A council in
has introduced a set of new rules in the city's public parks. Some of these
make perfect sense; picking flowers can harm the environment, and model aircraft,
barbecues and roller-skating can be dangerous. However the council has also
decided smoking is to be banned in parks. Banning smoking in the open air is a
very stupid and casually authoritarian thing to do; and it's not entirely
without precedent, see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/smoking-ban-extension.html.
In one of Waterford, Ireland Waterford's main parks,
ironically named "the People's Park", you cannot light up a cigarette
in the fresh air, and it doesn't matter if you're a hundred yards away from any
other people. Even vaping is off limits. What's more the council has put signs
up warning people not to use vulgar language. This not only threatens a great
Irish tradition, but it's a serious infringement on civil rights. There are
already perfectly legitimate and effective laws against antisocial behaviour;
why do they need additional legislation to prevent people using offensive
language? Does this mean if I used a four-letter word in front of fellow adults
who are accustomed to it, calmly, out of earshot from children and without
raising my voice, I could get arrested? At the moment it's questionable that
this law could ever be enforced, so then how come the signs have already gone
up? Similar rules have been introduced in Northern
Ireland, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-33242147.
There are many aspects about this story that bother me. The authorities have bypassed
normal procedure in bringing in these rules in a very cavalier fashion. The
mastermind behind this new policy, Councillor Lola O'Sullivan, says it's
"more about the spirit than the letter of the law." So is it a rule
or not? If it's not, then why are there warning signs? Do we really need
statutes to make common courtesy obligatory? Controlling people's behaviour in
public areas for the sake of it is becoming more and more common; we've already
had calls to dictate what kind of clothes we're allowed to wear, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/banning-burka.html.
It's a shame so few people fail to see the implications of this kind of trend.
I've been to Waterford and it's a
lovely city; I'd hate to see it ruined by Big Brother.