Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A BLEAKER winter than most of us have ever lived through is now an unavoidable reality. The cohesion and solidarity that society demonstrated in the wake of Leo Varadkar’s Washington speech on March 12 is now frayed at the edges – and then some.

Throughout the various restriction levels that we have all lived with since the outbreak of Covid-19, the vast majority of citizens have abided by those recommendations or, at the very least, maintained their spirit.

The way we go about our daily lives has fundamentally shifted in a manner none of us could have foreseen at the turn of the year.

And had we not made those changes, the number of Covid-19-related deaths would surely be in excess of the near 1900 fatalities that have so far been recorded in this State. Yet that statistic remains utterly grim and its macabre subtext cannot be considered as a positive.

The inability of loved ones to bury their deceased in a traditional manner, in addition to not being able to literally reach out to extended family and friends during such dark times has exacerbated their sense of loss.

Above all other public gatherings that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, the inability to offer a final, communal goodbye, an Irish tradition that exemplifies what it means to be part of something greater than ourselves, is an unquantifiable tragedy.

One would have thought that a country gripped by an incomparable health crisis would have led to a shift in the way we do our politics.

That a post-general election space-holding administration did more to reassure the nation than a new government with a working majority is inarguable, a point which even the most ardent Fine Gael critics would find difficult to ignore.

But the three-way coalition which eventually took office, an arrangement still struggling to establish an identity, has bounded from one controversy to the next, leaving us with more agriculture ministers in one year than there were Popes in 1978.

The torrent of leaks to political correspondents from cabinet discussions and parliamentary party meetings might make for welcome copy on newsdesks but indicates a gross dereliction of collective political responsibility.

The communication strategy of the new government has been spectacularly inadequate and suggests there’s as much confusion among our legislators as there is among the general public.

In a government populated by so many experienced public servants, no such supposition should be in play. But in play it very much is and to such an extent that it may be difficult for Messrs Martin, Varadkar and Ryan to regain the public’s trust in the weeks and months that lie ahead.

A national government, even if it had been established on the basis of passing just two budgets prior to a general election, would have put an end a lot of the Punch and Judy stuff in the Dáil. However, following the election, the chance to do something different was not availed of.

Now more than at any other time in the history of this Republic, a steady hand at the wheel ought to be delivering a clear, unambiguous and realistic message about the next six weeks, let alone the next six months.

That this remains an unticked box, seven months into this pandemic, represents a lamentable failure by the body politic. We the people deserve better.

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