Labour U-Turn As Government Extends Vaccine Passports

Last night, a vote took place in both the Dáil and Seanad to extend the Health (Amendment) No.2 Bill for a further 3 months. This Bill was introduced in July 2021 and gave the government power to introduce vaccine passports.

How did our local politicians vote?

There are 6 Oireachtas members from County Wexford, 5 TD’s who represent the county in the Dáil, while Senator Malcolm Byrne is on the ‘Cultural and Educational Panel’ in the Seanad.

When the Bill to introduce vaccine passports was presented to the Dáil back in July, here is how those 6 Oireachtas members voted:

In favour –  James Browne, Paul Kehoe and Malcolm Byrne

Against – Brendan Howlin, Verona Murphy and Johnny Mythen

Yesterday, when a motion to extend those powers for a further 3 months was presented to the Dáil, here is how those 6 Oireachtas members voted:

In favour – James Browne, Paul Kehoe, Malcolm Byrne and Brendan Howlin

Against – Verona Murphy and Johnny Mythen

Interestingly, Brendan Howlin and his colleagues in the Labour Party, went from a position in July of being against the vaccine passport legislation, to a position yesterday of being in favour of extending its use.

This is a pretty mindboggling change of policy in such a short space of time.

When contacted for comment, Deputy Howlin said the following:

“As our spokesperson set out clearly in the Dail in July, we opposed a requirement for proof of vaccination at a time when younger people who wanted to be vaccinated had no access to vaccines. Now when vaccines are available to all in this country over the age of twelve, the circumstances are entirely different. Hopefully we will continue the progress being made in fighting this dreadful disease.”

Here is the text of what the spokesperson and leader Alan Kelly said in the Dáil on the issue:

“I have been knocking around the Oireachtas nearly the same length of time as the Tánaiste, but I have rarely seen a Bill that was so badly handled. The Government has made a hames of this. It is a shambles. I am not sure that Ministers even know what it contains or what they are doing. They are afraid to be asked questions about it now. It is contradictory. I am deeply uncomfortable with it and I believe the Tánaiste is too. I know him well enough to say that. I would be surprised if he was not uncomfortable with this legislation. It is not just a shambles, but it is not based on public health advice either. We can see the holes in it. It is reactionary. Most of all, it is discriminatory, and the Labour Party can never support legislation that is discriminatory.”

What we are doing here crosses a line that should not be crossed, in that we isolate, treat people differently and say to people that because of the order we have decided they will be vaccinated, we can discriminate against them. It would be one thing to come in here, as flawed as this legislation is, if everyone had been offered a vaccine.

As can be seen by the above quote, three months ago this very same legislation was described by Labour leader Alan Kelly as ‘discriminatory’, ‘a shambles’, ‘reactionary’, ‘not based on public health advice’ and something his party could ‘never support’, but yesterday the Labour TD’s voted in support of it. (According to the results on the Oireachtas website, it appears that Alan Kelly did not vote in yesterday’s vote)

It may be of surprise to some, that the Labour Party isn’t more understanding towards those of a pro-choice vaccine viewpoint given their previous campaigning for choice on other issues.

In further cause for concern, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly described the extension of this vaccine discrimination as ‘a safety net’. Many would argue that this is an abuse of the purpose of an emergency power.

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