Council call for mask ‘medical exemption card’ to be introduced

By Rebecca McGirr

Councillors, last night called on Northern Ireland’s Health Minister to introduce mask medical exemption cards to help curb discrimination during a Derry City and Strabane District Council meeting at the city’s Guildhall.

The SDLP’s Councillor Angela Dobbins’ brought the motion before council to “stop discrimination and embarrassment for people who have hidden disabilities and cannot wear the mask but are still subject to abuse.”

Sinn Fein’s Patricia Logue submitted an amendment challenging Councillor Dobbin’s motion. She argued that the introduction of an exemption card would prove to be “too bureaucratic.” The authority it would give to people who possess the card would prove to be “problematic,” and she also expressed the issue of “a follow on requirement for people who may forget their card or indeed do not apply for one.”

Many other councillors spoke in support of Councillor Dobbin’s motion such as the SDLP’s Rory Farrell, Alliance Councillor Rachael Ferguson and the DUP’s Hillary McClintock.

Councillor Logue’s amendment went to vote and fell.

Sinn Fein Councillor Aileen Mellon abstained from voting on Councillor Dobbins’ motion. She argued that the enforcing of medical cards did not take into consideration “the emotional stress and trauma it would cause to other people,” particularly those who have been sexually assaulted or raped.

In her final remarks before the vote, Councillor Dobbins took into consideration Councillor Mellon’s comments and stated that “medical exemption cards can be given out by so many governing bodies,” including “crisis centres.”

“They are not going to be given out to just anybody, but those with legitimate reasons for not wearing a mask should be able to get a card and there needs to be guidance on how to get this card,” she said.

The motion was carried with 23 votes for, 2 against and 13 abstentions.