Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Remove the ban on Adam!
Wrecsam council today saw another freedom of speech row as the Exec Board heard how the founder of the St. David’s Day parade in Wrecsam has been banned from speaking at future marches by one of the councils Strategic Directors. Mr Adam Philips and his wife Ann have worked tirelessly to establish the parade here in Wrecsam over the last 3 years, which now attracts hundreds of people who parade through the town centre on March 1st.
Adam Philips received a letter on March 9th this year from Strategic Director Phil Walton informing him he would no longer be able to speak at the event due to a ‘complaint’. The letter went on to list a number of accusations against Mr Philips that supposedly breeched council ‘conventions’. These included a reference made to City Status, the fact that Mr Philips raised his fist in the air during the chorus of the national anthem and because he reminded people to vote in the referendum on further law making powers for Wales.
Apart from the fact that the St Davids Day march is not a council event, it soon became clear that the ban had been issued without Mr Philips being able to challenge any of the accusations made. It also seemed to be a problem to produce the said complaint, despite it being requested by both myself and Mr Philips. The complaint did appear in Exec Board today, along with confirmation that it had been submitted by a Wrecsam county councillor on behalf of a member of the public. It made reference to the referendum but strangely did not refer to either city status or the salute. We have to ask who these extra comments came from!?
Although fellow councillors were prevented from debating this issue at today’s meeting on the basis of ‘legal advice’ (ironic considering the topic), several did have an opinion they were happy to share outside the meeting. Questions have certainly been raised as to the motive of the complaint given the heated exchanges taking place within the guildhall at the time between yes and no campaigners regarding the referendum on further powers for Wales. It certainly would be a travesty if an innocent member of the public has been singled out due to political disagreements between Councillors, let’s whole heartedly hope that’s not the case.
Regardless, it’s a sad state of affairs when a member of the public is banned from speaking at an event he’s worked so hard to establish without any clear justification. Given the recent controversy over council proposals to revise the policy on the use of Queens Square by political parties, groups and campaigns, this latest fiasco certainly won’t do anything to boost Wrecsam’s freedom of speech credentials.