Direct Provision, Local Elections & Political Campaigning

le2014_totalcandidatesjan31.jpgThere have been some developments in the last few hours as regards local election candidates and political campaigning in direct provision centres.  On April 23, Noel Dowling of the Reception and Integration Agency issued Circular 1/14 to all direct provision centre managers [see here: RIA Circular 1-14 of 23 April 2014] noting that there can be no display or distribution of party political leaflets, posters or circulars to residents. This did not prevent addressed literature from being delivered to residents.

On May 14 2014, Noel Dowling of the Reception and Integration Agency issued Circular 2/14 to all direct provision centre managers. This circular varies Circular 1/14 of April 2014 in one important respect:

Candidates who call into centres may be allowed to drop off election leaflets to bve picked up and read by residents if they wish. This material may be left in a suitable designated area of the centre such as the reception desk. Candidates may, if they wish, place on their leaflets their contact details or details of political meetings outside the centre to which residents can be invited.

You can see this full circular here: RIA Circular 2-14 of 14 May 2014

While this still denies asylum seekers the right to be canvassed by candidates for the local election in direct provision centres, at the very least it allows some information to be provided to asylum seekers in direct provision centres. Issues remain with this, I would argue that such a blanket ban on allowing asylum seekers receive (if they wish) election candidates is a disproportionate violation of freedom of expression  as protected under the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003. This development is due to KOD Lyons who had made representations on behalf of a client. A local election candidate in Cork, Donnchadha O’ Laoghaire (Sinn Fein), had brought the issue to national attention earlier this week. NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre and the Immigrant Council of Ireland  noted the significant legal issues with the previous all encompassing ban on direct provision centres as “politically neutral” zones.

NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, has cautiously welcomed this development, stating:

RIA have stopped short of allowing canvassing in the centres. We continue to be concerned that the ban on canvassing essentially remains in place. It has to be noted that the Direct Provision Centres are the homes of asylum seekers whilst they are awaiting an outcome of their application.