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Senator: Accusing opponents of being anti-vaxx a “cheap trick”

Stephen Donnelly accusing opponents of the Covid cert of being “anti-vaxx” is a “cheap trick,” Independent Senator Sharon Keogan has said, adding that “inconvenient science is still science.”

The comments were made to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly yesterday during a Seanad debate on the extension of the government’s emergency Covid powers.

“It is with great pleasure that I inform the Minister that I am one of the reckless elected Members who will vote against the motion,” said Keogan, referencing Donnelly’s previous assertion that those who vote against the extension are “reckless.”

She also described events in the Dáil as “a show,” presumably referring to Donnelly interrupting Verona Murphy TD to label her anti-vaxx, and engaging in a heated exchange with Michael McNamara TD.


“We are coming up to two years of Covid,” said Keogan.

“That is two years to plan, two years to mobilise and two years to pull out all the stops and beef up our healthcare system to the point that is necessary to deal with this problem.

“I spoke last month of how Sweden doubled its ICU capacity to tackle the pandemic, with the number of ICU beds in its capital quadrupling. Drastic action was taken not in the form of foisting responsibility for disease control onto the population by enforcing lockdowns but by rising to the challenge and protecting the people.”

She went on to add that if the Irish health service was under pressure, it was not the fault of the unvaccinated, or children, but the health minister, saying:

“If our health system is now burdened, it is not the fault of people who choose not to get vaccinated or children who want to go to school or play basketball. Responsibility begins and ends with the Minister and his remit. He said these laws were “not for prolonging a moment longer than is necessary”, yet we are prolonging them for as long as is possible.”


The senator went on to say that the government “has never had a single plan other than lockdown and waiting for the vaccine,” and alluded to high Covid transmission rates among vaccinated people.

“Now, with a 93% vaccination rate, we are no better off, and the government is, let us be honest, entertaining the idea of another lockdown, although it will wait until its media scare people for a few more weeks until it is open about it,” she said.


Responding to Donnelly’s assertion that the powers must be extended to protect the vulnerable, Keogan replied: “Who is he talking about?”

She continued: “That was the line being used when the narrative was that we just needed to have the over-80s, the over-70s or the over-60s vaxxed and that then we would go back to normal. What is the narrative now?

“Where are the goalposts? They have been moved so many times I have lost track. Maybe the Government has quietly packed the goalposts back into their container and we will just keep playing for the heck of it.”


Referring to Donnelly’s “anti-vaxx” accusation towards Verona Murphy the day previous, Keogan described the incident as a “fiasco.”

“Fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts,” she said.

“That is a direct quote from Community Transmission and Viral Load Kinetics of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta (B.1.617.2) Variant in Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Individuals in the UK: A Prospective, Longitudinal, Cohort Study, which was published last month in The Lancet medical journal of infectious diseases.

“Inconvenient science is still science – or should we just follow the State-sanctioned science? It was this finding that Deputy Verona Murphy was getting at yesterday, a finding published in one of the world’s oldest and best known medical journals, which the Minister labelled anti-vaccine information.”


The senator continued, saying that the label of “anti-vaxx” had been used to “control debate.”

“Of course, that has been one of the most useful social tools in controlling the debate on Covid,” she said.

“Simply slap the label “anti-vax” on an opponent and suddenly any of his or her questions or critique do not have to be taken seriously.

“It is beyond ridiculous that for months now, in both Houses, any Members wishing to ask bona fide questions about vaccines have been forced to qualify then with, “I am not an anti-vaxxer but”. It is a cheap trick to insulate those in power from criticism and it makes for sorry behaviour from a Cabinet Minister.”


The senator defiantly said that Donnelly would not “police” her speech.

“The Minister can slap any label he wants on me,” she said.

“I do not give two hoots about how he or anyone else will try to limit and police my speech. I know who I am and I know what I am about, and that is standing up for the people of this country and for their civil liberties and freedom of speech and holding this Government to account for its stubbornly stagnated, faltering Covid response, which has simultaneously failed to suppress the virus while adopting the most overreaching and constrictive lockdown measures in Europe.”

She concluded: “I have never supported the two-tier society the vaccine passport has created.”


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