‘Knee-jerk reaction’ to Health Minister’s need to take a Covid test causes confusion in the Dáil
PANIC is a sudden, uncontrollable feeling of fear or anxiety that can affect an individual or a whole group of people. What’s more, it can lead to hysterical behaviour, a sense of impending doom, physical symptoms such as trembling, and a desire to flee.
Indeed panic attacks can be very frightening and, experts say, ‘they give the impression that you are losing control: your heart pounds, you can’t breathe, and you get the feeling that you’re going crazy or, worse still, dying!’
Symptoms can include some or all of the following: heart palpitations, a choking feeling, shortness of breath, trembling and shaking, light headedness, losing control and, worse of all, a feeling of becoming detached from your surroundings which, in the case of panic-struck Fine Gael politicos, spells doom!
A horrifying experience, indeed. So, earlier this month, when such an unpleasant phenomenon gripped our legislators, its implications sent shivers of fear through the body politic.
The shock waves were caused by a rumour which suggested that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had gone down with the plague, the dreaded Covid-19, after attending a Cabinet meeting and a press conference at Dublin Castle!
(Completely ignored, however, in the hoop-la generated by the trials and tribulations of the Health Minister was that Sinn Féin had emerged in recent polls as the most popular political party in the country).
Nevertheless, as the unfortunate Mr Donnelly was whisked off for ‘tests’, Taoiseach Mickey issued a red alert warning to the effect that all those who attended recent cabinet meetings were to restrict their movements until the results of the investigation into the Minister’s health came back.
This was serious stuff! Looming on the horizon was a possible government lockdown, maybe a national emergency, as the Dáil adjourned for a week and the entire Cabinet went into a process of self-isolating (No, we didn’t say self-loathing!)
Certainly, we, the common people felt sorry for our legislators who seemed to be gripped by a wave of terror. And then, at last, the news leaked out that Mr Donnelly didn’t have the dreaded ‘illness’! It was all a false alarm!
So the government was recalled, amid accusations that Mickey’s Cabinet had become an ‘incredible shambles.’
A Fianna Fáil TD, Michael Moynihan from Kiskeam, was furious at the open-shut-open response of Dáil Eireann to a hypothetical attack of the virus. ‘A knee-jerk reaction,’ he called it, pointing out that if the schools could open to the public why should Dáil Éireann be different? (Oddly, his boss, Taoiseach Mickey Martin, said nothing!)
To make matters worse, other TDs concentrated on the ‘panic’ response, asserting that political correspondents knew more of what was going on than the deputies.
Some politicos concentrated on the constitutional shambles that Mickey had let happen. They pointed out that the role of the Taoiseach was not to tell the Dáil what to do; that function belonged to the Dáil itself.
Peadar Tóibín, a former Sinn Féin TD and now representing the Aontú outfit, complained that the Dáil cannot ‘go missing’ in a time of crisis.
He said: ‘The sudden announcement via the media that the cabinet was self-isolating, and that the Dáil was shutting down, was absolutely wrong.
‘The democratic functioning of the State was too important for it to operate in such a manner. We have a job to do. The country faces crippling crises on all fronts and it is simply not good enough that the government – special advisors and all – go missing when the Irish people need them most.’
Peadar Tóibín made a very relevant point as to the constitutional implications of the abandonment en masse of the government of our country.
Indeed the Close-the-Dáil-Down debacle was uncannily like the scene from the BBC’s hit-comedy, ‘Dad’s Army’ when a panicking Lance Corporal Jones freaks out and tells his commanding officer: ‘Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring, don’t panic!’
Inevitably, the closure fiasco was grist to the mill of those who wanted to dump Taoiseach Mickey.
Young Dev (otherwise known as Éamon Ó Cuív) was quite blunt in his criticism. It can be easily summed up as follows: the party needs a fresh, new leader!
For that to happen, Mickey must go – particularly since support for his party had plummeted to a shock horror figure of 10%!
Ó Cuív argued that the party’s decline was not due to external factors but to the direction it was taking. ‘You can’t just sit there and watch what was a very large party go into terminal decline and not say “hang on a second, we need to look at everything again, including the whole approach of the party … or that the Fine Gael leader, Leo Varadkar was upstaging Mícheál Martin”.’
In the meantime, a recent Sunday Times poll indicated that Sinn Féin and Fine Gael are the most popular political parties in the country: Sinn Féin at 32% support, Fine Gael at 30% support overall and Fianna Fáil, trailing everyone at 19%!
All of which, in the absence of a serious defence of Martin from that staunch, loyal committed, devoted, dependable, steadfast, unswerving and redoubtable Band of FF Brothers – his political future can be said to look somewhat grim.
Hope springs eternal
But, as Alexander Pope said, ‘hope springs eternal.’ Last week De Paper published a government hand-out which announced that Ireland would begin vaccinating against Covid-19 in the new year.
According to the Examiner, Vlad was hopeful of a vaccine for the elderly and healthcare workers and ‘that this could change things and change things for the better.’
A somewhat baffled Irish Examiner explained that senior sources in the Department of Health had no idea where Varadkar got his information and that it was most unlikely the country would have an approved vaccine in January.
Which raises this question: could Vlad be in the process of creating a Trump-style, virtual reality?
Oh, and what about singer Sir Van Morrison’s response to Covid-19?
No! He hasn’t caught it! He’s simply written three ‘protest’ songs urging that pandemic restrictions be lifted.
One of the songs, entitled ‘No More Lockdown,’ contains sentiments such as: ‘No more lockdown/No more government overreach/No more fascist bullies/ Disturbing our peace.’ Charming!
He’s also calling on people to denounce the ‘pseudoscience’ around coronavirus and says governments are enslaving people that were ‘born to be free.’
His unmelodious philosophy strangely delighted the arch-conservative Daily Telegraph, the news-rag for toffs, which said: ‘The catchy tunes, simple lyrics and a dash of what some people might consider “cool” released the “untapped potential of unwoke listeners, all of which made for a good vehicle to transmit anger and disillusionment at otherwise complex, overreaching problems”.’
‘Unwoke listeners’! Has Britain gone bonkers?