Gardaí warn referendum campaigners on conduct

Eoghan Dalton Reports

The Chief Superintendent of Waterford Gardaí says campaigners in the Referendum on the Eighth Amendment have “obligations” to conduct themselves fairly between now and polling day next month.
Chief Supt Padraig Dunne was referring specifically to posters displayed in recent weeks in Waterford. The Garda boss made his comments during a meeting of Waterford Council’s Joint Policing Committee on Tuesday last.
“An Garda Síochána walk the middle ground,” he stated. “People have a constitutional right to protest, people have a constitutional right to give out a message. Sometimes if that message goes over and beyond what they’re constitutionally allowed to do, then people can make a complaint to An Garda Síochána and we’ll look at each one on its merits. But we don’t decide on an either/or, we walk in the middle on that debate.
“People on both sides have constitutional rights, but what I would say as well though – with constitutional rights come obligations. I can’t destroy someone else’s constitutional right to do something if I believe I have a better right to do something else, so I think everyone should just take a step back. If they want to give a message, fine – but they should do it in a fair [manner]. I know the way you’re talking about it, it has upset people.”
He confirmed to members that Waterford Gardaí have received two complaints to date about graphic imagery on posters, with a Garda spokesman confirming since then that investigations are ongoing for each case.

A photo sent to this newspaper on Monday evening (April 16th) showing a damaged Save The Eighth sign near Kilmeaden, which was reported to Gardaí.

A photo sent to this newspaper on Monday evening (April 16th) showing a damaged Save The Eighth sign near Kilmeaden, which was reported to Gardaí.

The comments came in response to a question from an independent on the Joint Policing Committee, Cllr Mary Roche. She confirmed after the meeting that she was referring specifically to graphic imagery displayed on posters in favour of retaining the eight amendment. Speaking to the Chief Supt, Cllr Roche said: “I’ve gotten a lot of complaints about the nature of some of the posters that have been used in very public places around the town that are really unsuitable for children to see. I have a 10-year-old myself and she’s been asking me questions that I didn’t think I’d have to be answering for a 10-year-old quite frankly.
“I know you’re not the ethics police either but there are some images that are not fit for general public consumption. I know that the council’s environment department have removed posters that have been placed unsafely, but they have no role in the messaging.”

She continued, saying that under Section 7 of the 1994 Criminal Offences Act, Gardaí can intervene if there are offensive images. “Pro-life campaigners should be cognisant of children who can see the images and not just those in the womb,” she added while speaking to this paper.
Cllr Roche says she will be voting Yes to repeal the Eighth come the May 25th Referendum.

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