Northern Ireland gospel preachers arrested by Gardai are to go on tria…

In video footage seen by the News Letter the three men were using a public address system to preach in Dundalk when they were approached by three Garda officers.

In a uncompletely clip of the exchange, one officer challenges them for preaching against homosexuality and they are asking to stop preaching, but refuse and are arrested.

Ryan Williamson, 44, and Robert Ervine, 34, both from Loughbrickland in Co Down, and Sean Paul Tully, 43, from west Belfast, were all handcuffed and taken into Dundalk Garda stop where they were held for several hours before being released.

NI street preachers, from left to right, Sean Paul Tully, Ryan Williamson, and Robert Ervine. All three were arrested by Garda in Dundalk are to appear in court on public order charges.

A Garda spokesman said: “Gardaí arrested three men (two in their 40s, one in their 30s) for public order offences in Market Square, Dundalk, Tuesday 21 September 2021. All three have since been charged and are due to appear before Dundalk District Court on the 13 October.”

Businesman Mr Williamson was also arrested in Larne by the PSNI in August, also after preaching against homosexuality.He told the News Letter: “I think what happened in Dundalk is just the same as before, people are weaponising the police against us with complaints. The Garda told us we could not preach against homosexuality but that is what the bible says and that is why we preach it.”

Dundalk solicitor Ciaran Mullholland of Mullholland Law, who is acting for the three men, said: “I have made to the Superintendent to withdraw and discontinue the prosecution.”

The solicitor additional: “A complaint has also been filed with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. In my view it just epitomises over-zealous policing. From what I am aware there has been no official statement of complaint made against the three individuals.” Mr Mullholland also said that in his view, the Irish constitution gave the three men freedom to carry out their actions.

Gardai during the arrest in Dundalk.

Mr Williamson has said they have been preaching in various towns across Northern Ireland for 13 years. However he says that in the past twelve months the PSNI have begun approaching them on a regular basis asking them to stop preaching against homosexuality

Belfast Green councillor Malachai O’Hara, who is a member of the LGBT community, recently posted a photograph of Mr Williamson preaching outside Belfast City Hall.

The councillor said: “Again today these extremist preachers at the front of city hall. People have a right to express their faith in the public space, but the rules must apply equally to everyone.

“I got them moved on three times last week and despite being issued tickets they keep parking up in this space. Nobody is allowed to park here without express permission. Permission they do not have.

“They try to take over the public space with sheer quantity of their preaching. I am also deeply concerned that while they have a right to preach, they are almost exclusively focused on sexual arrangement and gender. To me they are crossing the line into harassment. I will be lodging a hate incident tonight.”

Mr O’Hara’s comments drew 200 responses on Facebook. The great majority were strongly supportive of him although a small minority defended the civil liberties of the preacher.

After Mr Williamson’s arrest in his home jurisdiction of Northern Ireland almost two months ago, high profile English LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said he could see “no justification” for actions of the PSNI.

Speaking in August after viewing videos of Mr Williamson’s arrest in Larne, Mr Tatchell told the News Letter: “I strongly disagree with the street preacher’s anti-gay views, but I can see no justification for his arrest.

“As far as I am aware, he was not abusing, threatening or harassing anyone. In a free society, disagreeable opinions should be challenged but not placed under heavy-handed police action.”

The PSNI said they had a complaint of hate speech and anti-social behaviour and that four men refused to include. It additional that one man was arrested on suspicion of disorderly behaviour and released for a report to the PPS.

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