Prosecuting preachers is ‘a deeply concerning precedent’ says solicitor of trio standing trial in Dundalk after preaching on homosexuality

A solicitor representing three NI men who were arrested after preaching against homosexuality in Dundalk says the prosecution now underway against them is “a deeply concerning precedent”.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 3:43 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:05 pm
Loughbrickland street preacher Ryan Willliamson has been arrested twice since August, once in Larne and also in Dundalk.

The men were arrested by Gardai 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 on Wednesday. They have been charged with refusing to give Gardai their personal details and refusing to comply with an order from Gardai. 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”.

Now that the charges have been confirmed in court, he 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 occasion 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 investigation.”

Mr Williamson was also arrested by the PSNI in Larne in August after preaching against homosexuality. A file was to be passed to the PPS.

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