DUP MLA: Vaccine passports are cruel, disgusting, abhorrent and discrimination of the worst kind

DUP MLA Paul Frew has lambasted the existence of “vaccine passports” in Northern Ireland, in a strongly-worded statement at Stormont.

By Adam Kula
Monday, 17th January 2022, 7:20 pm
Updated Monday, 17th January 2022, 10:21 pm
Paul Frew
Paul Frew

The North Antrim MLA and former chairman of the justice committee described the law currently in force as being coercive, cruel, disgusting and abhorrent.

It has been a legally-enforceable requirement ever since December 13 that people must prove they are fully vaccinated before entering places like pubs and restaurants.

There is are possible £10,000 fines for the most serious offenders.

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COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital between December 6, 2021, and January 2, 2022, from the Department of Health

Department of Health data states that it is overwhelmingly non-vaccinated people who are being hospitalised with Covid (see graph).

The Executive had agreed to back the move weeks earlier on November 17, but it is understood DUP ministers at the time opposed it.

At the time however, DUP MLA Pam Cameron came out vocally on the side of such so-called passports (which are officially known as vaccine certificates), saying: “Mine has been ready to go for some time now!

“No one likes any of these measures... [but] I would encourage those who can take a vaccine to avail of that protection #COVIDCertNI.”

Then, when the Assembly as a whole met publicly on December 14 to ratify the measures, the vote split unionism.

Of the 36 unionists who voted that day, 24 voted against the passports (Jim Allister of the TUV plus 23 DUP MLAs, including Pam Cameron).

Meanwhile 11 unionists voted in favour (10 UUP MLAs and independent Claire Sugden).

Today, Mr Frew presented a largely-online petition to the Assembly, run by a group called Liberty NI.

The petition reads: “If you believe it should be your choice whether or not you receive medical treatment such as a vaccine;

“And you believe that the government should not be allowed to restrict the personal freedoms of people because of their medical status;

“Then this is your opportunity to help us tell the government that the people refuse to consent to having their personal liberties eroded or restricted based on medical status.”

Mr Frew then told the chamber: “In my 12 years as an Assembly Member, this may be my first time presenting a petition.

“It has 10,000 signatures. I cannot think of a more honourable cause for a petition than to record our disgust and abhorrence that an Executive, and, indeed, the Assembly, can pass such a discriminatory measure as vaccine certification...

“[It] was brought into reality by a health minister using emergency legislation that is both undemocratic and not accountable through the vigorous and rigorous regime of stages of primary legislation.

“Vaccine certification is one of a number of cruel measures brought in by the health minister, but this one treats people differently based only on whether they have received a medical intervention, namely a Covid vaccine.

“That measure is designed to discriminate. That measure is designed to isolate. That measure is designed to coerce.”

He said that it was “discrimination... of the harshest order” and that it had led to a “terrible impact on business”.

There was no debate following his statement, although Matthew O’Toole of the SDLP raised a “point of order” calling for Mr Frew’s remarks to be “corrected” by statements from the health minister Robin Swann, and condemned “the fairly extreme, marginal campaign groups that are opposed to vaccines”.

Christopher Stalford, in the speaker’s chair, responded by telling Mr O’Toole “he will be aware that is not a point of order”.

DUP First Minister Paul Givan had told the News Letter last Friday: “I objected at the meeting [on Thursday] to the continued use of the mandatory Covid certification scheme, as did all of the DUP ministers at the Executive.

“We were opposed to it when it was first brought in, and oppose its continued use.

“Now, ultimately, the majority of the Executive took a different view but the DUP opposed it. We want the mandatory use of covid certification to stop. That is our position.

“The justification for its continued use I don’t believe is there. It’s ultimately for the other parties to defend why they believe it should continue to be in operation.”

The Executive is expected to meet again this Thursday, at which point it is expected to be discussed again.

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