Canvassing and harassment

Obstructing, deterring or impeding the canvass

Sir, – Events have shown the ability of extremist groups to summon supporters in real time using social media and communication apps to specific locations. This can have a very menacing effect, even without anything being said, let alone threats made. There has to be a near-certainty that some or other of these groups will attempt to interfere with normal canvassing activities by candidates and canvassers at the next election. I suspect this may also surface during the current referendum campaign. Protection of the canvass – a critical campaigning activity in Ireland – is not something addressed in the electoral legislation, certainly based on my review of it.

There are generally applicable offences of coercion and harassment, but they are not really applicable to this situation, and I do not think we can afford to have this as a grey area. An offence of obstructing, deterring or impeding, without lawful excuse, candidates and their campaigners from canvassing the electorate seems necessary, in the same way as there is an offence of impeding voters in the vicinity of a polling station. It may be very unwise for the next election to take place without an urgent update of electoral offences, as well as a clear Garda commitment to enforcement. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 7.