Labour leader Alan Kelly accused the government of “pushing” discrimination, asking when did it “become the norm” in Ireland.
Unvaccinated people may be excluded from indoor dining and other events if the government proceeds with implementing the latest NPHET advice to only permit the fully vaccinated and those who have recovered from Covid-19 to access such services.
Speaking to Newstalk, Leo Varadkar claimed the government faced the stark option of either creating the passport system or delaying a full re-opening until the country reaches “herd immunity”.
“We can use those three weeks to develop plans for a corona pass, which let’s not forget may pave the way for the reopening of not just indoor hospitality but indoor sports and live events even if there is a Delta wave,” he said.
“That’s one of the things that maybe isn’t fully understood about the decision and advice from yesterday. Option one is to not reopen indoors until we have herd immunity – and who really knows when that will be. We’d hope it would be September, but maybe not.
“Now we have this option to use a corona pass… and potentially never having to lock down again.”
Labour leader described the plan as “absolutely bananas” and part of an “amateur hour” by the government, whilst Mattie McGrath TD said the government was creating an “apartheid” system.
“We’re essentially saying to the young people of Ireland, your summer will consist of staying at home and watching ‘Love Island’, because that’s what we think of you,” said Kelly.
“When did discrimination by government become the norm in Ireland,” he asked.
“What you’re saying is that I can go in and get a meal down the street in a restaurant or go for a pint. My colleague here, Duncan Smith, sitting behind me, can’t.
“I’ve to leave him sitting outside the door. That’s discrimination. That’s wrong. In Ireland, we don’t practice discrimination. Certainly, governments shouldn’t be pushing it, which is effectively what you’re doing.
“I think you’re going to learn a big political lesson over the coming days, weeks. No, I’ll rephrase that – over the coming seconds, minutes, hours, in relation to this decision.
“You’re going to have to rescind it. It’s not practical. It’s unenforceable and it’s discriminatory.”
The Tánaiste admitted “lots of people will be against this”, but that the Delta variant could mean a “corona pass” will be created despite Ireland maintaining some of the strictest lockdown rules in Europe.
“It will play out now over the next couple of weeks as to whether we’ve been too conservative or not (in our lockdown).
“What happens in England and Scotland will tell us a lot. But bear in mind the ECDC is saying what NPHET’s saying – that there is going to be a wave of Delta across Europe, and it is going to be serious.
“I hope we’re wrong, by the way – I hope we’re being too cautious, and NPHET’s projections are too pessimistic. If they are, we can change.
“We asked them to do the modelling quickly to get the advice to us quickly so we could make a decision earlier than planned.
“That was part of the reason why I think it was so rushed – they’re not entirely to blame for that…I don’t think the result would be different.”
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed yesterday that the return of indoor activities would be postponed by at least two weeks, claiming that the country was in a race between the vaccine rollout and the Delta variant.