Monday, 26 April 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I understand Brussels wants to see the introduction of vaccine passports or green digital certificates for travel across the EU by the end of June. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has expressed its opposition to the use of vaccine passports in Ireland as a condition for travel and for assessing goods and services. It has called for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to consider human rights implications before supporting the introduction of vaccine passports across the EU. The council's executive director Liam Herrick stated:
There are many reasons why people cannot or do not want to receive vaccines – including because of a medical condition or lack of access to the vaccine. In Ireland we have not gone down the route of mandatory vaccinations, but vaccine passports would effectively be mandatory vaccination by the back door. That has huge knock-on implications for our rights, creating a two-tier society.
The council has pointed out that vaccine passports will exclude many people from society, restrict their freedom of movement and constitute indirect discrimination. If the pass is based in a digital application, it will discriminate against people living in digital poverty or those unable to use digital services. That is not even to mention the huge swathes of the population who simply cannot access the vaccine because there is not enough supply. Infrastructure put in place to manage the pass system will be difficult to roll back and could go on to form the basis of wider migration controls based on health status. Such invasion of our privacy should be considered with the worst authoritarian leaders in mind.
I urge the Government to reflect on the impact that the introduction of a vaccine passport would have on some of our fundamental human rights, such as the right to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of movement, privacy and bodily integrity. I recognise that, of course, travel is important and we want people to be safe and to feel safe, but there are many countervailing reasons vaccine passports are not a good idea. Even the World Health Organization has voiced opposition to them. If vaccine passports are introduced, I believe it is important to ensure the uses for them should be limited as much as possible and that a sunset-type clause applies in order that they are only used as long as absolutely necessary.
On another worrying note, I will speak about the abuse of power by An Garda in Athlone at the weekend. Members of the Garda entered a church where a handful of people were praying. I found it disturbing and do not believe An Garda should be used for that purpose.