'Tiocfaidh Ár Lá' man convicted

Published Monday, 19 May 2014
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A man who shouted an Irish republican slogan outside a fast-food restaurant has been convicted of disorderly behaviour.

'Tiocfaidh Ár Lá' man convicted
Taggart failed to turn up for the hearing. (© UTV)

James Taggart's lawyer argued that using the phrase Tiocfaidh Ár Lá, which translates as 'our day will come', was covered by his freedom of expression rights.

But a judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court ruled that his words met the criminal test of annoying members of the public.

With Taggart having failed to turn up for his hearing, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The 40-year-old, of Beech Grove, Dunmurry, was arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour over an early morning incident in the city centre on 23 March.

He was standing outside a McDonald's restaurant on Donegall Place and shouted 'Tiocfaidh Ár Lá' towards police in the area.

The slogan has been used throughout Troubles by republicans declaring their belief in a future united Ireland.

A police officer at the scene interpreted his remark as foul language, the court heard.

But defence solicitor Feargal MacElhatton argued there was nothing offensive about the phrase.

He insisted Taggart was entitled to make the comments under freedom of expression entitlements within human rights legislation.

In an imagined scenario to back his submissions, the lawyer said a far-left socialist may be offended at encountering a conservative voter.

Similarly, Taggart's remarks did not justify a disorderly behaviour charge, Mr MacElhatton contended.

The defendant's non-appearance meant his motivation could not be examined.

But District Judge Fiona Bagnall said: "I do note he was saying this in a loud voice in an area which is a public space in the city centre and where members of the community are likely to be."

She pointed to a legal definition of the offence which covers words which would give annoyance to members of the public, including police officers, and attract attention meriting intervention.

It does not have to be proven that anyone was actually annoyed.

"I'm satisfied that it does meet that definition and in the circumstances I have convicted him," Judge Bagnall confirmed.

Noting Taggart has a previous record for similar offences, she issued a warrant for him to be arrested and brought to court for sentencing.

© UTV News
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27 Comments
John in Newtownabbey wrote (101 days ago):
Larkin should do something positive for his salary and have a word in Fiona's "shell like". This sort of verdict brings us back many many years to a time when the Irish language was outlawed. Sticks and stones?
Padraig in donegal wrote (103 days ago):
So if i was to shout out in the same tone and same place "God save the Queen" would i get arrested for it? but really this is a joke
oldsod in Fermangh wrote (103 days ago):
Freedom of speech is not an absolute freedom,.. there are lawful limits. There are laws against racist, sectarian, homophobic speech etc. There also laws against speech that causes distress, alarm, harassment, fear etc. People have the right to freedom from hate or violence being incited against them. Having 'Tiocfaidh Ár Lá' shouted at you is a very clear message and it serves as a rallying cry for like minded people hostile to the police. People and police also have a right to freedom from slabbering drunks shouting at them on the street while going about their employment or lawful business. I think the police did their jobs as expected.
Some yank in Amrikay wrote (103 days ago):
British Justice. No comments here. You have to wonder just how many are being censored here?
AK in Ireland wrote (104 days ago):
Arrested for speaking irish in ireland Ones mind boggles!!
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