise meetings and events through street posters must ask permission from the Council and are limited to 20 posters for a protest/meeting. Receiving permission also requires details are given to the council as to the location of all posters.

Interestingly, however, certain groups such as the Circus and the International Horseshow have been allowed to put up hundreds of posters while political and campaigning groups have been told that can erect no more than 20. Even when Save Our Seafront was organising a major March & Rally featuring a live performance with Christy Moore that ultimately drew 5000 people, they were refused permission to put up more than 20 posters. They pointed out that non-political groups advertising events that were not, in fact, even public meetings as defined by the Litter Act had been allowed put up many more than that. No explanation or justification was received for this inconsistency.

Local groups such as Save Our Seafront, the Socialist Workers Party and the Campaign against Service Charges have also all challenged the council to provide the legal basis for their restrictions on posters and the council have failed to do so.

It seems very clear to both IAWM and a number of groups in the Dun Laoghaire area that the ban / restrictions on posters are politically motivated censorship and have nothing whatsoever to do with litter or even the litter legislation as the various Council’s have claimed. It also seems very clear that the move to a complete ban all posters in Dublin City or serious restrictions elsewhere was the cynical response of the establishment to the shock they received from the Feb 15th 2003 anti-war protest. This ban must be challenged and defied.

IAWM
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STATEMENT

NOTICES OF PUBLIC ASSEMBLY ON PUBLIC PROPERTY BANNED BY DCC

FREE SPEECH PROTEST AT THE MANSION HOUSE 11AM, MAY 4, 2006
****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************
CAMPAIGN FOR FREE SPEECH IN DUBLIN (CFSD) 087 6187722

A protest will take place outside the Mansion House between 11am and 12pm on May 4th. to call upon the Lord Mayor as first citizen of Dublin and chair of Dublin City Council (DCC), to ensure that the "fundamental" constitutional rights of all citizens to communicate with their fellow men and women are fully respected and restored by DCC.

There are currenlty no facilities in Dublin for advertising issues of social or public concern on public property. In addition to this state of affairs the members of DCC have banned and removed with vigour, all notices of assembly, e.g. demonstrations or meetings concerning energy supply and varying alternatives to Nuclear Power, Poilitical Corruption, the Corrib gas field (Shell to Sea Campaign), the use of Shannon and Baldonnel for the US military in Iraq, Homelessness, etc.

Commercial notices and posters are fully facilitated in Dublin while notices of social or political concern are removed and destroyed by DCC. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) have condemned this unconstitutional violation of human rights by DCC. DCC however maintains its position of disposing of such signs and is hyper-active in removing notices of political or socially sensitive issues.

A motion has been on DCC's agenda since last year to revoke this blanket ban on such notices. The Lord Mayor is empowered to elevate this motion to the commencement of council meetings in order to allow a vote of the elected councillors to remove this ban. We now call publicly on the Lord Mayor Catherine Byrne to excercise her power to this effect.

No party political advertisements are requested at this demonstration as it is ordinary citizens and their constitutional rights which are being actively violated by DCC.

STATEMENT ENDS.

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Wed May 03, 2006 05:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Exhibit A and exhibit B

Information?
Information?

Rubbish?
Rubbish?

author by MichaelY - iawmpublication date Wed May 03, 2006 11:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Perfect - and good for you

author by Paulpublication date Wed May 03, 2006 12:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

But what is with all the references to Dunleary, the valiant SWP, Save Our Seafront and the IAWM??? This reads like something penned by Richard Boyd Barrett.

author by m.m.mc carronpublication date Wed May 03, 2006 12:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I fully support the right of solidarity groups in particular to share concern through postering. If any poster is banned because of political content then I expect the politicians to lead the way by banning election posters in all places. Wise politicians would see issue postering as a means of reaching the feelings of the people -much cheaper than hiring public opinion consultants for electon preparation. There are minor roads to dictataorship and to class postered political issues as litter is deeply offensive and short sighted in a democracy. All voices are essential and not just those of the politcal class and others who can afford paid advertisements on billboards.

author by Johnfitz - variouspublication date Wed May 03, 2006 17:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ms Catherine Byrne, Lord Mayor of Dublin 29/04/06

Dear Catherine,

I'm 50 years involved in politics and was very active in 3 political parties over the first 25 years. I've also been involved in dozens of voluntary organisations during the 50 years. So I've put up many a poster, particularly at election time. I believed it was part of my duty as an concerned citizen.

In recent years, the serious concern for the environment caused me to rethink the value of election postering, and come to the conclusion that it's a waste of material, time and money. My reasoning is that there is no, or virtually no, useful information on such posters. If the Council were to ban such postering (and it should), I'd support that ban in any way I could.

However Lord Mayor, I'm very disappointed (angry might be more accurate) that the City Council has banned the public service notices that voluntary organisations must use to acquaint citizens of date, time, place, and purpose of their meetings. This seems to be in total contradiction with long standing Council of Europe policy, and more recently, Government policy to promote Active Citizenship. It is a denial of our civil right to organise and act effectively as citizens.

However, all is not lost. Since the Council has a team available that removes these notices rapidly to the frustration and annoyance of activists doing their civic duty, wouldn't it make absolute sense to use the team to remove the notices after the events have taken place rather than before.

Your involvement with many Community and Voluntary groups for over 25 years indicates that you must be aware of the need to support and encourage such groups in every practical way. This one is critical.

Please use your power to initiate this change urgently, and as far as possible, ensure it is carried through.

Thanking you in anticipation,

Le gach dea ghui is beannacht,

John Fitzgibbon

author by MichaelY - iawmpublication date Wed May 03, 2006 17:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done good friend,

Hope you actually made sure she got the letter - and if you are free will be delighted to see tomorrow at 11 outside the Mansion House.

Take care of yourself and keep up the good work

author by Dave - swppublication date Thu May 04, 2006 12:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fine Gael posters advertising 'An Evening with Enda' (puke) are up all over dublin city council area.
Looks like they are being given special treatment by the council. Quelle surprise?

Related Link: http://www.swp.ie
author by Seán Ryanpublication date Tue May 23, 2006 00:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/76227

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