A local councillor says that lending a hand in a funeral home in West Cork’s worst-hit town at the height of the pandemic gave him a sense of perspective after he was temporarily laid off
COURTMACSHERRY-based Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) put his free time to good use during the Covid-19 lockdown by giving a helping hand to a local funeral director.
The former Sinn Féin member told The Southern Star that he wanted to do something once lockdown was put in place, especially given he was temporarily laid off from his job with Java Republic and had more free time.
‘My wife Gertie suggested that I contact John Michael Foley – who runs Foley Funeral Directors out of Clonakilty and Timoleague – as we were both thinking that someone like him would be overwhelmed during this busy period,’ said Paul.
John Michael did indeed need help, as two of his staff who are over 70 years of age were cocooning.
‘I was thrown straight in at the deep end when he rang me one night at around 10pm back in March to ask me to accompany him to Clonakilty Community Hospital because someone had died from Covid-19,’ recalled Paul.
‘We had all the PPE gear, including double gloves, and we followed all the guidelines regarding hand sanitising and we went in the back entrance of the hospital at nightime, when it was quieter.’
This was new territory for Paul and it took a while to adjust to the protocols that come with dealing with both Covid and non-Covid deaths. He oversaw at least 12 funerals while helping John Michael since March.
‘Personally, I wasn’t too worried about the fact that we were dealing with Covid-19-related deaths and I was very careful regarding sanitising all the time.’
Paul said he had an inside track into what has been happening during the Covid-19 crisis that many people may not have had a chance to witness.
‘I could see how the hospital staff and undertakers were putting themselves in harm’s way and trying to deal with grieving families, while also trying to interpret the guidelines on funerals.’
Luckily for both Paul and John Michael, their partnership worked out well in what were extremely difficult circumstances.
‘If my children or anyone asks me in future years what I did during this pandemic, I can say that I was able to help grieving families and help out the community in some small measure,’ he explained.
Now back at work part-time Paul admits the lockdown was a welcome pause for what was indeed a busy year for him, especially as he fought a general election last February and then left the Sinn Féin party months later.
‘It really does give you a sense of perspective as well and you get to re-evaluate what is important in life,’ he said.
John Michael Foley, who runs the family business with his father John, said that five of his staff were out due to either cocooning or other issues and he was very appreciative when Paul offered his help. ‘Empathy, dignity and respect are our three mottos that we try to uphold at all times and Paul fitted all three. He was very good and very respectful and he came out with me in the middle of the night on some occasions,’ he said.
‘We were very busy throughout, and it certainly was harder for families when it came to planning funerals for their loved ones, due to the Covid-19 restrictions.’