Alliance comments on anti covid pass advertisements in Northern Ireland shopping centres ‘deeply chilling’, says civil liberties campaign group

Digital advertising screens objecting to the rollout of so-called vaccine passports have attracted criticism in Northern Ireland.

Monday, 29th November 2021, 5:39 pm
Image supplied by Big Brother Watch

Alliance Party MLA Stewart Dickson described it as “absolutely shocking” that the screens - showing the message ‘stopvaccinepassports.co.uk’ in capital letters - have been put on display in shopping centres.

Mr Dickson went so far as to say the advertisements were “putting the lives of shop workers and others at risk by encouraging this message.”

He expressed that view on social media website Twitter, after concerns were also raised by his party colleague councillor Danny Donnelly.

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Image supplied by Big Brother Watch

Mr Donnelly said: “This is undermining [the] public health response to Covid and should be turned off”.

A digital advertising campaign was announced by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch on Friday.

The non-profit organisation has campaigned in the past against the use of invasive technologies such as facial recognition and digital surveillance.

The group also recently launched legal action against the Welsh government for its mandatory Covid pass scheme, which it argues are “authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced”, and a breach of privacy rights.

Image supplied by Big Brother Watch

The plan to make Covid passports mandatory was approved by Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive and is now being rolled out across some venues and events from today.

It is expected to be legally enforced from December 13.

Big Brother Watch director, Silkie Carlo, described the comments from the Alliance Party figures as “deeply chilling”.

The campaigner said: “It’s deeply chilling for politicians to try to censor rights campaigners who criticise their policies. Stewart Dickson’s comments about our rights and equality-centred campaign are inflammatory nonsense that ought to be condemned by the Alliance party, which claims to stand for democratic values. It is right and responsible that we debate rights and equality issues raised by ministers’ policies, and campaign on those issues.

“At this pivotal moment we urge MLAs to oppose Covid passports in the forthcoming vote and instead adopt evidence-based, rights-respecting policies that actually work and support people rather than exclude, discriminate against or punish them.

“It’s now well-documented that similar Covid pass mandates in Scotland and Wales have resolutely failed to improve public health and yet have come at a high cost to liberty, equality, and social cohesion, not to mention businesses. As such, it’s shocking that ministers in Northern Ireland are attempting to rush ahead with these concerning plans, and that some politicians want to shut down opposition to them.

“Mandatory Covid passes raise serious rights and equalities concerns and they must be opposed.”