Miriam’s Musings

Has our government sucked the happiness right out of us?

Each year on March 20th, the world celebrates the ‘International Day of Happiness’, when 149 countries across the globe are ranked according to their individual levels of gross domestic product (GDP), their generosity, their social support and freedom and their life expectancy. We ranked at number 13, with Finland being voted ‘the happiest country in the world’ for the fourth year in a row.

So precisely what is it that makes a Nordic nation, whose winters are hellish, so much happier and less miserable than us lot here in the good auld Emerald Isle? The answer’s simple… they’ve got a decent government, one that knows what it’s doing and allows them to feel secure when it comes to having a place to call home, i.e. a roof over their heads, and a decent childcare and healthcare system to boot. Yes folks, Finland takes care of its citizens.

In addition, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, Finland, which has a population of 5.5 million, has coped much better with the onset and the effects of Covid-19 on their people, experiencing just over ‘70,000 cases and 805 deaths’. Compare this to Ireland, whose population, (according to UN data) is 4,937,786. At the time of writing it was reported that there was a total of 229,831 confirmed cases, with, tragically, 4,585 related deaths.

How is it that two countries, both with similar populations, can differ so drastically? Well here’s the thing readers – from March 11th 2020 (the day on which the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated Covid-19 as ‘a global pandemic’), our government appears to have made a right hames of the entire crisis. By failing to see the red flags and missing the gravity of a situation which was, at the time, dubbed by our health experts as ‘nothing we’ve ever seen’, it’s my belief our government are incapable of leading us safely through this predicament.

In fact, if I were to reflect the mood of our nation, it would be that we’ve now passed the point of accepting both the Taoiseach’s and the Tánaiste’s derisory excuses – one of which is that zero-Covid isn’t a possibility due to our UK border with Northern Ireland. Well Micheál agus Leo, as I’ve neither the time nor the crayons to draw you a picture, my short answer to that cop-out would be to make it possible! Find a way!

Think I’m being too hard on the lads? Let me remind readers that exactly one year ago, the regulations we faced were straightforward, and as we were told they’d last for only a few weeks, the good people of Roscommon – in our quest to protect lives –  were more than happy to buy into them. Our seniors and our vulnerable ‘cocooned’, non-essential retail closed, non-urgent healthcare procedures were postponed and our exercise/movements were restricted to 2km, later extended to 5km.

Fast-forward to today and I’d like to ask three questions: what went wrong, how did we end up here, and who’s going to take the blame? Well I can tell you what went wrong, and how we got here – our leaders cocked it up by refusing to close the borders/airports/ports, and by opening up the country at Christmas. However, I don’t know who’s going to be ‘man’ enough to take the blame! Before Josepha Madigan gets her knickers in a twist, I use that term due to both leaders being male.

However, my point kind of gives credence to the theory that perhaps, like Finland, the Republic of Ireland needs a female Taoiseach (or Prime Minister as the Finns call Sanna Marin). But don’t just take my word for it! Former US President Barack Obama is also of the opinion that women make better leaders, saying “I’m absolutely confident that for two years, if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything… living standards and outcomes”.

For the record (and in case you’re ever a contestant on The Chase), Sanna Marin became the world’s youngest Prime Minister at age 34 years in December 2019, just weeks before Covid kicked off! Mic drop!

 

Why I find Paul Reid’s ‘no choice’ statement unsettling!

It’s clear that vaccination against Covid-19 will be our country’s only way out of this health crisis. Thankfully we currently have three vaccines, all reported to be effective in protecting us against the virus. As we know, in light of a small number of incidents around bleeding and blood clots reported in some who received the AstraZeneca jabs, Ireland temporarily suspended the rollout of this particular vaccine. However, following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, Ireland has resumed its use, stressing that it remains ‘safe and effective’.

Apparently folks, the benefits of AstraZeneca outweigh the risk of the side effects, and sure why allow a small number of, let’s say, ‘complications’ derail the rollout, right? However, despite what our health experts claim, there remains a lot of uncertainty and concern among those set to receive their AstraZeneca jabs. As a worrier, I share those concerns.

To be honest, I found HSE CEO Paul Reid’s statement that “there will be no picking and choosing of vaccines” to be quite unsettling and authoritarian, because we all have a right to choose what goes into our bodies. Indeed it’s my belief that if an individual has certain health concerns/allergies/autoimmune disorders, etc., they’re entitled to have a conversation with their doctor, who can best advise on a case-by-case basis before making an informed decision regarding which particular brand offers them the best outcome.

To that end I found Mr. Reid’s statement to be, well, limiting and confrontational. Maybe the poor man’s fed up facing the cameras every day – who knows!

The Health Products Regulatory Authority assurance that the vaccine ‘will now come with an information leaflet warning of potential rare side effects linked to blood clotting,’ hasn’t gone anywhere near to easing concerns both for me and my loved ones. Therefore when my time comes to get vaccinated, I’ll be doing my own research and having that in-depth conversation with my own doctor, because at my age, I’ve passed the point of being told ‘you’ll take what you’re given’.

I wear my mask, I socially distance, and I stay home, only leaving for 5km walks and essential items. I follow the rules, the regulations and the restrictions and I haven’t seen/hugged my family in months. You get it – I’m a team player. A law-abiding citizen. However when it comes to having bodily autonomy, I’m afraid my inner rebel morphs into revolt mode, which is why Paul Reid’s declaration of ‘no choice’ regarding jabs, ‘despite the difference between them’ is causing me a degree of hesitancy and annoyance.

 

Here comes the summer!

Welcome to summertime, folks! This Sunday the clocks will go forward, meaning we’ll lose an hour’s kip, but the good news is we’ll gain an hour’s daylight! Yay!

Ah yes, we’ll be able to chat about the “grand stretch” in the evenings, and the “great dryin’ oush”. We can lament that “sure ‘twas only last week ya couldn’t put the foot outside the door after 6 pm for the darkness” and the “shockin’ coowld”, but now, “sure isn’t there a great bit o’ heat in that sun”.

But are we ready for the shift? Will we be able to get the kids to bed at a reasonable hour and is our powerwasher primed and ready to hose down the patio for the annual barbie and drinking outdoors’ fest? You bet we will!