Northern Ireland news

Jabbed northerners can dine in south

A sign outside a restaurant in Rathgar, Dublin, earlier this month. Legislation was passed in the Republic yesterday to allow indoor hospitality to re-open next Monday
Seanín Graham

NORTHERNERS who are fully vaccinated will be able to dine in the Republic's restaurants and bars when Covid hospitality restrictions are lifted next week.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill confirmed last night she had spoken with Taoiseach Michéal Martin and was assured that an "interim solution" would be found to recognise digital certificates from citizens north of the border.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader said she was "very concerned" about the lack of clarity on the issue when so many people were choosing to holiday at home this year.

"Even though there are two different data systems, they're going to accept if anyone can bring proof of vaccination from the north. The taoiseach is very positive about it, he believes there will be a resolution," Ms O'Neill said.

Legislation was passed in the Republic yesterday to allow indoor hospitality to resume on Monday - but only for those who have been double jabbed or recovered from coronavirus.

The Dublin government is developing an app will that will allow business owners to check customers' Covid certificates at the door of a pub or restaurant using a QR scanner.

A separate app is to be rolled out in Northern Ireland by the Department of Health in coming days, with digital certs currently only available to those travelling abroad.

Ms O'Neill added: "The legislation is through in the Republic and they’re now developing guidance. The guidance will also include a resolution for people coming from the north and that will be accepted.

"I’m working on the basis that the current arrangement in the north, where you can only apply for a digital cert if you are going abroad, is a temporary one. It’s my understanding that once the app becomes available, everyone can apply.

"So this is an interim solution that will mean the Republic's hospitality will recognise our digital certs..This is something I was very concerned about as many people were choosing to holiday at home this year for obvious reasons. Anyone living in the north who wants to use hospitality across the island should be able to do so if vaccinated.

"We needed a resolution on this. I welcome the fact the Taoiseach was positive about this and we expect to see some announcements around this in coming days."

The Deputy First Minister also confirmed that Mr Martin informed her that a different Covid certification system is being developed for Irish passport holders in the north.

“They have to devise a separate system for EU citizens living in the north. This is going to take a bit of time to work up. They have to work out data exchange etc,” she  said.

Under the new hospitality guidelines in the Republic - which are expected to last three months - closing time will be 11.30pm.

Up to six people will be allowed sit at tables that must be kept one-metre apart.

The Irish News asked the north's Department of Health to comment on whether the new digital app will be available to everyone who has been vaccinated, regardless of whether they are travelling abroad.

A department spokeswoman was unable to clarify this but instead said: "We are providing certification in line with EU / WHO specification. There is an expectation that the Republic of Ireland will be able to recognise certification issued to NI citizens."

In the Republic, more than two million digital certificates have been issued to those who are double jabbed.

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Northern Ireland news