Jack Quann
Jack Quann

09.42 9 Jul 2021


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The Government has created its own 'emergency' by trying to legislate for the return of indoor hospitality.

That's according to executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), Liam Herrick.

Government legislation will be required to introduce a system where proof of vaccine would be needed for indoor dining.

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The news comes following a fresh round of talks between hospitality leaders and Government on Thursday.

Mr Herrick told Newstalk Breakfast the Government is ignoring several issues for the sake of speed.

"I think when we talk about an emergency here, this is not a public health emergency.

"The pandemic is a public health emergency, but the emergency that the Government is in is it now has a conflict between when the summer recess and holidays for the Dáil starts, the commitment it made to the hospitality sector to open on a certain date and new information from NPHET - that's the emergency.

"And that's why it's going to dispense with all of the consideration and the complexities [of this] issue, pretend that they're gone away and resolve it in a matter of days.

"And I think legislating in haste in this way is going to lead to problems down the line."

He says the Government's entire approach to this is wrong.

"We've approached this, the Government's approached this, in the last 10 days as a simple negotiation between public health and industry.

"But all of the other issues - like employee rights, data protection, the consequences of establishing for the first time ever in Ireland a health surveillance system at the point of entry to pubs and restaurants - it's not considering those issues at all."

'False equivalence'

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has suggested the EU Digital COVID Certificate could also play a role in re-opening hospitality.

He said: "It can be used both practically and legally as evidence that you are vaccinated or you are immune.

"One of the questions we are examining at the moment is should we allow people to produce other forms of evidence as well.

"One thing people get when they get a vaccine is that little card that has your vaccine details written on it. We probably won’t use that – it is too easily forged quite frankly but perhaps there will be other things we could use as well."

But Mr Herrick says there is a 'false equivalence' between going abroad, and going to a pub.

"Even when it talks about the EU travel cert, there's a false equivalence between how secure you can be at an airport to check somebody's identity and their QR code on the phone, and the reality of a security check at the entry to a pub.

"Just because this is hard, doesn't mean that these problems can be dispensed with".

And he says rushing to legislate is not the answer.

"It's not the same as the start of the pandemic when decisions needed to be made quickly.

"The Government could have been looking at this for the last nine months and hasn't.

"And just because it hasn't considered this doesn't mean that the issues don't go away".

He adds that the timeline for its implementation is "just unrealistic".

"Clearly there's a discrimination element about it - and it's not just between those who choose a vaccine and don't.

"The reality is obviously that not everybody's been offered a vaccine, so it effectively means a discrimination against people who haven't been offered a vaccine as well.

"And that means, in an Irish context, people under a certain age.

"As well as the discrimination issues there's data protection and privacy concerns.

"There's employment law issues here because you'll have a cohort of people who'll be allowed to work in this environment but not to actually be customers in the environment.

"And there's a security issue as well: it's not at all clear that any of these types of systems would be beyond impersonation or forgery.

"And that's been a significant problem in every other issue [sic].

"But I think the real question here is if the Government is talking about legislation being published on Tuesday and passed by the Oireachtas next week, is that it's trying to convince us that all of these issues - which it was completely against as recently as last Monday - are all going to be resolved in a matter of days and I think that that is just unrealistic."

Government has created 'emergency' over legislation for indoor hospitality - Herrick

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Corona Pass Data Protection EU Digital COVID Cert Employee Rights Health Surveillance System ICCL Indoor Hospitality Legislation Liam Herrick Newstalk Breakfast

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