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5 April 2001 Edition

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Councillors defeat GPO bye-laws

Demonstrators, including Sinn Féin's Daithí Doolan , gather to defend freedom of assembly outside Monday evening's Dublin City Council meeting

``It was a great victory which asserted the democratic power of councillors over the managerial system in local government. It was a very significant decision for local democracy.''

Donncha O'Connell of the Irish Council of Civil Liberties was speaking at the press conference on Tuesday following a vote by Dublin councillors to throw out proposed bye-laws restricting the civil right to assemble outside the GPO.

``Last night's decision by councillors was a substantial victory for democratic power, proof of a robust civil society capable and determined to defend civil rights,'' he said.

The Corporation management had proposed to introduce bye-laws to regulate assembly and protest in O'Connell Street, in the interests of the commercial and business sector. The commercial sector had complained that protests outside the GPO were disruptive to commerce and traffic in O'Connell Street.

The bye-laws would require 31 days notice of assembly, a £2,000 deposit to be paid by groups expecting over 50 people to attend, and a £3 million insurance bond by groups expecting over 300 people.

At the council meeting on Monday evening, emergency resolutions to reject the proposed by-laws were proposed by Sinn Féin, the Green Party and the Labour Party. Councillors decideded by 21 votes to 4 to direct the City Manager ``to withdraw the bye-laws immediately''.

The vote came after a long week of protests, which culminated in a large demonstration outside City Hall on Monday evening. Several hundred people assembled from many different organisations, including political parties, Traveller groups, student groups, anti-racist groups, and civil rights organisations.

They heard angry speeches from Councillor Joe Costello (Labour Party); Des Bonass, representing the Dublin Trades Council; Daithí Doolan from Sinn Féin; Councillor Ciaran Cuffe (Green Party); Mark Doris from Afri; Siobhan Ní Chúlacháin (ICCL); Richard Boyd Barrett (Socialist Workers' Party); Ivana Bacik, Reid Professor of Criminal Law at TCD; and Joe Higgins TD (Socialist Party).

``Dublin is our city, and we will not allow bureaucrats in City Hall to take it away from us,'' said Daithí Doolan.

Des Bonass, speaking on behalf of the trade union movement, voiced the concern of many that the bye-law proposals were just a warning salvo from thecorporate sector in their determination to take over our city in the interests of big business and profit. ``It is unlikely that these outrageous proposals are the last we will hear.''

It was a strong and united protest in defence of civil rights. As Donncha O'Connell pointed out at the press conference: ``Hopefully it has taught council management a lesson that it cannot use bye-laws to compromise our civil right to free assembly or our access to public places or to hold spontaneous protest. It is vital that we maintain this principle.''

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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
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