A controversial street preacher has returned to Wexford’s town centre, after a High Court Judge quashed orders that prevented him from preaching in and around the Bullring area.
Known locally as ‘The Bullring Preacher’, Stephen Tallon, with an address previously listed as King Street, Wexford, had been subjected to a ban after allegedly expressing homophobic, racist and anti-abortion views in talks that would go on for hours through a loudspeaker.
Several local business owners complained to gardaí on numerous occasions about Tallon's behaviour, stating that it was having a detrimental impact on trade as people were keen to avoid the preacher's tirades.
Now, however, Tallon has made a return to preaching on Wexford’s Main Street and a local garda source confirmed that he is “no longer prohibited from public speaking”. It was felt an initial order handed down at Wexford District Court was “too broad” and "infringed on freedom of expression”.
While Tallon’s return to preaching seems to be on a smaller scale, it’s been enough to provoke some grumbles from local businesses as well as a local tour guide who stated he was considering other routes where he’d be less likely to run into the preacher with groups of tourists.
Posting to his more than 1,200 followers on Facebook, Tallon said:
“I was before the high court for charges against me which resulted in a 7 month prison sentence. I served a month in prison. I was many times arrested and under threat of imprisonment, told I must not preach which is a constitutionally protected activity and regularly harassed. It resulted in my name appearing in the newspaper with what many would view as negative labels attached.
“The people assigned as my counsel by Christian Concern, have failed to keep me informed at the most important stages of the case before the high court.”
He continued that he aimed to test the use of the word “insulting” in the charge of engaging in threatening or insulting behaviour under the public order act and claims that his legal counsel have not been adhering to his requests and keeping him informed.
The preacher stated that he seeks the restoration of his “good name”.
“My name has been in the local and national newspapers and forums nationwide, holding my name in repute, yet no effort has been made to vindicate my 'good name' or property rights,” he said. “No motion has been made by the state to vindicate and compensate me which is their constitutional responsibility (as per Article 40 section 6) and no effort by those assigned as my counsel to ensure the upholding of the law in these matters has been exacted.
“Anyone with eyes to see can see they are corrupt and remiss in their duties. Conspiracy is not beyond the realm of possibility. The high has to ensure it functions according to the constitution. They have failed in this on many counts. They are corrupt, according to what has been observed. Let us pray that they see sense.
“Jesus is the One who institutes all authority on the earth. Let it be done according to His will.”
On August 31, 2020, a civil order was made by the court preventing Tallon from preaching in the town centre. It followed no less than five adult behaviour warnings issued by gardaí. In fact, between June 18 and August 24 of 2020, there were approximately 21 recorded incidents responded to by gardaí relating to Tallon's behaviour.
The adult behaviour warnings related to "excessively loud preaching and commentary which caused interference and caused distress to people working in the vicinity of the Bullring and members of the public passing by”, as well as “causing persistent alarm, distress and intimidation to the public”.
Garda records state that those in the area were subjected to “loud and continuous preaching of a very homophobic nature, which was very upsetting for the members of the public, passers-by and business owners in the area”.
The order preventing Tallon from preaching was made on the basis of evidence of six gardaí and nine civilian witnesses. The evidence given in court stated that the content of the preacher's “sermons” was at times homophobic and “related to such varied issues as abortion, people wearing masks, obesity, the role of women (women working, women leaving their children, women drinking alcohol etc), racist speech and anti-religious speech” and one witness described the incessant preaching as being “almost like a worm in my ear”.
On one occasion, Tallon was arrested with a sign which stated “Same sex sin deserves Satan”, “Homosexuality is unnatural” and “Homosexuals will burn in hellfire unless they repent”.
A document of nearly 50 pages, a High Court Judicial Review into Tallon’s case concludes that the failure to correctly tailor the court orders to the offending behaviour resulted in a "disproportionate interference with the Applicant’s personal rights including his right to equality before the law and his right to freely communicate” before recommending that orders made against Tallon under section 115 and 117 of the 2006 Public Order Act are in fact without authority and "should be quashed”.
"The risk of unwarranted interference with personal rights associated with the broad definition of anti-social behaviour which occurred in this case is compounded by the lower standards of evidence and proof required under the legislation to criminalize behaviour which is the subject of a civil order,” Ms Justice Siobhán Phelan found.