DUP figures remain divided over vaccine passport proposal

Some senior DUP figures appear to remain at odds over the prospect of new legislation requiring a so-called Covid ‘vaccine passport’ to gain entry to a range of hospitality and entertainment venues.

By Mark Rainey
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 7:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th November 2021, 10:18 pm
DUP MLA Paul Frew.
DUP MLA Paul Frew.

While Paul Frew has branded the concept “discrimination against people due to medical history and status”, his party colleague Pam Cameron has tweeted a copy of her own Covid vaccination status document.

Earlier this week, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was “keeping an open mind” on the proposals.

On Wednesday evening, a majority on the Stormont Executive agreed to plans to roll out a mandatory vaccine passport, with the DUP ministers voting against.

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The vaccine certificates require proof of full vaccination, a negative lateral flow test in the previous 48 hours or proof of recovery from a positive PCR test in the previous 30–180 days.

Covid certification will be used to gain entry to nightclubs, hospitality premises that serve food and/or drink, cinemas, theatres and conferences halls.

It will also be needed to access indoor events with 500 or more attendees where some or all of the audience is not normally seated.

Responding to news of the Executive’s decision, Paul Frew tweeted: “I don’t know what happened at the Executive today but I can tell you this I will never have a domestic covid vaccine certificate in my hand.

“I will fight against any discrimination against people due to medical history & status. When they are excluded I will be with them.”

Around the same time, Pam Cameron tweeted: “Mine has been ready to go for some time now! No one likes any of these measures. I understand that a negative test/proof of immunity will also be acceptable.

“I would encourage those who can take a vaccine to avail of that protection #COVIDCertNI.”

On Thursday, Mr Frew continued to voice his opposition to the certification.

He tweeted: “It’s important that everyone fighting against discriminatory vaccine certification remains peaceful & respectful against this wrong.

“We warned what a ‘them and us society‘ looked like, we were right, keep your head up, stay measured. we are right to fight against discrimination.”

In another Twitter message, he said: “Contact all your MLAs... at this point make your feelings known.

“here have been a number of protests organised also which can help people display displeasure at this measure.”

When asked why the DUP had not exercised a veto on the vaccine passport proposal, Mr Frew replied: “Will find out at our next group meeting. Party should make statement on this.”

On the BBC’s Nolan Show on Thursday morning, South Down MLA Jim Wells declined to endorse Pam Cameron.

Asked if he “rated” his DUP assembly colleague, Mr Wells said: “No comment. The reason I say that is, undoubtedly you are bound to say something that Pam has said. What is it?”

The show’s host Stephen Nolan referred to Ms Cameron’s Covid vaccine certificate tweet, and suggested to Mr Wells that his party was “all over the place” and giving out “mixed messages in the middle of a pandemic”.

Mr Wells replied: “Pam has the right in a democratic society to make that comment, and I have a right to say that I haven’t taken the vaccine, and you know why I haven’t taken the vaccine.

“There are many thousands like me in the Province who have made the same decision. We have the same right as Pam has.”

Mr Wells added: “She has taken it, I haven’t, that’s our right, and in any society that forces you to do anything different, then you are into a North Korean situation which is absolutely unacceptable in a western democracy.”

On Wednesday, DUP MP Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson suggested that his party could yet block the move to make vaccine passports mandatory in Northern Ireland.

He said it was a “bad decision” that was “made in haste”.

There have been a further six deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

Another 1,681 positive cases of the virus were also notified by the Department of Health on Thursday.

On Thursday morning there were 419 Covid-positive patients in hospital, with 34 of those in intensive care.