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Anti-vaccine passport messaging in NI shopping centres ‘very concerning’

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Anti-Covid passport adverts in Castlecourt

Anti-Covid passport adverts in Castlecourt

Anti-Covid passport adverts in Castlecourt

Anti-Covid passport adverts in Castlecourt

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Anti-Covid passport adverts in Castlecourt

Anti-vaccine passport messaging which has appeared on advertising screens in Northern Ireland shopping centres should be switched off as soon as possible, a councillor has said.

The adverts, which have so far been seen in Belfast's Castlecourt shopping centre and Newtownabbey's Abbey Centre, were placed by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch.

The Britain-based group recently said they'd joined with other similar groups to write to every political representative in Stormont setting out their rights and equality concerns around "mandatory" Covid passes in Northern Ireland.

In a Tweet on Saturday, they said: "With Northern Ireland set to hold a vote on discriminatory Covid passports within days... we're on the front line! Our billboards are all over Northern Ireland this weekend."

The slogans carried on the billboards include: "They want a checkpoint society", "we want a free future" and the url of an anti-vaccine passport website.

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In response to the criticism, a spokesperson for the Abbey Centre said: “The digital screens on the mall are owned and managed by Clear Channel. Abbey Centre does not vet the paid advertising displayed as we have no authority to do so, however we will liaise with Clear Channel re conflicting messages.”

The vaccine certification scheme will require hospitality venues which serve alcohol to ask customers for proof of vaccination or a negative test result and is set to take effect on November 29.

Unlicensed premises in Northern Ireland such as coffee shops and cafes will not have to enforce the rules and there will be a two-week grace period before fines are imposed on venues that fail to comply.

Alliance councillor Danny Donnelly criticised the billboards. He condemned reports of "anti-vaccine passport messages being promoted on multiple screens in [the Abbey Centre]." He continued: "This is undermining public health response to Covid and should be turned off ASAP."

He said reports of similar messaging in Castlecourt was "Very concerning". "It would appear that these ad spaces have been booked by a lobby group that is bent on undermining public health messages on Covid," he said.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said the messages were "absolutely shocking". He said they were "putting the lives of shop workers and others at risk by encouraging this message".

Castlecourt Shopping Centre has been contacted for a response, as has Big Brother Watch.


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