Irish judicial system confirms charges against NI trio who preached against homosexuality

The Irish judicial system is to proceed with prosecutions against three Northern Ireland preachers who refused to stop preaching about homosexuality.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:00 am
Updated Thursday, 14th October 2021, 12:01 pm
NI street preachers, from left to right, Sean Paul Tully, Ryan Williamson, and Robert Ervine. All three were arrested by Garda in Dundalk.

Three open air preachers from NI were arrested by Garda in Dundalk on 21 September after being warned to stop preaching on homosexuality. When they declined, Ryan Williamson, 44, and Robert Ervine, 34, both from Loughbrickland in Co Down, and Sean Paul Tully, 43, from west Belfast, were all handcuffed, taken into Dundalk Garda station and charged with public order offences.

The first court hearing of the charges took place in Dundalk District Court yesterday. Their solicitor, Ciaran Mulholland of Mulholland law in Dundalk, had previously written to the Garda to press them to withdraw the charges, as he considered the matter to be “over-zealous policing”.

However in court yesterday the trio were charged with public order offences, refusing to give Gardai their personal details and refusing to comply with an order from Gardai. No hate speech charges were brought. Due to Covid restrictions, the three men did not appear in person yesterday.

Mr Williamson said afterwards: “I am still confident that God will use this situation. I still think the bigger issue was that it was perceived as hate speech. The Garda told us that we could not speak about homosexuality. That was the reason they approached us. I also don’t think they gave us much time to comply with their directions. So I do think it was a bit heavy handed. But overall I think the bigger issue is freedom of speech and preaching from the bible.

“On the day in question I had been preaching for an hour and only mentioned homosexuality in 2-5% of my message. It is exactly the same thing that has been happening when we have been preaching in Banbridge, Larne, Enniskillen. Complaints have been lodged with the PSNI and they feel that they have to act.”

His solicitor, Mr Mulholland told the News Letter: “I am very disappointed by the approach taken by Gardaí in this case against my three clients. To prosecute these individuals for obscure public order offences after arresting them and depriving them of their liberty for several hours is not only disproportionate but a deeply concerning precedent for any individual passionate about their religion and who seeks to preach the word of God in public.

“Gardaí on this occassion failed to adequately assess the situation and the context of the preaching notwithstanding the absence of a formal complaint made against any of my three clients for preaching. I expect we will be back in court before December pursuing disclosure requests to ensure we are fully prepared to robustly defend these allegations. In the interim we await with interest the outcome of the GSOC [Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission] investigation.”

A contested hearing will take place in Dundalk District Court on December 8.

Ryan Williamson was arrested by the PSNI in Larne in August after refusing to stop preaching about homosexuality. He was released soon after and a file is being sent to the PPS.

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