Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has defended the Government’s indoor dining legislation against allegations of discrimination in the Dáil this evening.
He said the European Union already differentiates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated in international travel, according to The Irish Times.
The Dáil passed the second or introductory stage of the Health (Amendment) (No 2) Bill by 72 votes to 66 with no abstentions and was set to pass the remaining stages late on Wednesday night.
With Government TDs expressing concerns about the law’s constitutionality and Opposition TDs repeatedly claiming it to be discriminatory and unenforceable, Mr Donnelly said: “The principle is there.”
“The entire European Union digital Covid-19 certificate is based on vaccination status,” he said, adding: “We’ve already accepted the principle.”
The Minister was speaking during a heated debate on the Health Amendment Bill, which restricts access to indoor dining to those who have been fully vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19, and some children and staff.
'Nod, nod, wink, wink' basis
Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane said the Government had come back with a plan that is “unfair, impractical, unworkable and is discriminatory”.
Labour leader Alan Kelly claimed it was “an Irish solution to an Irish problem” and would operate on a “nod, nod, wink, wink” basis. He said antigen testing could have been used rather than this “profoundly discriminatory” legislation.
Social Democrats joint leader Róisín Shortall said: “You’re asking us to buy a pig in a poke saying: ‘Trust us and leave all the details to us.’” She warned the Government was breaching “fundamental principles”.
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy appealed to the Government to “hold off on the reopening of indoor hospitality. We’re almost there – six, seven eight weeks until a very high level of vaccination.”
Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín said the party would be “sending a letter to President Michael D Higgins requesting that this Bill be referred to the Supreme Court”.
Mr Tóibín said other countries had included some form of testing and not vaccination alone because “without doing that it is blatantly discriminatory” and that applied to travel across the EU as well.
Mr Donnelly said that the Bill provided for both PCR and antigen testing. He said the legislation “can and will be enforced” but “primarily, it is about trusting people to do the right thing”.