Seanad debates

Friday, 7 May 2021

European Digital Green Certificate: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of John McGahonJohn McGahon (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

This was something I was mulling over in my head as I was coming down today. I was wondering what I would and would not say. I did not know what I would say before I came in so I sat here and listened to the debate. I thought I would make my remarks off that.

Senator Buttimer last comment was that we are back and open. Straight away that hit me. I agree absolutely and take the view that, as an island nation, this is exactly the message we need to be sending to the European Union and the world. The digital green card will allow us to do that.I have no problem with that, and I will be the first in the queue to get it. I am really looking forward to it. It allows for safe travel and the safe reopening of European airlines.

Colleagues discussed how public sentiment swayed decisions a couple of months ago. We had zealots promoting the concept of zero Covid on this island, which was never going to happen. It was ivory tower type of stuff. All the people who work in the aviation sector were thrown to the wolves. Senator Doherty spoke much more eloquently than I can about them. Those types of jobs and the wage packets of those people was not a concern to the people who were advocating for that policy. It is this type of certificate that will allow those people to get back to work, to put food on the table and to put money back in their wage packets after the past 12 months. We are very lucky in this House, as most of our jobs have stayed pretty much the same, but we can imagine how it was for people who have been out of work for the past 12 months and who will be some of the last to go back to work.

My final point relates to what Senator McDowell said about the fact that we have much to learn from what has happened. I agree that we do. It might be another two years before countries right around the world can have the perspective to look back and say Ireland did this wrong, Ireland did this right, India got this badly wrong or Sweden had the right approach six months ago. Everything is unprecedented, but at least the Government had the ambition to try things out to see if they worked. That is the point people miss at times.

Other speakers in the debate have referred to mandatory hotel quarantine. Where are the people now who were howling for the introduction of mandatory hotel quarantine? They are gone out the back door. We do not hear them talking about that any more when it looks not to have worked out, but they were howling at the top of their voices for it back in January of this year. Bill Gates previously warned about something like this happening. If God forbid, something like this happens again – it is very likely it could – it is very important that countries like Ireland and countries in the European Union take stock of their response and see what worked and what did not work so that there is a dedicated, coherent emergency plan for an outbreak of a virus, which in the future could be far more deadly than this one. We need to take cognisance of that, and this digital card is something that could be used in the future. I very much welcome it.


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