Pity the poor Gister. Most days, it’s a struggle to find enough that happened to fill even the smallest of emails. Today was, by common consent, not like most days.
Pulling the levers
The Taoiseach, who is still Leo Varadkar, went to the US with a simple task. His job was to pick up a crystal bowl filled with shamrock, pass it to a man who would casually insult him and then leave to tour some FDI opportunities.
By mid-morning Irish time, that was not the main job of the day. The main job of the day was making the closest to a wartime speech we ever want to see a Taoiseach get, in reaction to the latest coronavirus numbers. Restrictions on public meetings, closed libraries and museums, so far so incremental. But then the biggest social disrupter lever got pulled. All childcare and education was closed too, until the 29th March 2020.
The mobile phone networks promptly failed, as every parent in the country rang each other to panic.
The next thing to fail was everyone’s common sense, as panic buying hit the shops like college students buying cans on Holy Thursday. Retail Ireland had to issue a statement reminding everyone the shops were there tomorrow, and so would the food and loo roll.
The extra wise gazed at a week indoors with children and snuck off to stockpile 1000 piece jigsaws.
But, at last, everyone felt that our response had caught up with the potential risk posed by the situation.
The UK’s PM decided to make a speech too. His warned of all the beloved family members who would soon be dead, but ended with a sort of shrug, rather than any specific social isolation rules. Whatcha gonna do?, his body language said, Granny’s gotta go.
The immediate interface between the UK’s laissez-faire response and Ireland’s was the Northern Ireland border. So then a bunch of NI politicians came out to complain about everyone else’s plan. Which was, to be fair, a novel reversal of the usual pattern.
BBC’s Newsnight helpfully produced a chart comparing the UK response (both thoughts and prayers) and the rest of Europe. Luckily for the Government, it turns out the UK has a cohort of people delighted to relax and be assured that Johnny Foreigner has got it wrong again.
For once, I hope they’re right.
Photo: André Spicer