Govt fails to clarify whether religious face coverings fall foul of protest law

Govt fails to clarify whether religious face coverings fall foul of protest law

The Government has been unable to clarify whether a law change allowing gardaí to make protestors remove face coverings will include religious garb, such as a burka.

This comes following masks protestors demonstrating outside Taoiseach Simon Harris’s home in Wicklow and other attacks on politicians.

However, it is not clear how far-reaching the law will be. Asked whether the proposed change will include the ability for gardaí to direct a person to remove garb relating to their religion, the Department of Justice stated: “People’s right to protest is fundamental to democracy and must be defended. However, it has to be done in a responsible and accountable way, respecting the rights of all involved.”

“The wearing of face coverings in a manner designed to intimidate under the false guise of protest is clearly unacceptable.”

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee aims to progress the amended legislation as soon as possible following the Garda Commissioner seeking additional powers for gardaí.

Speaking at the passing out ceremony of 157 Garda from the college in Templemore last week, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that legislation to deal with so called protests and demonstrations may need to be refreshed but must be balanced and proportionate.

The Department of Justice’s statement to this paper concluded: “The Garda Commissioner has written to the Minister for Justice in relation to the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994. Department officials are examining the Commissioner’s correspondence and the minister has written to the Attorney General to seek his advice on potential changes to the law.”