Northern Ireland news

Group behind anti-vaccine passport ads in Belfast shopping centres defend display

One of the Big Brother Watch adverts attacking plans for Covid vaccine passports that were displayed in Belfast shopping centres during the weekend.
Paul Ainsworth

A GROUP behind anti-vaccine passport adverts in shopping centres in Belfast have insisted the introduction of Covid vaccine certification "must be opposed" following criticism of the posters.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said adverts appearing in CastleCourt and the Abbey Centre in Belfast were "deeply shocking" as they included the web address "stopvaccinepassports.co.uk".

They were put up last weekend, days before the introduction of a vaccine certification scheme in the north. Its enforcement by law will begin in licensed venues from December 13.

The four-day advertising campaign was paid for by UK-based group Big Brother Watch, who told The Irish News that the ads were no longer on display.

A spokesperson for the group hit out at criticism of the ads by Mr Dickson and his party colleague, Larne councillor Danny Donnelly. Mr Donnelly said the ads were "undermining" the public health response to Covid.

Claiming the criticism was "deeply chilling" a spokesperson said: "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."

They added: "Mandatory Covid passes raise serious rights and equalities concerns and they must be opposed."

Health Minister Robin Swann has backed the vaccine certification scheme and warned that hospitals were facing pressures due to "high community transmission" of Covid-19.

The ads in both shopping centres were displayed on screens owned by advertising firm Clear Channel.

A spokesperson for CastleCourt said yesterday: "Castle Court has been in contact with Clear Channel and this messaging has now been removed. Management does not have prior approval to Clear Channel advertising."

An Abbey Centre spokesperson said: "Abbey Centre has no say on the type of paid advertising displayed."

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