IRELAND: RIGHT TO BE MAD, WRONG ABOUT WHAT TO BE MAD AT.
Ireland’s third (and hopefully final) lockdown has become the longest Covid lockdown in the world (at the time of writing). With a combination of variants (at least the UK and South African variants if not also the Brazilian one), the open border with Northern Ireland (and by default, the UK), and a government that has been continuously bumping heads with NPHET since September of last year, the public mood has shifted significantly.
What was once a country of “We’re all in this together” and claps for the HSE has become worn out, tired, and irritable. With broken promises and backpaddling on phases, county lockdowns, and refusing to go into another national lockdown (let alone two), the Government, led by Taoiseach Micheál Martin of Fianna Fail, seemingly determined to approach the public with the mantra “Out of sight, Out of mind”, and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar of Fine Geal, also seemingly determined to indulge in an almost fetishistic need to humiliate himself, are framed in recent weeks as being tiresome and lacking vision.
The current lockdown, which just managed to begin before a major spike in cases tempting to reach 9,000 a day, though technically the third might as well be a continuation from the first one nearly a year ago with fewer and fewer spaces of relief in between. The rabble on the street, no longer restricted to the internet, has shifted from reluctant acceptance to threats of non-compliance. The sheer boredom and depression of the country has reached a point where the risk of catching and/or spreading Covid seems like a tempting taboo, like sleeping with someone older than you or picking up a euro note on an empty street and just pocketing it. A Beauty Room Owner has been shut down by An Garda after opening for two days. In interviews not only did she say she was receiving appointments from across the country but also that the reception to her decision was met with praise. Similarly a TV Chef’s decision to declare his restaurant will be open on July 1st “no matter what” was met with praise and encouragement. He quipped, as though summarising the mood of the nation…
“The problem is no longer us. It’s an incompetent Government.”
To this I say yes… but no. In both interviews with the two business owners, and a reoccurring note that is being hit on by the public at large, the lockdown, while saving lives, never factored in expenses, rents, mortgages, and general costs of living. Mortgages and rents are being sneakily continued, with some, somehow, expecting people to make up for the months that were suspended, as if the economy will just spring back from Covid restrictions and Lockdowns immediately. People feel as though the have no choice but to go back to work, even if it’s not allowed. The problem isn’t the restrictions stopping you, it’s the lack of supports in the first place.
While the Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme (PUP), at €350, is better than the traditional €203 Social Welfare allowance, it does nothing to actually help business owners, families, or those with special requirements. It was a one-size-fits-all attempt that failed miserably and was initially due to be cut during the last Summer until public outcry reversed the decision (though it’s announced to be suspended this coming Summer, regardless of the unemployment numbers).
I understand we are caught between a rock and a hard place but the new variants have already placed our hospitals under greater strain than earlier in the past year; a medical service that, prior to Covid, was already dealing with cuts from Leo’s former FG government, though he seems ready to continue his disdain for our medical professionals (ironic, seeing as he’s a doctor), as he disregarded NPHET and commissioned KMPG, a financial advisory board, to give Covid advice that was heavily skewed not to what was needed but towards economic management (an economy that would be in a better position now had they followed NPHET’s advice). But the point still remains; ignoring restrictions, the very same ones that took us from 8,000+ to 500~ daily cases in the space of two months, just to give two fingers risks further lockdowns and harsher restrictions, at best. At worst, further avoidable deaths.
What about Mental Health? That’s fair. And as someone who’s suffered from low self-esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm in the past, I agree, Mental Health is important. But why has our government never done anything about this. Mental Health professionals are not covered by the medical card nor any government support. You can be referred to by a doctor, but often those specialists are miles away and with appointments set months in advance. My own closest example is in Tallaght, at least two hours by public transport. That’s a four hour round-trip. How will your mental health be better by not expecting more from your government? How will it get better if you risk your life and others?
You should be angry. You should. But not because of the lockdown. You should be angry that a government that for years has been acting as though supports for welfare, hospitals, and mental health are privileges to be chipped away at, while their own yearly wages increase. But no one could have seen it coming, you say? If we are a country that is one bad year away from collapse, than we are a country constantly on the verge of collapse. We’ve always been that country, through recessions, through war, through famine, through mass exodus. And the two parties that have been in and out of power since our very inception have done nothing in their entire existence to change that.
People are saying they aren’t going to listen to the government anymore. That’s the wrong course of action. If anything, you should be taking notes. Remember all this. Remember the people who did nothing to prepare for this. Remember the people who did nothing to manage it. Remember all of them. Because once this is all over, they’ll hope while you try to forget the pandemic, you forget them too.