Europe Court upholds ban on Easter lilies in N Ireland jails

7th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The European Court of Human Rights on Monday rejected a complaint by an Irish Republican detainee over a ban on wearing Easter lilies in Northern Ireland jails.

A majority on the seven-member court ruled the complaint, lodged in 2009 by Christopher Donaldson, was inadmissible as the ban was "legitimate".

Donaldson, born in 1983, is serving a 12-year sentence in Roe House, a segregated wing for Republican prisonsers in a jail in Maghaberry.

On March 23 2008, Donaldson fixed an Easter lily to his outer clothing to commemorate those Irish republicans who died during or were executed after the 1916 Easter uprising in Dublin.

As he refused to remove the lily, he was found guilty of disobeying a lawful order and was punished with a three days' confinement in his cell.

Donaldson complained that the ban infringed on his right to express his political views.

He also argued that he was treated differently from prisoners allowed to wear a poppy -- associated with the Unionist community in Northern Ireland -- on Remembrance Day.

Remembrance Day is observed in Commonwealth countries to remember members of their armed forces who have died on duty since World War I.

But the court, whose decision is final, ruled that the "restriction on displaying the Easter lily was proportionate to the legitimate aim of preventing disorder and crime."

And it pointed out that this was a "relatively minor interference with Mr Donaldson's right of freedom of expression" since he was allowed to wear the lily inside his cell.

© 2011 AFP

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