Free speech and the litter act


ON SATURDAY 18th October, a number of Anti-Racism Campaign members were distributing leaflets, advertising an anti-racist public meeting, at the junction of O'Connell St. and Henry St. in Dublin's city centre. The leafletters were approached by a Dublin Corporation Litter Warden, who was accompanied by a garda.

The warden informed them that the distribution of leaflets in a public place was illegal under the 1997 Litter Act and proceeded, along with the garda, to take the names of those who were handing out leaflets. He informed them that they would be subject to a £25 fine. Several of the leafletters have since received summonses from Dublin Corporation under Section 3(2) of the Litter Act 1997.

The use of the Litter Act to prevent the distribution of anti-racist leaflets is a very serious step. A blanket ban on the distribution of leaflets would have serious consequences for other political, environmental, civil liberties, community or trade union campaigns. It would indeed have serious repercussions for the constitutional right to free speech. Groups of workers on strike, for example, could find themselves in a position where it was impossible to put forward their side of the story.

The legislation which allows people distributing information to fellow citizens to be threatened with a fine or prosecution must be fought. The Anti-Racism Campaign intends to campaign against this denial of free speech. We urge all our readers to support this campaign.