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Right to protest hinges on obeying the law

Nelson McCausland of the DUP has been quoted as stating that the right to protest is "fundamental in any democratic society" and that law-abiding people must never be stopped from having the right of freedom of assembly.

I assume that Mr McCausland is referring to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. What he fails to recognise is that the right to protest and the freedom of association are qualified rights. These rights may be limited by the state in certain instances, which include circumstances where restrictions are necessary in a democratic society to protect the interests of public safety, for the prevention of disorder, or crime, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Everyone is entitled to a view, but in a democratic civic society we must all ultimately obey the law – whether this meets with one's approval, or not.

Recent evidence suggests that ceremonial swords associated with Orange Order regalia were used to attack police during rioting.

The Order cannot announce that there will be protests about a Parades Commission determination and then wash its hands of the consequent violence.

Its grand master, Edward Stevenson, suggested that the commission's decision amounted to "rewarding those who engage in violence".

Given the photographic evidence of rioting, in which Orange Order members are seen attacking police, the Order could salvage some credibility by passing their names and addresses to police.

TOM CAMPBELL (Alliance)

Newtownabbey Borough Council

Belfast Telegraph

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