Paul Healy’s Week

Wednesday/Thursday

Social media goes into overdrive when the Irish Daily Mirror promotes an interview with Taoiseach Micheál Martin. There is little time for nuance (by the paper or the social media brigade). Martin merely said what he had been hinting for some time, e.g. that pretty severe restrictions would be continuing until the end of April at least. The Twitter Army didn’t need a second invite to express fury.

Just now, the politicians can’t really win. Everyone’s calling for some elusive ‘plan’. It’s not clear that the Government can plan with any degree of confidence just now, such is the complexity of the challenges posed by Covid (not least the emergence of new variants).

By Thursday morning, Micheál (and Leo) sought to clarify that there wasn’t much new in what the Taoiseach had said to the Irish Mirror. But it was too late to stop the tide of frustration and anger. More and more people are having a go at the Government and/or NPHET. Some of the criticism is absolutely valid; some of it is over the top. On Twitter, people blast the politicians and health gurus. Insults fly through cyberspace.

Two points: it is undoubtedly the case that the Government has messed up on the communications front at times. Secondly, people are on edge. Most of us are at the very least frustrated. Many are angry, some at their wit’s end. We’re all hurting. That’s why frustrastions are boiling over.

One area where the Government’s ‘performance’ has certainly left a lot to be desired is in relation to travel in and out of the country. We have, it seems to me, been far too complacent about our borders. Thousands of people are still coming in and out of the country. Some of this travel may be necessary, but most of it certainly isn’t. Nobody believes that all involved are going into quarantine. This travel saga must be addressed.

 

Friday

Like the coronavirus, hypocrisy doesn’t recognise international borders. The spirit of Golf-gate in Clifden, and Cummings-gate in the UK, is alive and well in America. To varying degrees, some amongst the political elite continue to struggle with the ‘We’re all in this together’ concept.

In Texas, it’s been a traumatic week for millions of people. Merciless storms and snow caused a devastating power outage, leaving distraught families without heat, light and water…in freezing temperatures. Homes have been destroyed, and many people have died.

A time for political leadership, clearly. Not from arrogant Senator Ted Cruz, who, as his constitutents suffered, flew to a holiday resort in Mexico for a family break.

After it inevitably came to light, his first defence was to say he was only dropping his daughter off and would be returning himself the next day. When it emerged that the family had actually planned to stay for several days, Cruz told the media that he knew it was the wrong decision from the moment he sat on the airplane seat (isn’t there a cord you can pull?). Finally, having earlier claimed that his daughter just wanted to get away (‘cos it was so cold in Texas) our hero paused for dramatic effect and said ‘I was trying to be a dad’.

Not even that other ‘Father Ted’ would be silly/selfish enough to behave like this.

 

Saturday

Cheekiest ad of the week? The prize goes to the Ulster Bank. One day on from confirming they will be withdrawing all of their business from the Republic of Ireland – with branch closures, and as yet undetermined implications for staff and customers – the bank took out full-page ads in weekend newspapers. It’s fair enough that the bank took the opportunity to inform the public of its exit plans (a phased withdrawal over coming years). I accept too that that there probably isn’t cause for concern for existing customers. But it was a bit cheeky/insensitive for the ad to invite (as it did) new business!

 

Saturday

Headline of the week: ‘More than half of doctors put on pyjamas for meetings, study finds’ (Irish Independent). A two-part question: Who put this question into this study, and why?

 

Saturday

Pity Tommy Tiernan, currently held hostage in a typical big Irish compliment, our hero knowing full well that a certain amount of people/begrudgers in the country are now saying (every weekend): ‘I love him as a chat show host, but never liked him as a comedian!’

 

Sunday

This afternoon, I saw a teenager going past the library in Roscommon on a scooter…while wearing a traditional clown’s mask. I say fair play to him (as long as he can see where he’s going). It’s a lot better than some of the clowns who continue to wear face coverings incorrectly!

 

Monday

No matter how busy he is, no matter how fast the meetings are coming, you can be certain that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly was briefed/warned about what to say and what not to say when he appeared on Claire Byrne Live tonight.

You can imagine handlers and advisors, perhaps including Micheál and Leo, pleading with Stephen to be careful with his words. Unfortunately, the interview reinforced the sense that this under-pressure Coalition is struggling badly on the communications front. Earlier in the day, Minister Josepha Madigan had said schools will reopen (for some pupils) on March 1st. To Claire Byrne’s astonishment, Donnelly cast some doubt on this (while implicating the teachers’ unions). I agree with those on Twitter who said the Health Minister shouldn’t have done a TV interview ahead of Tuesday’s formal announcement by the Government (on the Living With Covid plan). Donnelly later clarified his remarks. Next time Josepha and Stephen meet, nobody need have the slightest concern on the social distancing front.

 

Tuesday

The updated ‘Living with Covid’ plan/roadmap was unveiled by the Taoiseach in an address to the nation. Basically, lockdown will continue for several more weeks. It was sombre stuff. At least the schools are reopening. For most businesses, the nightmare continues. We need the thus far desperately slow vaccination rollout to move to a new level, and fast. Until then, we’re stuck with this morale-sapping lockdown. We’ll return to this subject over the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out the Roscommon People’s uplifting video ‘A Shared Journey’ via Twitter, our Facebook page and on Roscommon People YouTube channel. Stay safe.