‘Freedom of Speech’?, Until You Oppose British Rule! – Op-Ed by Fionnuala Perry -Saoradh Nuacht

  Opinion Piece, By Saoradh Activist Nuala Perry. Nuala is a former Republican POW based in West Belfast

In September this year, Dee Fennell was told that rather than judgment being pronounced on charges now two and half years in the making, judgment had in-fact been reserved in this case.

A speech given by Dee Fennell at an Easter commemoration in Lurgan had led to charges of encouraging people to commit acts of ‘terrorism’ and giving his support to a proscribed organisation.

In 2006 a justice review inspection reported that here in the North of Ireland the processing of ‘CSJ’ was in fact exceptionally long in comparison with justice process in England, Scotland and Wales.

Undue length in fulfilling the deliverance of ‘due process’ isn’t the only factor that separates the North from the other comparative countries; the IMC in their monitoring of the North’s Security Acts found that in spite of the UK’s frequent assertion that the greatest risk they face comes from International terrorism, the terror legislation and role of the ‘armed forces’ evident in the North would be considered abnormal elsewhere in the UK.

One such piece of ‘terrorist’ legislation that has suffered from overreliance here in the North is that of anti-sedition, sedition is a term used to describe either conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch. In dealing with what the UK terms as the ‘Irish’ threat the government of the UK has constantly backed up their anti-sedition legislation with the Terrorist Act 2000 and the Anti Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

Quite recently an article in the Independent cited that language used by Patrick Pearse a century ago as inflammatory, dangerous and likely to insight, however other critics argue that the ‘seditious’ language used by Pearse in his speeches leading up to Easter week were, in fact, a reflection of those used by all political leaders including John Redmond a parliamentary nationalist leader at the time.


Joseph Finnegan, Redmond’s biographer writes, that in many ways the language used by Redmond in encouraging blood sacrifice is more deserving of scrutiny than that of Pearse because he insists in the interpretation of language context is everything, especially given that Redmond was a constitutional politician whereas Pearse was a soldier.

The context that made one speech seditious and the other acceptable was the fact that Pearse called for Irish men to remove the British presence from Ireland and Redmond asked Irishmen to fight on an international stage to assist it.

Dee Fennell’s remarks commemorating the words of Pearse have now been deemed dangerous, inflammatory and seditious. The fact, that the context of the speech was a commemoration of a historic time mattered little to those who called for his arrest.

Those who called for the arrest of Dee Fennell not only waived the argument of context, they quite hypocritically joined the DUP/ TUV and other advocates of ‘freedom of speech’ to demand that one of their Pastors, James Mc Connell be freed from the charges and accusation that he indulged in a hate crime.

When a Belfast Magistrate ruled that, the charges against the Pastor for misuse of public communications to be’ grossly offensive’ to the Muslim community were withdrawn, Sammy Wilson of the DUP made the bizarre claim that, ‘Anyone engaged in free speech or public debate ought to be happy with this outcome.’

Using the context of a supposedly Holy ministry and pulpit to call a percentage of the population Satanists who were spawned in hell clearly doesn’t carry the same weight as calling for people to reject and liberate themselves from an unjust partitionist state, which is why Mc Connell is at liberty to speak where and when he likes, whereas Dee Fennell whose liberty remains undecided is not.

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