The Rural Independent Group believes the government is using the pandemic to “suppress” parliamentary and public scrutiny.
Its leader, deputy Mattie McGrath has accused the government of repeatedly showing “that they are willing to listen to no one”.
“Their divide and conquer strategy is undermining the social solidarity of our country,” Deputy McGrath said.
“We refuse to support such a divisive and totalitarian approach,” he added.
The deputy made the remarks following an exchange with An Taoiseach in the Dáil on Wednesday, December 8th, 2021.
He claimed Martin “casually rubbished” the idea of pre-legislative scrutiny for all Covid emergency legislation powers.
“It is detestable that the Taoiseach would rule out the Oireachtas pre-legislative scrutiny of all emergency Covid legislative measures that impact the lives and livelihoods of all citizens.”
“Such emergency powers have allowed the Health Minister to sign 171 stringent regulations into law in dark rooms, away from the glare of any oversight or public scrutiny.”
“Giving such draconian and wide-ranging powers to one minister, especially while presiding over a spiralling crisis spanning the entire public healthcare system, is dangerous.”
He claimed that “arguably, not since independence has a Taoiseach and a Health Minister purposefully continued undermining the rights and freedoms of citizens, based on a power trip of political motives rather than on any published scientific evidence”.
For instance, he said, one of these regulations pertaining to vaccine passports. He said the rules the minister signed in July 2021, “disproportionately” affects unvaccinated citizens’ fundamental rights.
Despite this, McGrath accusing the government of failing to execute a review or publish evidence proving the extent to which the Covid pass system has curbed the virus.
Again, at leaders’ questions in the Dáil, he requested the Taoiseach to produce evidence for the Covid pass system.
“Unsurprisingly, Micheál Martin failed to provide any such evidence or point to the basis for the government’s discriminatory pass system,” he said.
The deputy claims, “this tells us that the decision is about politics rather than science”.
He is of the view that there is “no justification for the measure scientifically or logically”.
“It is about maintaining power and control while abusing such leverage and undermining the entire foundations of our country’s democratic foundations.”
He outlined that, unlike many other EU countries, Ireland’s vaccine passport does not include an option for negative testing.
“This omission is particularly perplexing given our extremely high vaccination rate and the fact that the underpinning legislation provides for the possibility to include testing in the system.”
“The EU regulation, underpinning the certificates, implicitly emphasises the necessity of ensuring no direct or indirect discrimination against persons who are unvaccinated, for example, due to medical reasons, children and those devoid of opportunity or choose otherwise.”
“Yet, despite even the protections built into the EU passport mechanism, the Irish government has indiscriminately signed into law a deeply intrusive, unsupported and discriminatory passport pass system that will now be in place until at least June 2022.”
McGrath said the Rural Independent Group initially supported government restrictions to counteract the pandemic when other options were unavailable, and time was limited.
“However, now almost two years into the pandemic, this administration’s only recourse falls back on extending these powers, thus failing to improve hospital capacity and avoiding alternative options,” he concluded.