Veering West

COLM TOBIN: Taoiseach should get Minister for Bad News and Terrible Business

December 12th, 2021 5:05 PM

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I HONESTLY felt for Micheál Martin as he approached the plinth last Friday evening to deliver his umpteenth address to the nation. At this point, the man has delivered more monologues than a US TV chat show host. And there are cardiac surgeons who have had to deliver less bad news.

There was very little to laugh about during Friday night’s set, unfortunately. With the recent surge in cases and the unknown unknowns that make up the Omicron variant, we all knew what was coming. And you can understand why the Government is nervous about a repeat of last year when a Meaningful Christmas quickly turned into Januarius Horribilis.

Another reason we all knew what was coming was because we had literally heard every single restriction floated in the media beforehand. With NPHET leaking more than the Kowloon Bridge in the run-up to the announcement of the updated rules, Micheál may as well have been reading out the lyrics to Jumbo Breakfast Roll on Friday evening. Nightclubs shut - check. Theatres and sporting events back to 50% capacity - check. Two eggs, two rasher, two sausage, two bacon, two puddins, one black and white - check check check.

Such indisciplined leaking has not been seen since the Electric Picnic was last sanctioned. Something had to give. And so, after a reportedly terse meeting between public health officials and cabinet ministers, a gagging order was put on the doctors and they were warned to stop their solo runs, or else.

The reasons for this are obvious. The public is dog-weary and confused and the messaging in recent times has been inconsistent, to put it very kindly. Outsourcing some of the pandemic messaging to NPHET may have seemed useful at one point but now it has come back to bite a government that is fast losing the room.

So from here on, all communication about the public health situation must go through the Government’s official press office and members of NPHET will need to ask permission to appear in the media. In essence, ‘an bhfuil cead agam dul amach go dtí an Claire Byrne Show?’

If I was the Taoiseach, I’d go even further and appoint a Minister For Bad News And Terrible Business to soak up all the political shrapnel that Fianna Fáil, in particular, has been absorbing in recent months. With Micheál being forced into doing his Mr Burns playing the Ghost of Christmas Past routine every Friday evening and Stephen Donnelly’s uneven public appearances - he’s starting to resemble an alien trying to pass off as a human in a 1980’s comedy blockbuster - you get the feeling something drastic needs to be done to wrestle the tricolour back off Sinn Féin before the next election.

There are many good potential candidates they could headhunt for the role of Minister For Bad News And Terrible Business too. An obvious choice would be to appoint a seasoned doomsday expert like George ‘Christopher’ Lee. Or Mary Coughlan who could ably deliver unpleasant tidings through the medium of the blues, perhaps. A wild card would be Conor McGregor, who has a proven ability to capture the public imagination while absorbing a few kicks to the head - although there’s a danger he’ll drag us kicking out of the EU in the process.

 

It’s time for a circuit breaker

IT’S fair to say that the rules of cricket would be easier for Irish people to understand than the current menu of nit-picky restrictions.

For the life of me, I don’t know why they just don’t close the schools earlier on December 17th and build a circuit breaker into the holiday season.

It would be far simpler to communicate and arguably a lot more effective than what’s currently on the table.

Sure, having the kids at home on Christmas week won’t suit everyone but, for most people, that week is less about work and usually more about last-minute shopping and doing the 12 Pubs Of Christmas bedecked in fairy lights.

If people had time to plan, with many of these seasonal activities off the table anyway, then hunkering down from the 17th into the New Year would seem like an eminently sensible plan to me.

Plans, and still more plans

One of the recurring themes of living in Dublin is being awed by wonderful plans and proposals to improve city life which never see the light of day.

One such plan is the proposed pedestrianisation of College Green to turn it into a proper European-style city centre thoroughfare.

In its current form, it is like a mausoleum dedicated to the Gods of bad planning and poor traffic management.

Who would have thought running the Luas and most of the city’s buses and taxis through the eye of a needle outside Trinity College could be a bad idea?

We’ll have to live with the current mess a while longer it seems because, this week, the plan for a plaza was shelved until 2024, which is a real shame. It makes calls for a city mayor with proper authority all the more urgent.

And with last week’s announcement of eye-watering projected corporation tax receipts of €13.9 billion, it seems even a global pandemic can’t derail the country’s economic fortunes, in the short term at least.

I wonder if we’ll look back on this era and wonder why we didn’t plough all this money into the capital projects the country needs when times were good?

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