Irish passport holders who live in and were vaccinated in Northern Ireland can now access the EU Digital Covid Certificate.
The vaccine “passport”, which allows international travel, came into effect in the Republic of Ireland in July.
Most Irish passport holders in Northern Ireland were not able to access the certificate because they were vaccinated outside of the Republic.
People in Northern Ireland can now apply for the certificate online.
During the first phase of the scheme, the portal will accept applications from passport-holding Irish citizens vaccinated in Northern Ireland who hold a Covid vaccination certificate with a QR code issued by the Department of Health.
However, an Irish government minister has admitted that some people in Northern Ireland have had difficulty accessing the certificate.
Speaking in the Seanad (Irish parliament’s upper house), Mary Butler, the junior health minister in charge of mental health and older people, stated that “obviously, with anything new, it just takes a little bit to bed down, but this is a really welcome development.”
Ms Butler added that when the certificate was first made available in July, “impediments” were ironed out for people in the Republic of Ireland.
People in Northern Ireland seeking the EU certificate, she said, had to apply to the Irish government’s portal with their Irish passport details and a Covid certificate with a QR code issued by Northern Ireland’s Department of Health before giving their consent for their data to be used.
Sinn Féin Senator Niall O’Donnghaile and Fine Gael Senator Emer Currie both raised the issue in the chamber, suggesting a public awareness campaign.
“This is about EU citizens having access to EU benefits,” Ms Currie explained.
Mr. O’Donnghaile also suggested establishing a helpline.
According to him, some people north of the border appear to be applying for the EU certificate through the Republic of Ireland’s Covid tracker app by mistake.
Stephen Donnelly, Ireland’s Health Minister, said he was “delighted” to see the service expanded.
Ossian Smyth, Ireland’s Minister of State for Public Procurement and eGovernment, stated that the certificate was “critical to opening up indoor hospitality within the country and enabling international travel outside of Ireland.”
What’s the EU Digital Covid Certificate?
The EU Digital Covid Certificate makes journeys within the EU easier for people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
It is available in all 27 EU member countries, as well as Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein.
EU citizens (as well as citizens of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein) can download it or obtain a paper copy for free. It is also available to non-EU nationals who are legally resident in a member state and have the right to travel to other member countries.
Most Britons cannot obtain the certificate because the UK is no longer a member of the EU.
EU nationals who have been immunised in the UK should check with their home countries to see if they are eligible.
Travellers will still need to carry a passport or other identification.
The Irish government will enter phase two of the scheme on October 21, accepting applications from Irish citizens who have been vaccinated in countries outside of the EU.
Applicants will be required to hold the following qualifications in phase two:
- A valid Irish passport
- Proof of vaccination from the relevant issuing authority in the country of vaccination
The Department of Health in Ireland stated that it is evaluating vaccine certificates from other countries and that specific requirements for vaccination proof “will be published in line with the portal launch” in October.
Colm Brophy, Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, expressed hope that this would give “renewed hope to our diaspora who have endured long and painful separations from their families and friends.”
“It is part of our commitment to the diaspora to address and remove barriers to their return,” he said.
Those who meet the requirements can apply at via the Irish government’s EU Covid certificate portal.