DUP calls for re-think on proposed city centre bye laws

DUP Councillors on Belfast City Council have called for a reconsideration of proposed new bye-laws which would affect buskers, street preachers, protestors and information stalls in the city centre area.

By Brian Kingston MLA

Belfast North

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DUP Group Leader, Alderman Brian Kingston, said that the DUP would be proposing at the Council meeting on Monday, 1st November, that the matter be referred back to Committee rather than progressing on to consultation with statutory bodies.

Alderman Kingston said,

“The Council is considering new byelaws which would require anyone wishing to use sound amplification or wishing to display material in city centre streets to obtain a permit from the City Council. There are fundamental issues arising from this relating to the rights of freedom of speech and religious expression.

There is also a lack of detail as to how such a system would operate – would decisions on permits be made by Councillors or by Council officials, could objectors use such a system to seek to ban people they disagree with, is this about noise nuisance or would it be used to attempt censorship?

Whilst there have previously been complaints about the volume and duration of the use of amplifiers and unsavoury incidents of opposing groups with speakers blasting at each other in the city centre, it is important that we do not over-regulate in response nor establish a system which would be prohibitive and through which some Councillors may think they could silence views they disagree with.

We are told that this process is at an early stage, however we share the deep concern of many people regarding the principle of free speech and also the potential practical consequences. The DUP will be calling at the Council meeting on Monday for this matter to be referred back to Committee and to Party Group briefings for further consideration.”

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