I thank the Minister of State for his attendance in the House this morning to discuss this matter. I wish to raise the importance of Ireland’s implementation of the EU digital Covid certificate, or what we used to call the EU green certificate. As we are all aware, the Government has signed up to the EU Covid certificate with a start date of July 19, albeit two weeks later than the rest of our European colleagues. The certificate has been developed by the EU Commission over the last six months under their plan entitled “A common path to a safe and sustained re-opening”. The importance of reopening our skies and gaining back our crucial connectivity cannot be understated. Hundreds of thousands of families are relying on us to get this reopening right. Therefore, it must be both safe and easy, and we must get unhindered access to travel.
When we talk about the reopening of travel, it is often inaccurately framed, either in the media or on our social media, as involving young people who are desperate to head off to Ibiza. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to go to Ibiza - I would nearly like to go myself - but it ignores the far greater impact on families that have been torn apart throughout the Continent. There are grandparents who have not seen new arrivals who have been born in the last 15 or 16 months. There are daddies who, in many cases, have not seen their children and have missed birthday parties. There are many more heart-wrenching examples. The introduction of the Covid certificate will be a game changer for these people. While I am on the subject, I thank the Tánaiste for his strong commitment to the implementation of the certificate. There were suggestions last week that we would exclude young people from accessing the certificate. That would be reprehensible and incredibly disrespectful to our young people and I am glad to hear that this is not being entertained.
We are four weeks away from Irish implementation of the certificate. The lack of information and significant level of disinformation circling in our social media channels is a real problem. I wish to hear in the Minister of State's response, if possible, details about the logistics of the certificate.
So much of the debate around the return of international travel to date has come from the public health sphere. Obviously, the balance of risk taken into account by those in that sphere is different from that taken into account by the Government. What we really need to hear about the certificate is how it is going to work, how Irish citizens are going to get certificates, who will issue them, when people can apply for them, whether our testing and vaccination systems will feed into the process and if so, how.
I look forward to hearing the Minister of State's response. These are the issues in respect of which information needs to be laid out. I am sure the Minister of State will do this. If it is not already planned, can we have a public information campaign in order that people can dispel the memory of what happened over the weekend when they thought they needed PCR tests on their way out of the country as well as on their way back in, as opposed to just meeting the requirements of the countries to which they are travelling?