Northern Ireland news

Michelle O'Neill keeps ‘open mind' on vaccine certificates for hospitality access

Stormont officials are examining policy issues around using a vaccine certification system in Northern Ireland
David Young and Cate McCurry, PA

Michelle O’Neill has pledged to keep an open mind on using vaccine access passports within Northern Ireland, but reiterated her concerns about such a system.

The government in the Republic has introduced rules to bar anyone from eating and drinking in indoor hospitality venues unless they can prove they have been vaccinated or have Covid immunity.

The policy has been cited as a contributory factor in encouraging more young people in the Republic to come forward for jabs.

Stormont officials are examining policy issues around using a vaccine certification system in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Ms O’Neill insisted ministers had yet to reach a formal position on the concept.

“On the issue of these domestic certs for access I have issue with those things,” she told reporters in Coalisland, Co Tyrone.

“It’s fact to say that the Executive hasn’t taken a policy position on that as yet.

“However, the discussions today at the Executive was that health (department) need to look at, if we did get into that point, what would a system like that look like.

“And then we can come back to the policy decision as to whether or not you would use such a system.

“I would be worried in terms of it being a discriminatory system, you know there’s a whole lot of human rights concerns and other things that goes with that.

“However, I’ll keep an open mind and I’ll have the discussion but, for now, health just needs to be prepared for, if we did go there, what would it look like and how would it operate?”

DUP First Minister Paul Givan has also previously voiced concern about domestic vaccine passports.

Last month, Mr Givan said ministers would need to be “cautious” about such a policy, saying it could lead to the exclusion of some people.

Read more: Self-isolation rules relaxed in Northern Ireland

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