Anti-gay preaching row: Solicitor accuses Garda of ‘bogus prosecution’ after judge dismisses all charges against Northern Ireland trio

A judge in Dundalk has dismissed out the case against three NI men for preaching against homosexuality - prompting their solicitor to accuse Garda of a ‘bogus prosecution’.

The men were arrested by Gardai in Dundalk on 21 September after being warned to stop preaching on homosexuality. When they declined, Ryan Williamson, 44, and Robert Ervine, 34, both from Loughbrickland in Co Down, and Sean Paul Tully, 43, from west Belfast, were all handcuffed, taken into Dundalk Garda station and charged with public order offences.

(A video of the incident shot and edited by the preachers on their mobile phone can be seen on this webpage).

After hearings over two days ended yesterday, their solicitor Ciaran Mulholland of Mulholland law in Dundalk, told the News Letter that the Garda owed the trio answers.

NI street preachers, from left to right, Sean Paul Tully, Ryan Williamson, and Robert Ervine. All three were arrested by Garda in Dundalk. A video of the arrest shot and edited by the preachers can be seen on this page.

“I would welcome the decision of District Judge McKiernan which vindicates my clients’ position that they were not in breach of public order nor inciting inflammatory statements.

“These three men all with deep faith; practicing Christians felt their only crime was preaching the word of Our Lord. After hearing evidence from the arresting Garda and the Accused the Judge rightfully dismissed all three cases over the last two days.

“There was never any breach of the peace, there was no public order offences being committed and still to the day we have no disclosure, complaint or witness to the contrary yet Gardaí felt it was appropriate to proceed with such a bogus prosecution.

“This must now warrant an explanation given our earlier representations to Gardaí outlining the flaws of the case and seeking a review.

“It is important in any democracy to promote and facilitate freedom of expression, irrespective of whether you agree with the views expressed or not. This must be balanced with what others may perceive as hate speech. On this occasion I believe the Court reached the correct conclusion and I welcome the decision.”

Mr Mulholland said the judge “dismissed outright” every charge, meaning they cannot be revisited by the Garda. The fact that Garda offered ‘no disclosure’ of evidence was “ultimately was fatal to their case” he added.

A Garda spokesman declined to offer any response. “An Garda Síochána does not comment on statements made by third parties,” he said. “An Garda Síochána does not comment on matters of the Courts.”

Mr Williamson said that a Garda gave evidence in court that he had said that “All homosexuals would burn in hell for ever” and that he had “roared” this over the PA system.

“We were really painted in the worst light,” he told the News Letter.

“We denied that we had said those words or used that language or tone. But we did say we had quoted the bible 1 Corinthins 6:9-10 to say that borth homosexuals and heterosexual sin is wrong and that those people will not inherit the kingdom of God - including thieves liars and murderers.

“I was asked in court if I resisted arrest or failed to give my details. I said ‘no’ but that I did ask whether there was a charge against us and whether we were under arrest and for what crime, to which the Garda couldn’t give us any answer. They said we had used a homophobic slur. I asked the judge what a homophbic slur is and told her that I preach the bible and God’s view on sexual ethics.”

He asked permission to show the judge video footage of the preaching and arrest from his mobile phone.

“After watching the video she said, ‘I don’t see any public disorder and I think you are quite within your rights to say what you said’.

“Within a few minutes of seeing the video she said ‘case dismissed’. The video evidence proved conclusive. The tone of it and what I actually said completely swung the case from that point.”

“Our barrister said in court that According to Article 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, you are entitled to express those views publicly. He also said that the preamble to the Irish Constitution says that Jesus Christ and the most Holy Trinity are the ultimate authority in the affairs of state.”

The businessman claimed they had preached the same message in Dundalk twice since their arrest without any Garda attention.

He affirmed that they receive much criticism from both believers and unbelievers for their street preaching and that they are regularly assaulted by members of the public. However he claimed he also also receives much support - again from both unbelievers and believers.

“Lots of people weep and pray with us and tell us that they have received Christ. Anywhere from two to ten a month.”

He has also been arrested in Larne and Dublin for preaching and is facing similar public order charges in both jurisdictions.

(A video of the incident shot and edited by the preachers on their mobile phone can be seen on this webpage).