WE had another little visit from our old friend Covid-19 to our house last week. It was a fairly brief cameo, with everyone getting through it quickly and being spared the worst.
I was struck by how casual we were when the positive tests came in. I realise we are blessed not to have underlying conditions, in which case it would be a very different story.
But it was markedly different to only a year ago when a positive test was still a very uncomfortable prospect and many of us were only on the cusp of our first vaccination.
I’ve travelled a lot with work in recent weeks and I have been through the airport a fair bit, and it’s fair to say that mask-wearing has been at a minimum. People have moved on – whether the virus has or not.
How times have changed. This time last year, I remember starting many of my weekly columns covering what Michéal Martin had been regaling us from the plinth with, the previous Friday evening. Solemn addresses to the nation asking us to hold firm, wash our hands and stay at home, to be patient – better days were only around the corner, he would say.
What strange heightened times they were. It all feels a bit like a fever dream now, doesn’t it? Did we all really spend all those many months apart? Did we really sit outside nursing home windows waving in at our loved ones?
Remember when we all became armchair epidemiologists – every episode of Prime Time a deep dive into the intricacies of virology? The nation poring over images of spike proteins and getting into the weeds of the mechanics of mRNA.
I remember distinctly sitting on my patio in Dublin in early 2021 pining for the freedom to be able to just up sticks and head for West Cork whenever we felt like it. Or perhaps head out for an early bird meal with the family. Or even a trip to a swimming pool.
And now all of those things are possible again, and our old anxieties have been replaced by new ones. The terror in Ukraine. The eye-watering price hikes in just about every area of life. The flippin’ state of the airports.
Isn’t it a sight? We already take much of the freedom we craved then for granted. It’s almost like we need to be collectively put back into the feeling of lockdown again for a few minutes every day, to give us perspective on how lucky we are to be where we are.
Don’t tempt fate, says you. Who knows what the winter will bring.
But still … There is so so much to be thankful for and I’ve been really trying in these past weeks to smell the roses and be grateful for all the things we can enjoy now, simple things that were out of the question only a short time ago.
It’s all about the money
I REMEMBER distinctly being around seven years old and playing a game in the yard in Clonakilty primary school. I was having an argument with my friend over which one of us had a higher status. I had crowned myself the Emperor of Clonakilty and the Solar System, but he was claiming to be King of the Earth, the Universe and Tawnies Crescent. We settled on some sort of job-sharing solution in the end, I think.
It’s a lot like that for the coalition partners these days. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael leaders have some personnel challenges ahead in the coming months.
With Mr Varadkar getting to take another spin in the Taoiseach’s car come December, there is a bit of a sticking point over the finance portfolio. You see Michael McGrath is due to get a go at being Finance Minister with Paschal Donohoe set to move sideways, if not downwards, to Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform.
The sticking point is that Paschal is President of the Eurogroup and is widely expected to be successful in seeking another term there. This is seen as politically and strategically important at a time when big decisions are being made at European level that will obviously play out in Ireland. Donohoe’s lobbying was key to keeping the corporation tax capped at 15%, it is believed. And normally the President of the Eurogroup is a finance minister, even though there is limited precedent for exceptions to the rule. So Michael and Paschal are going to have to be sat down and a deal will have to be worked out. How the conversation goes is anybody’s guess and not for public consumption. We’ll just have to wait for white smoke to emerge at the end of it, I suppose. The patriarchy works in mysterious ways.
House about that, then?
IN other news, I see that Cork GAA has applied for planning for 300 houses on land it owns in Cork city.
Bereft of ideas on the football pitch, is this really the only way of stopping the Kerry forwards? Build a load of houses in front of the goals? It’s worth a try, I suppose.