Big Brother Watch calls for a vote on “draconian” Covid passes in Northern Ireland

23 November 2021 — Big Brother Watch

Big Brother Watch Team /

 Civil liberties group Big Brother Watch is calling on the Northern Irish Health Minister to give the Assembly a prior vote on mandatory Covid passes
  • Big Brother Watch warns that “democracy must not be swerved”
  • Campaigners warn against a “checkpoint society”

Civil liberties group Big Brother Watch has called on Northern Irish Health Minister Robin Swann to ensure that Covid passes are voted on in Stormont, rather than imposed by a Minister.

On 17th November, Ministers agreed to roll-out Covid passes across pubs, restaurants and large events in Northern Ireland.

However, Big Brother Watch has argued that this agreement “cannot stand in for full democratic scrutiny and approval.” Covid passes are highly divisive, and as such, campaigners believe it is critical that Assembly members are given the opportunity to scrutinise and vote on their introduction.

The concern follows the continued use of a provision in the Public Health Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 to pass lockdown regulations without the prior approval of the Assembly. This has allowed Ministers to pass lockdown laws without the approval of the Assembly “by reason of urgency”. Big Brother Watch says “The use of this legal loophole cannot be justified when Covid pass proposals were first discussed by the Executive in September.” To date, all lockdown laws have been brought in by a Minister without a prior vote in the Northern Irish Assembly.

Mandatory Covid-status certification represents a profound intrusion into fundamental rights and liberties. The Northern Irish Health Minister has failed to provide any evidence for the introduction of the scheme. Big Brother Watch has been campaigning against divisive and discriminatory Covid passes across the United Kingdom.

Big Brother Watch is now urging Health Minister Robin Swann to commit to giving the Northern Irish Assembly a meaningful say on the introduction on Covid passes in Northern Ireland and ensure there is a vote prior to their introduction.

Madeleine Stone, legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch, said:
“Covid passes have failed in Scotland and Wales and will fail in Northern Ireland, at the cost of the public’s civil liberties. Any moves to introduce mandatory Covid passes should be subject to the highest standards of scrutiny from the Assembly, not rushed through by a Ministerial edict. Robin Swann must commit to giving the Assembly a vote on these measures and allow MLAs to reject these unevidenced and draconian plans for a checkpoint society.”



  • Big Brother Watch is leading the campaign against Covid passes across the UK and recently launched legal proceedings against the Welsh Government’s mandatory Covid pass scheme.
  • Spokespeople are available for interviews. Contact Big Brother Watch’s 24h media line on 07730439257 or email
  • Big Brother Watch’s campaign page is at 
  • Please find the letter to Robin Swann by clicking here.

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