“We’ve always wanted schools to remain open.” That was Josepha Madigan’s final, weak, response to a series of questions she chose not to answer, at length.
The questions, from Philip Boucher-Hayes on RTE Radio’s Today programme, were straightforward- should the schools remain open when the evidence for the safety of schools was based on a tracing system that the head of the HSE said was now unreliable.
The stream of non-answers were blackly comical in their disconnect from reality but that final statement had the ring of truth. It reminded me of the repeated bleats from Fianna Fáil TDs as the banks fell apart and they were presented with the latest financial horror-facts “Well, I don’t accept that.”
Both statements were true- they expressed wants and beliefs as a response to hard numbers and facts. But they both had the same effect on the audience listening to them- sparking incandescent rage at being misled, to their face, when the facts were clear.
The schools can’t be safe because, bluntly, nowhere where people meet is safe right now. The explosive rate of increase in Covid infections has changed the risk profile of everywhere we might go. The schools may have been safe, but things that were safe before Christmas can’t be presumed to still be safe now.
In October the Government ran a PR campaign attacking its scientific advisors for not seeing the bigger picture when it comes to pandemic containment.
Sometimes the reason why politicians make these decisions, is because we're the ones who can see the bigger picture. It's not just about a virus and statistics around a virus. - Leo Varadkaar, 6th October 2020
The bigger picture now is simply that there is nothing more critical than the virus and statistics around a virus. You might wish that not to be the case. You might really want to go for some drinks, a meal out, or to not have to pay another few months of PUP payments to furloughed staff. But none of those wants will change the facts.
The numbers are bad. We say that to each other.
But we should remember they are bad because every number is a person, every person has a family. They will all remember this week. They are less likely to forgive it.
A special thanks to those of you who have chosen to pay for your Gists. You prompted me to do a second one this week!