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Live Reporting

Tori Watson and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. The assembly is adjourned

    NI Assembly

    Speaker Alex Maskey reopens the session having taken advice on procedure.

    He says he's been advised that there's a danger of legal action if the debate continues.

    "I'm not prepared to take the risk of having the minister, the department or this assembly hauled into the courts," Mr Maskey says.

    He then adjourns the assembly.

    A time for the conclusion of the debate, with the minister's winding speech and the vote will be set, possibly for tomorrow.

    We'll be back tomorrow with another big set-piece debate, the consideration stage of the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill.

    Do join us then.

  2. Will the debate conclude tonight or tomorrow?

    The next speaker to be called is the minister.

    He’ll wind on the debate, but as the assembly agreed during earlier proceedings to sit only until 21:00 the Business Committee must meet to propose either postponing the minister’s wind until tomorrow morning, or extending tonight’s sitting until at last 21:30.

    Speaker Alex Maskey adjourns the session for 10 minutes to let Business Committee members gather and discuss the best way forward.

    Bear with us…

  3. 'Is this debate about posturing to the public?'

    Claire Sugden

    Claire Sugden says “tonight, if I’m being honest Mr Speaker, it very much feels like theatre”.

    “The NI Executive did not sit for three years and senior civil servants within various departments, were passing legislation like this,” says the independent MLA.

    “My understanding is a vote on these regulations was taken within the executive,” she says adding that the party “could have backed up not voting for those regulations by blocking them”.

    “Is this debate about posturing to the public saying you’re trying to do something when really you could have done something, something that is more meaningful than this vote tonight.”

  4. 'Shameless attempt to shift blame from executive’s door to public'

    Gerry Carroll

    Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit calls on the executive to “not embark on a strategy as business as usual”.

    He says the executive should do work based on “the best medical advice”.

    The West Belfast MLA calls for a return to “the basics” of mask wearing, social distancing, working from home, ventilation measures, adding that the Covid certification scheme “in the absence of that is a shameless attempt in my view to shift blame from this executive’s door to the public who did so much during the first wave of this virus”.

  5. 'What criteria are you going to judge success of regulation on?'

    Jim Allister

    “This Covid certification proposal is a step too far,” says Jim Allister.

    He outlines that he has received two Covid vaccines as well as a booster.

    The TUV MLA says the regulation “causes distinction and differentiation” and “picks out those in our community who for whatever reason” have chosen “not to be vaccinated and it sets them apart”.

    “What's the criteria by which you’re going to judge it’s failure or success?” asks Mr Allister.

  6. 'Executive documents are not shared with the opposition'

    Rachel Woods

    Rachel Woods of the Green Party explains the quandary she has been placed in during the pandemic.

    She says she is "being asked for the details behind policies for the basis on which the executive have made their decisions - details which I do not have, nor will I ever receive because the executive documents are not shared with members of the unofficial opposition".

    The North Down MLA says people have the right to see the data and information that have been used to come up with the regulations.

    Ms Woods outlines some of the experiences of workers in the hospitality industry regarding Covid certification.

    She says businesses are having to develop policies to deal with abusive customers.

    "What if you don't have a smartphone, the internet or someone to ask questions to?" Ms Woods adds.

  7. 'I am not anti-vaccine'

    Jim Wells

    Jim Wells of the DUP says “I’m only one of two members of this House who is not vaccinated”.

    “It does not make me someone who should be discriminated against, or shunned in public,” adds the South Down MLA, and explains he has made the decision based on his ethical beliefs.

    “I am not anti-vaccine,” says Mr Wells, adding “I would want to be at the door of the vaccine clinic the day that there is a vaccine I can take”.

  8. Alliance councillor Carole Howard defects to UUP

    Jayne McCormack

    BBC News NI political correspondent

    Carole Howard pictured with Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
    Image caption: Carole Howard pictured with Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

    An east Belfast councillor has defected from the Alliance Party to the Ulster Unionists.

    Carole Howard represents the Titanic electoral area on Belfast City Council.

    Ms Howard said she felt she could now "openly and comfortably" express her pro-union views, adding she was "looking forward" to working with her new colleagues.

    Alliance said it was "disappointed" Ms Howard had not engaged with the party around her concerns.

    Read more on this story here.

  9. 'I look to others to protect me'

    Stewart Dickson

    Stewart Dickson of Alliance stands to say he wears a mask where the regulations are required.

    “As a cancer survivor it’s important to me to provide that level of security to others, my plea is they will do the same for me,” says Mr Dickson.

    “I went through chemotherapy and surgery, I am vulnerable and remain vulnerable.

    “I look to others to protect me.”

  10. 'What’s the problem?'

    Colin McGrath

    Colin McGrath of the SDLP says the certification process “minimises the risk that’s posed”.

    He questions: “What’s the problem?”

    Mr McGrath says if the DUP vote against today’s regulations “they are sending a clear message to the public, they do not trust our chief medical officer” and other senior health officials.

    Christopher Stalford

    “We’re all unified in wanting to see the threat of Covid eliminated,” says Christopher Stalford.

    The DUP MLA asks “who is going to enforce” the certificates?

    “It will divide the community, it creates two classes of people, anyone suggesting otherwise is being wilfully blind,” says the South Belfast MLA.

    “By any logical measure it creates two classes of people, one with the app and one without.”

    Mr Stalford adds: “This is a policy which was born out of a 'something must be done' mindset.”

  11. Peter Kyle says he has much learning to do as new shadow NI secretary

    Peter Kyle

    Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle says he is "very mindful" that he has much learning to do in his new role.

    He is on his first visit to Northern Ireland since being appointed to the post by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer last month.

    He will meet the Stormont parties on Monday and also hold discussions with businesses and victims' groups.

    Mr Kyle said he wanted to use his three-day visit to "listen and learn".

    Read more on this story here.

  12. Police to lead Covid-19 passport enforcement - Naomi Long

    Woman showing Covid certificate

    Police will visit licensed premises to make sure they comply with Covid-19 passport rules, Northern Ireland's justice minister has said.

    Naomi Long said police will be "leading enforcement".

    Regulations are now legally enforceable and venues who breach them could face fines of up to £10,000.

    Customers must show either proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from Covid to enter licensed premises and entertainment venues.

    Read more here.

  13. 'Too often concerns became deliberately overstated'

    Paula Bradshaw

    Paula Bradshaw says she rises to support the regulations "though not without concerns in two areas".

    "As a liberal I would not want to live in a society where there was no objections raised to steps such as this. I'm afraid too often those concerns became deliberately overstated so as to draw an emotional response which is not warranted," she says.

    The Alliance MLA says that it is reasonable to ask someone entering a public venue during a health crisis whether they have taken reasonable steps to reduce that risk before entering.

  14. 'The evidence is clear, the benefits are clear'

    Nichola Mallon

    Nicola Mallon says to health workers “it never was just a minute’s handclap on a Thursday night as far as the SDLP was concerned”.

    The infrastructure minister says she’ll “challenge those in the DUP, their ministers, some backbenchers and their Westminster wing who continue to claim there is no evidential basis” for Covid certificates.

    “We have all heard again today here in this chamber from the health minister, the evidence is clear, the benefits are clear and it is clear those choosing not to accept it are doing so for ideological reasons.

    “That is downright irresponsible,” says the North Belfast MLA.

    Alan Chambers

    “None of this has made me feel like I’m heading into some sort of state-controlled dictatorship where our freedoms are being slowly dismantled and taken from us,” says Alan Chambers.

    The Ulster Unionist adds “unfortunately there are people that hold that view”.

    “The regulation before us today is not a forever piece of legislation, it is not a stand-alone magic bullet but another building block in the wall we want to keep between the general public and the Covid virus,” adds the North Down MLA.

  15. 'Sinn Féin support these measures'

    As Health Committee chair, Sinn Féin's Colm Gildernew is first to speak after the minister.

    "We are now coming towards our second Christmas dealing with this pandemic," he says.

    The Sinn Féin MLA says "we need to do all we can to protect each other".

    He explains the Health Committee's approach to the certification scheme.

    Mr Gildernew appeals to the members in the chamber "to carefully consider their words and actions".

    "Sinn Féin support these measures," he says.

    Colm Gildernew

    Health Committee deputy chair Pam Cameron emphasises how supportive she has been of Health Minister Robin Swann throughout the pandemic.

    "It is a matter of deep regret that I find myself in this House today at odds with the minister," she says.

    The DUP MLA says she is disappointed that the minister has chosen to ignore the lack of "crossbench support for this policy prior to its becoming active".

    She says such affirmative votes were held in Scotland and Wales.

    Ms Cameron expresses her concern about jobs, family incomes and the mental health of those affected by these decisions.

  16. 'What’s your alternative to Covid certificates?'

    Robin Swann says “we face the prospect of some incredibly difficult days and weeks ahead”.

    The health minister says the arrival of Omicron “should help focus to sharpen minds”.

    “To those who are really against certification, I have a simple question: ‘What’s your alternative? How would you provide that extra additional layer of protection for our citizens, for our businesses and for our health services?’”.

    “Or is it your option to simply do nothing and keep your fingers crossed? We know that doesn’t work,” says the minister, adding “that’s not an option I am willing to contemplate”.

  17. Scheme 'hasn’t been targeted at any sector'

    Robin Swann

    The health minister outlines the detail within the Covid-19 certificate scheme.

    Customers need to provide one of the following to enter certain premises; “proof of double vaccination”, “proof of a negative lateral flow antigen test within the last two days”, or “proof of recovery as indicated by a positive Covid-19 PCR test in the previous 30 to 180 days”.

    Robin Swann adds “it’s been a challenge for our businesses” but says the scheme “hasn’t been targeted at any sector”.

    He says he takes onboard the concerns of those sectors impacted by the scheme, but says “had a (financial) scheme been presented I would have supported it, I do think businesses should have been provided with much greater support in terms of purchasing scanning equipment”.

    “The economy minister has not brought forward such a scheme as of yet to support the industry and I don’t think it’s because the willingness isn’t there, I think he’s waiting to see the result of today’s debate,” adds Minister Swann.

  18. 'It’s pathetic'

    Minister Robin Swann references the use of social media by other members of the House in relation to the introduction of Covid-19 passports.

    “I accept that a five-party coalition will never be easy, but when public health is at risk, I think the people that put us here are entitled to some sense of decorum,” says the health minister.

    “Sadly, we still have some other senior politicians who think it’s acceptable to joke about Covid-19

    "They think it’s funny to pose for pictures flaunting the public health messaging, they think it’s acceptable to post rhymes on their social media.

    “It’s not. In fact it’s pathetic,” he adds.