THE turning of the year is, by and large, a time rich with talk of renewal, hope and optimism. Yet, in the case of 2021, such sunny declarations feel misplaced and, given the sacrifices and sadness experienced by so many since last March, somewhat patronising.
While the Covid-19 vaccine is now thankfully within our jurisdiction, the nature and level of its roll-out has proven a source of just frustration to a public which has proven largely compliant these past nine months.
The alarming rise in Covid cases led HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid on New Year’s Day to describe its prevalence in society as “alarming”.
And with Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan declaring later that same day that “our health system will not continue to cope with this level of impact”, the growing level of unease about the coming months is entirely understandable.
That staff at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) will be administered the vaccine this week is welcome. The prioritising of frontline staff and nursing home residents, the latter expected to be vaccinated by the end of February, is as things ought to be.
Of course, the mass vaccination of the general population cannot come soon enough yet this is entirely dependent on supply lines, sufficient staffing numbers and the opening of vaccination centres. But as Dublin City University Professor Anthony Staines pointed out: “It is much more important that the roll-out is done right than fast.”
The certainty the public seeks is more likely to be provided by Mr Reid and the HSE than by a government which has deepened public unease through many months of mixed messaging.
Pat Hayes truly served us
Pat Hayes was an admirable and honourable man. Pat, who served as Mayor in 2000 and 2011, was as committed to serving his constituents and the wider populace as he was both good humoured and articulate.
That he, like all who have died in Waterford and across the State, was denied the funeral his well-lived life merited, is among the multitude of consequences this pandemic has catalysed.
One hopes the many publicly declared and written words of praise regarding Pat’s contribution to public life since his passing on December 28 will have provided solace to his wife Bridie and children Michael, Páraic, Mark, Emmet and Emer.
At Mr Hayes’s Requiem Mass on Thursday last, Father Liam Power described him as a man who “consistently followed through on the fundamental principle of labour: equality for all. Pat was inclusive of everyone, regardless of background or status. He respected everyone and had a wonderful ability and gift to communicate that to people. Personally, I always found Pat – and I’m sure the same would resonate with all of you – to be so encouraging and so supportive.”
Be it at City Hall, in the Theatre Royal foyer or along The Quay, Pat Hayes had a word for everyone. And he made time for everyone, a quality any politician worth their salt.
But Pat Hayes possessed that characteristic long before he committed to politics. It was one of his many life skills, which made the outpouring of affection last week both understandable and utterly deserved. The city has lost an outstanding public servant in Pat Hayes but, more importantly, a truly kind and decent man. May he Rest In Peace.