Seamus Duke Media

Seamus Duke Media Roscommon

DARKNESS INTO LIGHT FUNDRAISER

The focus on mental health was never as important.

This weekend the annual ‘Darkness Into Light’ fund-raiser will take place. Every year it assists Pieta House in the vital work they do to assist people who are in suicidal distress and who engage in self-harm. But after what society has experienced with the pandemic over the past 14 months the whole area of mental health has now assumed a much higher level of importance.
Speaking to many people over the past few months like postmen and women, GP’s, sports team managers, priests, public representatives and other community leaders, we now have a massive problem on our hands that will only be revealed fully as our society returns to normal.
The amount of isolation and loneliness was a problem in our society before covid but now it’s on a whole new level.
There are hundreds of thousands of people, many of them elderly, who are living on their own and many of them have had little or no inter action with any other human beings for over 12 months. Even if these people were willing to return to some kind of social inter-action in the next few months they will find it very difficult to do so.
In addition have the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs and their businesses. Some of those jobs and businesses will probably be gone forever. People have mortgages, bills to pay and children to educate. Despite the good news about the vaccination roll-out the future is very bleak for many people.
A job gives a person self-worth and status regardless of what it is. Unemployment is a scourge, and people who have too music time on their hands are prime candidates to suffer mental health problems.
Our young people have been seriously affected too. Third level students have been stuck at home with no social inter-action, no part time jobs, and no fun. Life should not be like this for them.
There are so many aspects to the triggers for mental health problems. Losing loved ones and not being able to grieve properly, no family celebrations like weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, holidays, shopping trips, sporting events, dances, night clubs, theatres and cinemas. The list goes on and on.
There are three cohorts of people in our society who have been affected in vastly different ways by what has happened over the past 14 months. One section of society has prospered, people who have kept their jobs and who have saved lots of money because they have not been able to spend it. There are businesses who have prospered too and good luck to them all.
There is another section who have not been affected one way or the other by the pandemic. Their lives are much the same as before.
But then there is a huge number of people who have been devastated by covid 19 and one of the by-products of it all will be a massive upsurge in mental health problems and that will include isolation, strange behaviour, self-harm and suicide.

The Darkness Into Light fund-raiser was never more important.

Support it if you can.

Snooker Classic

FANS RETURN MAKES CRUCIBLE FINAL A TREAT

Another week of lockdown but it has to be admitted there is certainly light beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel. On Monday night last, as the biting cold wind and torrential rain raged outside (a great night for outdoor dining and drinking!) I sat beside the fire and watched the final of the World Snooker Championship unfold at the Crucible Theatre.
It was a magnificent spectacle in so many ways.
Mark Selby was the deserved winner against Shaun Murphy who actually lives in Dublin but it was a tremendous match with Murphy refusing to lie down until the very end.
The players were interviewed after the final frame was played and both men came across as really nice people, humble and down to earth which was a welcome change from listening to some of the sporting superstars who are as far from the real world as it is possible to be.
It was the first sporting event played before a capacity crowd anywhere in these islands for 14 months and it made for a magnificent occasion as the supporters of each player roared their favourites on.
It proves that sport at any level thrives on the enthusiasm and passion of those who follow that sport. The quicker we can have the crowds back at GAA, Soccer and Rugby matches the better not just for those sporting organisations but for the players themselves.
It was said more than once on the BBC last night-‘Sport is nothing without the fans’

Observations A Current Affairs Blog

Starting in May 2021 I will be writing a number of observations- News, Current Affairs and Sport.

Feel free to comment any time or contact me

3rd May 2021

CEHERNOBYL- A MUST SEE TV SERIES

Prior to March 2020 I would not have watched much TV apart from News and Sports programmes. When you are working it’s a totally different scenario. However on the 13th March 2020 the rug was pulled in terms of employment and time on my hands became far more plentiful.
In addition to watching sports and news programmes and doing all the other things that I tried to do to keep sane in the covid chaos I started to watch more TV. Indeed a lot of what was on was rubbish but in the company of my wife I watched the entire series of ‘The Crown’. It may not be for everyone but it was well written and well made and we enjoyed looking at many of the historical events that have happened in our lifetime.
But last week while flicking through the channels I came across a programme simply entitled ‘Cherbobyl’. I had read in some newspaper that it was 35 years since the disaster there and I decided to watch to see what it was like.

It turns out that the programme was a five part series about the events in 1986. Each programme was about an hour and a half and it was a truly stunning production based on the actual events that happened at the nuclear power plant. It was as fine a programme as I have ever seen on TV and I was glued to it every night it was on.
The short cuts in terms of safety taken by the authorities were to blame for the accident. But the cover ups, the denials, the corruption, and the delay in dealing with the disaster was such an eye-opener. Needless to say it was the ordinary people, workers, local people, poor farmers and the elderly who suffered in the most terrible way. It is always the ordinary people who suffer when something like this happens.
At the end of the day it took the suicide of scientist Valery Legasov to highlight what actually happened. When he passed away his accounts of what happened reached the wider community. Those accounts were suppressed and hidden while he was alive.
It shows what can happen if the state has too much control of people’s lives. It could have happened in any country but in this case it happened in Russia. It was very clear that it was the state that mattered most and the welfare of it’s people was well down the priority list. The amount of suffering experienced by the ordinary people especially in the close vicinity to the power plant was truly shocking. As we know the effects of what happened in Chernobyl are being felt today 35 years later.
On reading about the programme afterwards I learned that it had received no less than 19 Emmy award nominations and it has won many awards around the World which is certainly no surprise.
I hope that maybe RTE could show the series at some point in the future. It deserves a big audience. Watch it if you get a chance.

Coronavirus- A Year On

This week twelve months ago the first positive tests for the new coronavirus disease, covid-19, that we had all heard so much about, were confirmed in Ireland. Then on March 12th speaking from Washington, acting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar explained to the nation that our lives would never be the same again. He didn’t know what was ahead. None of us did.

Twelve months ago I hadn’t a clue what anxiety was. As far as I was concerned it was something that was discussed on radio and TV shows by fuddy-duddy health professionals and as someone who would never be affected I never paid much heed to be honest.
I know what it is now.

One thing the last twelve months has thought me is that anxiety and depression are real problems and there is no doubt that the amount of people that it affects has grown out of all proportion since the advent of this pandemic.
The many who have lost their jobs and have seen their businesses devastated have been sitting at home. They have had far too much time on their hands. Time to think. Things that would never have kept you awake at night in the past now seem far more important. It’s a horrible feeling.

I have met scores of people over the past twelve months who feel abandoned and are totally distraught since the arrival of covid. Some of them went to mass every day or a few times a week and that was their social outing. Alternatively they went to bingo or to a dance or drama or night class, or they went to the pub for a couple of drinks. They went to matches on a Sunday. They had friends and family calling to them and they met people out shopping and socially. Now, they are sitting at home scared to even answer the door as they listen to the daily diet of misery and bad news that pours out of the media. It’s the hidden cost of this pandemic.

I shudder to think of what the fall out will be for the economy when this is all over. The 40 billion Euro it is costing will have to be paid back at some stage. The Government have actually done well in the circumstances in terms of supports. But there is not a bottomless pit of money there, and the big question is how many businesses will collapse altogether when the supports are withdrawn, as they will be?

For some people who have been lucky enough to hold on to their jobs and others whose businesses have stayed open, this pandemic has been nothing more than a mild inconvenience. In fact for some it has been a financial bonanza. With nowhere to go and nothing to spend their money on, savings have gone through the roof and good luck to those people too. They are the lucky ones.

Twelve months on and now we have household names that were unknown a year ago, Tony Holohan, Paul Reid, Sam McConkey, Cillian De Gascuin, Kingston Mills, Luke O’Neill and Catherine Motherway are on the national media day and night and are now celebrities. They have been entrusted in guiding the Government and the people through this health emergency. They have done a good job in tough circumstances but they are rarely asked hard questions about their strategy. As I write this piece Ireland has had the longest level five lockdown in Europe by some distance.

If someone like me questions their sytrategy we are totally dismissed because we are not medical or health experts. It’s very frustrating when you have genuine questions to ask. These people are public servants after all.
My idea of the real heroes in all the chaos are the nurses, doctors and health workers in our hospitals and particularly in our ICU units who have had to face the consequences of this horrible disease since last March. I sincerely hope that they have some respite soon.

I am not for one minute underestimating the severity of covid-19 or it’s danger. There are three members of my family working on the front line in the health sector so I understand what they are going through. The restrictions have definitely been needed, and like most people I have followed them to the letter of the law, but like many I am getting fed up.

For most ordinary people it has been a nightmare 12 months. Friends, neighbours and loved ones have passed away and we have not been able to attend the funerals and give the families the support they so badly need.

Young couples have had to postpone their weddings two or three times, there are no birthday parties, no graduation ceremonies, no night clubs, no concerts, no socialising, no dates, no holidays, no summer jobs and no sport. My heart goes out to young single people from the ages of 15 upwards have been the cohort hardest hit by this situation.

Parents who have had young children at home for most of the past twelve months have also had a very tough time. Parents and children alike need the schools to re-open.

People with family members who live abroad have had to abandon any chance of seeing them last year and probably this year too. I am in that category myself. It is very difficult.

As the situation continues a major problem is that people in authority, whether it’s NEPHET or the politicians, should be far more careful about what they say. Last week one of these eminent doctors said that we would have restrictions for 3 to 5 years. A prominent politician said that 2021 would be a ‘write off’. I wonder do these people realise that there are so many in the community who hang on every word they hear on the national airwaves about this virus. They are adding to the tsunami of mental health problems and depression by their pronouncements. They have a responsibility to temper their language. They have to give the people hope.

In recent months Government politicians seem to be in a race to be the first to get to the media with the latest news whether it be bad or good. One day we hear one story from Micheal Martin, the next it’s a totally different story from Leo Varadkar. Playing politics at a time like this is unforgivable.

The ongoing 5k limit is daft and with the weather improving the idea that 30 Leaving Certs can be in a school hall together but people cannot go out and play nine holes of Golf makes no sense at all. Surely it would be better to have children out doing a bit of sports training in the fresh air than them sitting at home on the play station. From next week children in Northern Ireland can go out and train but in this part of the country the gates remain closed. Try and figure than one out.

I read something this morning that has resonated:
“We are all NOT in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts. Some have boats. Some are drowning.”
We have all to remember that.

But I wanted to end this piece on a positive note. Personally since March 14th last year I realised that I would have plenty of time on my hands so I began walking every day. I was not taking nearly enough exercise. Since then I have missed only one day on the road and now I walk for an hour every day. As a result I lost a substantial amount of weight and that has to be a good thing. From the numbers of people I see out walking I think I am not on my own.

Sport has helped to keep me sane in the time since this pandemic started. I actually got a couple of months work while the club GAA championships were on last year and it was brilliant to be able to go to the games. Hopefully we will be able to get back to that very soon.

Working on a voluntary basis on the local community radio has also been a very positive way to use up my time and I have enjoyed that immensely.

Watching Soccer, Rugby, Horse Racing and Golf on TV with no crowds is not the same but it’s better than nothing. Hopefully the GAA scene will be back soon too. Boris Johnson says that in May there will be 10,000 people allowed at sporting events in the UK. We are a long way away from that here, but hope springs eternal.

The response to this emergency in many communities particularly in rural Ireland has been phenomenal. There is a deep tooted goodness in Irish people which always comes to the fore in times of crisis. Let’s hope that situation remains until we are out of this horrible situation. People’s patience is wearing thin but hopefully the end line is in sight.

The past twelve months have served to underline to us what is really important in life, family, our health, community, friendship, leadership and empathy. Hopefully when this is all over it will make for a better society.

Our biggest hope now is the vaccine roll out. We seem to be moving at a snails’ pace here in Ireland so far. But we can only hope and pray that things improve as the months go on. The speed of the vaccine roll out will save lives and livlehoods.
We have to all set our minds to the scenario and resolve that there are brighter days ahead.

I want to go back to work. I want to go back to a GAA match and I want to go for a pint and a chat.

We all want our lives back.

(From The Roscommon People 4th March 2021)

COVID- 25th January 2021- The Latest

It’s almost 11 months since the covid 19 virus came to dominate the world, and our lives and there is not much sign of respite. In fact since 2021 started things have got much worse.

First of all and most important of all, the people who have got very ill and remain so, and the families who have lost loved ones have paid the ultimate price in this pandemic. Our hearts go out to them.

The people in our health service who are trying to look after the ill and very ill in our hospitals and care homes are under the most incredible pressure. They are tired and burnt out from the relentless number of very sick people that they have had to deal with every day over the past couple of months. I can only imagine the strain that they are under and my prayers are with them every day.

Hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Level 5 restrictions seem to be working, if slowly, and hopefully that will result in reduced numbers and deaths.

The vaccination roll out is a worry. It would appear that there is going to be a problem with supply and I have to say my confidence in the HSE to implement a successful roll out programme is not great given the failures that they have presided over in the past two decades.

It is certainly true that the failure of people to adhere to the guidelines has cost livelehoods and lives, but it is also true to say that any failure or delay in the vaccination programme will also cost livelehoods and lives. It’s that important.

I have a certain sympathy for the politicians. Before I say anything about this I have no political affiliations at all to any party. There is no doubt that the decision to ease restrictions before Christmas was a mistake, but the politicians were in a complete no win situation. Two weeks before Christmas a national newspaper ran a poll in which 68% of those questioned said they favoured an easing of restrictions. Three weeks later the same paper did a poll which found that 68% of those questioned wanted tougher restrictions!
The advent of the more infectious strains of the disease that have come from the UK and South Africa have also led to the massive increases in cases, illness and deaths. So in many ways we have the ‘perfect storm’ with regard to this virus. It’s not all the fault of the politicians. The failure of personal responsibility has also been a huge factor.

I totally agree that we need the level five restrictions at the moment as we have to bring the numbers down. But those who comment on this situation in the national media need to realise the responsibility that they have and what they are saying.

There are many people who are hanging on every word that is said about this virus in the national media. The situation is very serious for certain but there is an onus on people not to make it worse than it is. In the past two weeks I have heard one qualified medical person say that no one should go outside their homes AT ALL. Another so called expert said over the weekend that it will be two years before the restrictions will be lifted. One of the celebrity doctors who never leaves the national airwaves, Sam McConkey, predicted at the start of this crisis that we would have between 80,000 and 120,000 deaths from the virus.

There are so many people whose mental health has been affected by the restrictions, isolation, unemployment and loss of their businesses, never mind the loss of loved ones. The last thing they need to hear are these ‘experts’ with their ‘worst case scenarios’. The news is bad enough as it it. There is no need for people to be making it worse.

I want to get back to work. I want things to return to normal but for the moment we must follow the guidelines. It is our only hope until we are vaccinated.

Stay Safe People

COVID 19 – THE LATEST- RTE TOO

WEDNESDAY 6TH JANUARY 2021

As we know since Christmas the problem with covid-19 has spiralled out of control. The numbers are now worse than anyone in NEPHET projected and we are in danger of our health service being overwhelmed altogether. Despite a lot of the rubbish that we are seeing on Twitter and other social media the blame lies squarely with the people themselves because it is clear that there are many who have totally ignored the guidelines.

Anyone who reads my posts regularly will know that I have a serious problem with the way this pandemic has been handled by the authorities and indeed the national media, but the blatant disregard that many people have shown for the rules to prevent the spread of this virus is to blame for the situation we are in at the moment. It is very frustrating for the rest of us who have been trying hard to comply with the regulations.

I am aware of scores of shebeens that have been set up in recent months which are doing a roaring trade and I know of stories of people being in packed public houses right up to Christmas Eve. Not alone that, but there have been many birthday parties, get-togethers, and piss-ups in various houses throughout the country over Christmas too. All you have to do is look at Facebook to see what has been going on.

There is no one who enjoys a few pints and the craic more than I do and some of my work, is related to the pubs being open, has been lost. But we are now paying the price for people ignoring the pleas of the authorities. It will be April at the earliest before we will get out of this chronic situation. I don’t know about the rest of the population but I want things to return to normal as soon as possible.

Blaming the politicians is also a total waste of time. They are in a complete no win situation. On one side we had NEPHET who want the entire economy closed down while on the other side every lobby group in the country were dragging out of them to leave things open. No matter what they did they were going to be wrong. By the way I do not support any political party nor hold a torch for any politician. The politicians were trusting the people to do the right thing and in a lot of cases they were let down.

Now the hospitals and the frontline staff will be under severe pressure as a result of the massive rise in cases. I just hope that we can all survive without catching the virus and even worse ending up in hospital. It’s a desperate situation at the moment.

The big hope for us all are the vaccines. However I would be very fearful about the roll-out of that programme given that it is being run by the HSE. Their record in administering national programmes is not good over the years but let’s not be too critical before this programme gets a chance to get going. So far it looks painfully slow.

Remember if the people who are not following the guidelines are costing people their health and their lives (which they are), the slow roll out of the vaccination programme will also cost people their health and their lives to it is imperative that we get it right.

People have got to stay at home for four or five weeks until we get a handle on this virus.

RTE ON NEW YEAR’S EVE

On a completely separate issue, the controversial sketch on the New Year’s Eve show on RTE (which I was watching) was probably the lowest of the low I have ever seen on any TV station in terms of bad taste.

I am certainly no ’Holy Joe’ and have been as critical of the Catholic Church and what they have done in Irish society over the decades, but this totally unfunny sketch went way too far.

Accusing God of sexually abusing Mary and being hauled away to serve a jail sentence? RTE are lucky that we are living in Ireland. If that sketch was shown in any other country (I’m thinking about France, the USA or even in the UK) and particularly in the Middle East heavens knows what the repercussions would have been for those responsible.

The bright spark that came up with that sketch should be shown the door and asked not to come back. There are also serious questions to be answered for the programme editors who thought that that it was good enough to be shown to the nation on New Year’s Eve.

2020 – The Year From Hell

For a lot of people the past year has been the year from hell. Little did we know when we were coming home in the car from the Connacht U-20 final in Tuam in March that in the space of a week everything would have changed.

The advent of the virus was not the fault of anyone here in this country but the way we have dealt with it will have the most serious of implications for a lot of people people for many years to some and it is not being talked about hardly at all.

Firstly is has to be said that the bottom line is that the advent of the virus has not affected a large cohort of the population at all. In fact there are people, particularly those in the public sector, and there are many others in the private sector too who have actually benefitted financially from the arrival of the pandemic. And by the way, I say good luck to them too.

These are people whose pay checks are guaranteed every month or who are working in industries which have not been affected at all. They have not been able to spend their salaries on things like holidays, restaurants and other non essentials and so many are far better off financially.

However there are hundreds of thousands of others (and I am in that category) who have been mostly out of work since. There are many businesses which have closed since March and they will not be opening again too.

I am not ignoring the severity of this disease or indeed the people who have lost loved ones as a result of it’s arrival. It is a horrible, infectious and dangerous virus but there are many consequences of this pandemic that are not being spoken about at all. All we are interested in is case numbers and lockdown details.

The amount of mental health problems rife in the community is a huge and growing problem and we have seen a spike in suicides in recent months and people withdrawing from society altogether.

Personally I am aware of many people who are living alone and who are in despair as this situation drags on. I am also aware of people who have businesses who are convinced that they will never open them again and they are at their wits end. As I write this we are expecting another Level 5 lockdown for at least two months. There will be a tsunami of mental health problems when this is over unfortunately.

The doctors and the people in the HSE have a very difficult job to do and in the past nine months there is a cohort of medics who are now household names because of their influential roles in the way we deal with this virus.

They have a major and very important role to play, but putting these people up on a pedestal and suggesting they should be named ‘people of the year’ is ridiculous. A lot of these same people have presided over some of the biggest medical disasters in the history of the state in the past decade, which is conveniently forgotten about by many. They are paid huge money for what they do and their decisions have profound implications for every member of society. Their input is vital but at the end of the day they are advisors only.

The real heroes are the frontline staff like the nurses and doctors, who are dealing with sick people every day of the week. They deserve the praise and not the celebrity doctors.

I am certainly no follower of any political party but I have a lot of sympathy for the position of the authorities at the moment. The Government has to have public health and safety as a priority but they have also to consider the economic implications of every decision they take. They are in a no-win situation whatever they do. Make no mistake when all this is over there will be an economic mess the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetime. It will take generations to sort it out.

The vaccines are the biggest hope for all ordinary members of society and I sincerely hope that we can get this roll-out right. Past experience of the HSE running very important public health initiatives is not very encouraging. But let’s not criticise before the campaign is up and running.

My heart goes out to young people in all this. People in the older age groups are well able to look after themselves and have had their fun over the years but the younger people’s lives have been ruined over the past 10 months. For that group alone I hope we can return to normal as soon as possible they have missed out on so much.

To all the people who lost loved ones this year, it has been a terrible ordeal that no one could say goodbye properly. There is a lot of pent-up grief among the population as a result of this.

Apart from family, sport and music have kept me sane this year. Out walking every day, to be able to listen to some great tunes instead of the daily diet of doom and gloom on the news programmes is a great relief. The sport was also a God-send. It was brilliant to have been involved in the streaming of the local club championship games here in the county and fair play to the GAA for running their inter-county championships at all grades too. It shortened the year for many.

To be able to watch the Soccer, Rugby, Golf, Horse Racing, and all the other sport was a tonic for me and for most of the country. Hopefully we can get to go to a few sporting events in 2021.

I for one will not be one bit sorry to see the back of 2020.

It was truly the year from hell.

Stay safe people.

Covid 19 – A Diary Part 16 to 20

A Diary – Part 17

Thursday 28th May

When I started doing this diary (about twice a week) if you told me that it would extend to 10 parts I would have been casting doubts on your judgement and sanity, but here we are at part 17,and it looks like the situation we are in could last into 2021 and beyond the way it is going.We will go to part 20 and review it after that!

The general situation is encouraging, and when you hear one of the health experts say on Morning Ireland this week that the disease has been ‘almost eliminated from the community’ it gives great hope. But anyone who thinks that we are out of the woods yet is mistaken. There is clearly a long way to go.

Nevertheless, the pace of the re-opening of our economy seems very slow. Not alone are we learning more and more about this deadly virus every day as a people, but so are the health professionals who have been making decisions on our behalf for the past three months.

Those health professionals have been doing a great job but it is becoming clearer with every passing day that we have to get the country back working and we have to learn to live with this virus. All shops should be open as long as they follow the guidelines for instance.

If Dunnes and Tesco and the other big shops are allowed to be open then smaller shops should be as well. It’s still a long time to wait until August the 10th when the final phase of the re-opening is scheduled. Pubs and restaurants are a different matter I will admit that much.

I read today where summer camps such as the GAA Cul camps will most likely be going ahead and I heartily welcome that, Young kids, who have very little chance of ever catching this virus deserve to be allowed out in the fresh air to enjoy some sort of life after the lock down as long as the camps are well run.

I have said it before but my heart also goes out to young people from the ages of 14 to 30. When we were that age we had school dances and hops, festivals, concerts, matches, dances, nightclubs, ceili’s and every manner of event where one could meet other young people to socialise and inter-act . All that is now gone. Will people ever dance with anyone else other than members of their own family again? It is a truly depressing thought if that turns out to be the case. It’s also a fact that the chances of any of those young people picking up summers jobs this year are almost nil.

I suspect that along with everyone else who has been severely affected by this situation that I have good days and not so good days. Sometimes it is hard to grapple with the enormity of what has happened over the past three months.

Some days it is so easy to get into the depths of despair as you realise that your whole world has been changed and disrupted. When you get used to getting up early in the day and going to work for all of your life it is very difficult to adjust to this new situation. I have had a number of those days but thankfully far more good ones than bad.

Music has always been a huge part of my life and now, save for playing a few tunes on the lap top, it looks like it will be a long time before we hear any kind of music in a pub or restaurant or hotel or anywhere else. Like the GAA championship it’s a huge hole in my life this year.

Our continuing saving grace is the beautiful weather. Today I take a walk for the 75th day in a row since this all started which is a big plus for me. It is also a blessing to be living in a place like Roscommon where there is plenty of space and places to walk and take exercise and breathe in the fresh air.

The Ros FM programme has been a life-saver for me. Although it is a voluntary effort, it has given me a focus and a purpose and gets me out of the house for a few hours every day during the week. Myself and Dan Dooner are thrilled that it has been a success because we have put a lot of work into it.

We still don’t have a Government and we need one badly. The health professionals’ advice is vital and so important but it needs to be balanced by pragmatic and practical advice on re-opening the economy and getting our lives back on track.

I spoke to a local senior medical professional this week (a doctor) who remarked to me that if the health professionals alone are left to formulate how we exit from this situation then the economy will be headed for the biggest recession since the famine. It was a remarkable but very honest statement from a medical professional who also says we will have to learn to live with the virus for the foreseeable future and he agreed that young people from the ages of 15 to 30 are being totally forgotten about.
It seemed like a lot of sense to me.

Stay Safe People

A Diary – Part 18

Wednesday 3rd June

Under normal circumstances the Leaving and Junior Cert exams would be starting today but there are doubts whether we will ever see them again and especially in the format that we were used to. The future of third level students and how they are going to proceed from now on is another consequence of this pandemic. But that’s for another day.

There are still cases and deaths being reported around the country but there is justifiable optimism that the measures that have been taken by the people of the country have paid off. However the evidence over the past couple of weeks of beautiful weather would suggest that there is fairly widespread flouting of the rules on social distancing.

Locally I know that in places like Portrun and Ballyleague at the weekend there were hundreds of young people who were out swimming and enjoying the sunshine. I’m sure it was the same situation all over the country too. I have a lot of sympathy for the younger generation who have been largely ignored since this situation has began but we have got to be careful as a society. The last thing we need is for any restrictions to be re-imposed.

The biggest scandal of all in this country at the moment is the apparent complete lack of urgency by our elected politicians to form a Government. We went to the polls on February the 8th and there is not even the remotest sign of a resolution with the country facing it’s biggest recession in the history of the state and with many huge decisions to be taken on several fronts. It’s a shocking disgrace that four months on there is very little movement.

The Greens need 66% of their membership to agree to go into Government and from what I can gather that has no chance of happening. We could be back to square one by the end of next week. Fianna Fail and Fine Gaels in particular should hang their heads in shame at the situation.They just don’t seem to grasp the enormity of the situation we are in at the moment.

While the politicians continue to do everything except the job that they were elected to do we have a number of Ministers like Regina Doherty, Shane Ross and others who are still in office, getting paid and making decisions despite the fact that they lost their seats in the election.

The medical people and civil servants are now running the country and I am very surprised that there is not far more of a controversy about this among the general public. No one seems to care

Monday is the 8th of June and it will see another phase of the re-opening of the economy, and while Ireland seems to be doing well generally , for people like me who are out of work and who look like there will be no going back anytime soon, the situation is dragging out and it seems like things will never return to normal. I am not a supporter of the ultra cautious approach which we are taking here.

But we have to be patient I suppose. At least sport is returning. There is top quality racing at the weekend in the UK and the Premier League will be back next week which is something. But the absence of the GAA activity is very hard to get used to. It’s only when there are no games to go to that you realise just how much a part of your life that it is.

I hope that the kids are allowed to get back out in the fresh air at GAA clubs throughout the country soon. Even if there are no games it will be good for everyone’s mental well-being.

Two other things have come up in the past week. The covid-19 pandemic has meant that almost all our health services have been geared towards treating that disease, but several other very serious conditions have been ignored as a result.

People are not going to the doctor or to hospital if they have heart problems or are worried about cancer. Screening has taken a back seat and there will be huge problems ahead as very serious conditions will be missed as a result and there will be major, and even possibly fatal implications for the health service down the line
.
The other very sad thing over the past week has been the situation in the USA. It’s a country that I love. I lived and worked there for a year and have been back to visit at least a dozen times since. It’s no co-incidence that the level of hatred and division in the USA has gone up several levels since President Donald Trump has been elected. He is the most divisive President that we have seen in our lifetime and there is a real possibility that this man could actually get re-elected later this year, despite everything that is going on.

My fear would be that while the situation there now is very dangerous, it is going to get worse as the election campaign really gets going later in the year. I’m not a huge Joe Biden fan either and I wonder is he the man to defeat Trump.

It is truly amazing that Trump retains such a a big core support. Some one remarked on a news programme last week that Trump could shoot someone dead live on TV and not lose much of his core support which is probably true but very, very sad. You only have to look at how he has handled the virus outbreak to see just how unsuited and arrogant he is for high office never mind to be the President of the USA.

This great country is being torn apart and it is set to get worse over the next few months.

In the meantime I wish all the people who are going back to work in the next week the very best of luck. I wish I was among them but I live in hope.

Stay Safe People

A Diary – Part 19

Tuesday 9th June

All the old clichés have been rolled out since the weekend and the most used one has probably been ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. There is no doubt that the last four of five days have been the most positive period that we have had since this pandemic totally changed our lives three and a half months ago.

The Irish people (well, the vast majority of them) have done brilliantly and have followed the guidelines to the point where the authorities have decided to speed up the exit from lock down. As a result there is no doubt that there is pep in the step of everyone in the past few days that that certainly includes yours truly. It means that I might even get back to some sort of work over the next couple of months, which would be brilliant. The fingers are now crossed!

It would be fantastic to see the GAA matches back and even if it was only club action it would be a great relief to us all. However behind all the euphoria that we have seen since the weekend, we will have to recognise that not all players will be happy to return to training or playing for whatever reason and we will all have to respect that choice. But that’s for another day in 6 or 8 weeks time.

It was heartwarming to drive down the town of Roscommon on Monday and see most of the shops open again. These are small shops operated by local people and who have been closed for 12 weeks. I hope that there is big local support for those shops now to help them get back on their feet. That’s so vital if we want the rural economy to survive.

It is also so positive to see the economy in general starting slowly but I hope the readers will not mind if I sound a note of caution. Up to now the medical people and the politicians have made the decisions for us. As the country comes out of lock down, the onus will revert to individuals to observe the rules and people will have to be sensible. The last thing we want is for another lock down to be imposed if there is a fresh surge of cases.

Readers of this diary will know that I have been pleading for the restrictions to be relaxed a bit quicker but I also realise the responsibility for the health of the community lies with every single person to pay attention to the advice we are being given. We cannot afford to go back to a lock down situation for so many reasons.

Live sport is returning as the weeks go on and for a sports fanatic like me that is great news. The Premier League, the Championship, The Spanish League and the American Golf will all be on our screens from this weekend on and that will signal that the world is emerging from the grip of this virus.

When things were normal I would watch only news and sports programmes on TV and very little else. However since this situation has arose I have watched several box sets including Narcos, Narcos Mexico, The Crown (which I enjoyed) .Billions, Leeds United Take Me Home (I’m serious), Sunderland Till I die (a great series) and I am currently watching The Last Dance which is as fine a series as I have ever watched and essential viewing for any sports fan. I have also watched The Bundesliga and UK Horse Racing which I would normally not watch at all. All that plus the fact that I have not missed a day walking since the 14th March! It’s been a fundamental change of lifestyle in common with hundreds of thousands of others.

We have come a long way surely and the signs are good at the moment but it would be wise not to forget that this virus has taken a massive toll on a lot of people in our country and society that we might not be aware of.

Over the last week or so I have met many, mostly from the older generation who are still terrified of getting the virus and who have been cooped up in their homes for the past three and a half months. Make no mistake, this has been very, very tough on many people. In some cases it has broken their spirit. It is one of the things we have got to bear this in mind as we emerge from the biggest public health emergency in 100 years.

We are on the way out of this but we have to be very careful. We certainly do not want to go back to where we were. It would finish a lot of people mentally. I am hoping that the next part of this diary will be my last one. It has been a good week for sure.

Stay Safe People

A Diary – Part 20

Monday 15th June

The last diary entry highlighted the positivity of the news coming from a lot of sectors and that news has continued to roll thankfully. Today the shopping centres will re-open and for many Irish people the news that club GAA action will return at the end of July is fantastic news.

But despite our joy there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome by everyone concerned. The GAA is an amateur organisation and every single club AND every team within that club will have to appoint someone as a covid officer responsible for the application of the rules and regulations. That position will be a very onerous one carrying huge responsibilities. It will be easy enough to find such people to volunteer for the adult teams but there are big problems ahead getting people to fulfil those roles for every single team especially underage teams. The GAA will also have to pay attention to the safety of players and team officials, gate collectors, referees and umpires never mind the spectators. It will be a massive undertaking job for the association.

But it is fantastic to see live sport back on our TV screens again. There was a brilliant story in Racing at the weekend when trainer Ger Lyons and jockey Colin Keane won the Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh on Saturday. A victory for the small man which is always great to see.

The Golf returned at the weekend too and there was plenty of drama iin Texas as Daniel Berger emerged victorious after a number of twists and turns. This week the Premier League returns and the Championship is back at the weekend.
It was also fantastic to see the scenes from New Zealand at the weekend where they had a dramatic return to their Rugby season with a full-contact Super 14 match played in front of a packed stadium. It shows that normal life can resume.

It also looks as if we are going to have a Government after four months of stalling and throwing shapes. What i that government will be like for the people of rural Ireland in particular remains to be seen. But the politicians have been very slow to get their act together in the face of the biggest crisis that the country has faced since the foundation of the state. They will have many huge decisions to take to steer us out of this crisis. It’s time they got off their arses and went to work on behalf of the people who elected them.

Personally, there is still not much sign of a return to work although the fact that the GAA season is about to get underway in August gives one a glimmer of hope in that regard.

But the chances of the pub scene coming back anywhere near where it was are remote to say the least. I’m aware of people who were back in a pub situation in Canada over the weekend (they opened the pubs there last week) and the regulations were so strict that they were sorry that they didn’t stay at home because they didn’t enjoy it at all. That doesn’t bode well for what is likely to happen here.

The numbers of cases here are falling all the time and the people of the country have made huge sacrifices to get us to where we are. But we are certainly not out of the wood by a long way. The increased activity and the re-opening of the economy, welcome as it is, means that the chances of infection grow every day. The fear of a second wave remains ever-present but the country must re-open.

This day two weeks the hairdressers and barbers will be back in business (thank God!) and the hotels will re-open as well. People will be able to go to mass soon too which is also a big boost to It’s all very positive and the good weather has meant that personally I have taken more exercise since this started than I have done in the past twenty years.

But there are still a lot of people in our community who are living in fear and terrified of being infected by this deadly virus.
It has disrupted our lives in ways that we never thought possible but hopefully we can begin the long road to a return to normal life as the year continues.

I don’t know if this will be the last diary entry as the country is opening again, and even the programme that myself and Dan Dooner have been doing on Ros FM is also coming to an end on Friday week. It’s a sign that things are returning to normal.

Put it this way. If this diary does return it will be a sign that we are back in trouble again. So hopefully this is the end of it!

Thanks for reading it over the past four months.

Stay Safe People

Covid 19- A Diary Part 13 to 16

A Diary Part 13

Thursday 7th May

It’s eight weeks now and we all have to acknowledge that marvellous weather we have had. Indeed if this cursed virus had not arrived the papers and media would be full of reports on probably the best spring weather that we have had in decades. It is certainly true that the good weather has helped us all to get through this situation so far. You could imagine what the mood of the people would be like if the skies were grey and it was raining every day. For small mercies we are very grateful.

It has meant that those of us without work have had a chance to get out and exercise and that has been a God send. The voluntary work that I’m doing on Ros FM is also a chance to get out of the house for a few hours in the day and it provides me with a semblance of normality for a couple of hours each day. So it’s not all bad.

But looking ahead the signs are not good. While the Government have come with their plan to re-open the economy, it will take a long,long time before there is any return to normality. I am part of the one million people out of work at the moment and the prospects are not looking great for the rest of the year.

The chances of there being and significant sporting action this year with regard to team sport is very remote indeed. The GAA have announced that they are suspending activity until October and they should be congratulated for that. It’s a responsible attitude to take, but in the absence of a vaccine there simply cannot be any action this year at any level. The risks are simply too great. If there was any serious incident anywhere in the country wherby a player brought the virus home and it caused the death or serious illness of any of his or her family then there would be uproar.

The simple facts are that you can take all the precautions you like with regard to social distancing, but when a game starts all those rules go straight out the window. You cannot have any GAA match, football ,hurling, camogie, or ladies football without physical contact. These are amateur players. We cannot take any chances at all.

What they do with the Premier League or with Rugby is completely different. There are full time players involved in those sports and they can take measures that would not be possible in the GAA.

By the way I have skin in this game. The quicker that team sport comes back the better it would suit me. It would mean that I would have a chance of a return to work. But there is a bigger picture.

With regard to the re-opening of the pubs, it is also something that I would welcome but it has to be done when the risk is low. This week some of the publicans were agitating to re-open ahead of the plan. I have been speaking to a number of local publicans since that came to light and they have all told me that under the plan put forward it would not be viable for any of them to open their premises regardless of the risks. This is an attempt by some people who own very big pubs in Dublin and elsewhere and who serve food, to re-open. It won’t be happening in places like Roscommon before time, and rightly so too. I would love to be able to go for a couple of pints but It will be July or August before the pubs in rural areas are open again in my humble opinion.

But I see no reason why smaller shops like clothes shops, and other retail outlets are not allowed to re-open. If the supermarkets are allowed to be open then other smaller businesses should be allowed to open too as long as they can observe the rules on social distancing. We just have to get the economy going again, in safety.

Looking ahead to the rest of the years it is not looking great. We are all going to have to adjust to a new normality and a lot of it is depressing. but we have to get on with it I suppose.

Our way of life in this country has changed, and for a lot of people it will change forever which is very sad. Maybe a vaccine will change everything but that maybe a long way into the future-if it ever arrives.

Here are a list of things that many people in this country will certainly not be doing this year- and some will never be doing again:
• Go to an inter-county GAA game
• Go to race meeting
• Go to a Soccer match
• Attend a club GAA match
• Attend the All-Ireland finals
• Go to the Rose of Tralee
• Go to the Electric Picnic
• Go to a removal
• Attend a funeral
• Shake hands with anyone
• Hug or embrace anyone outside of your family
• Dance in a pub or night-club
• Collect the GAA club lotto
• Attend a public meeting
• Go on a foreign holiday
• Take a flight
• Go to a dinner dance
• Go to a party
• Attend a concert
• Attend a play or theatre
• Attend a festival
• Go to stag or hen party
• Attend a wedding
• Participate in a sing-song in a pub
• Attend a school reunion
• Have a few drinks after a round of Golf
There are hundreds more things that I cannot think of at the moment.

“Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor.” (Marianne Williamson)

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 14

Tuesday 12th May

When I started this diary I was hoping to be winding it up at this stage. This virus was serious, but we all thought that after a couple of months that it would all be over. The reality now is that it could go on for at least another six months, and even that might be an optimistic target.

I know that we all have to stay positive and we have to remember the people who have lost loved ones because of this disease but as the days roll into weeks and as the weeks roll into months I hate what this dirty, dangerous, vicious and lethal virus has done to our country and our society.

Last Saturday morning I was out for my daily walk in Roscommon Town in the warm sunshine. I was proceeding along Circular Road opposite Ward’s Hardware shop. A woman was approaching me on the footpath. I would say she was in her late 60’s early 70’s. As I got closer she lunged into a doorway, turned away and put her two hands over her face in a corner facing the door.. I thought that she may be having some sort of attack, so I slowed down. But as I passed her, she took down her hands and continued on her way.

Are we now living in a society where there are people terrified to even see another human being, let alone say hello or bid the time of day? If the answer to that question is yes then we are all in serious trouble as a result of this bloody pandemiic. I have to say I was shocked and saddened by that incident.

The situation that we are in at the moment means that Tony Holohan, Catherine Motherway, Sam McConkey, Paul Reid, Paul Moynagh and several others who we had never heard of before are the people making the decisions on how we live our lives and whether we will be allowed to work or to travel or to socialise or how we interact with each other.

I am not losing sight of the fact that we are living in a public health emergency but at some stage life must return to some sort of normal. It will be very difficult, but we will have to try to learn to live with this virus and be able to earn a living for our families and for our sanity as well.

I have said consistently that there will be no Gaelic Games action this year and the weekend speech by the GAA President John Horan all but confirmed that. Then on Monday the Club Players Association said that 22% of their members will definitely not return to action in the absence of a vaccine while another 22% are unsure. Take the bottom figure of 22% out of any small club team and they simply won’t be able to field.

No one has asked the referees how they feel about the situation either. Are they happy to officiate at games in any return to action? I think someone should consult them as well.

The absence of a GAA championship or any GAA action will mean a massive hole in my life and in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland this year.

Our society is going to pay a huge price as a result of this pandemic not only in economic terms but in terms of well-being and mental health,, employment and many other very important ways that we have yet to even realise.

The fact that people who are ill with other ailments that have nothing to do with covid-19 and who are scared to go to see their doctor or go to a hospital is a major issue and there will be a huge spike in deaths from non-virus conditions in the coming months.

While I’m at it, there are a few groups who have been totally ignoring the social distancing regulations over the past 9 weeks and it would appear that absolutely nothing is being done to call these people to order. So called ethnic groups and some non nationals can be seen in every town and village flouting the regulations yet the rest of us have to play our part and abide by the rules. It’s infuriating to be honest.

On Monday next a lot of people, including the construction sector will be returning to work and I wish them all the very best of luck. I cannot see why clothes shops and other retail outlets cannot open next week too as long as they can operate the guidelines. The more people that we can get back to work the better. We cannot lie under this virus forever.

The fact that there will be no pubs, no GAA and very little local sport means that my sabbatical from work is set to continue indefinitely, but the Rossie Way radio programme has been a very welcome distraction in the past six weeks and it has been a great success. It shows what can be achieved with a bit of publicity and hard work. Well done to Roscommon Lions Club for their initiative.

The Bundesliga returns this weekend. It’s not a league that I have ever watched before. But I’ll be watching this weekend. Those who play Golf can go out from Monday onwards too which is welcome. If the good weather continues it will be a great release for people to get back out in the fresh air.

But despite the awful situation we are in we must persevere and hope that in time this situation will pass. Some day we will shake hands again. Some day we will embrace our friends and comfort the bereaved and go to the church to pray, and celebrate weddings and birthdays and anniversaries. Some day we will be able to go for a pint with a friend for a chat. Some day we will go to matches again and cheer and shout and some day we will dance and enjoy each others’ company. We have to have that hope.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope”
BARACK OBAMA

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 15

Monday 18th May

I waited until today to do the next part of the diary as it marks the first phase of the re-opening of the country and to be honest it had to happen. Life may never return to normal again the way we knew it but people have got to get out there and try to get things back on an even keel. We will simply have to get used to living with this awful disease.It’s part of our lives now.

Despite the fact that my own work will probably be the last to return ( if ever) I am glad to see that construction workers and many others are back today and I wish them well. The more people back working the better.

If the employers take a responsible attitude there is no reason why we cannot get the economy going again. Similarly the people working in garden centres and hardware shops will be thrilled to be going back to work today and I wish them all the best of luck.

But there are other sectors of our economy still closed that makes no sense to me. If the likes of Tesco’s and Dunnes and Supervalue are allowed to be open, why can’t small clothes and other small shops be allowed to open as long as they obey the rules? They could have a bell on the door and only allow a few people in the shop at any one time.It’s better than them being closed. The longer they are closed the less likely that they will re-open when this is over.

I also cannot understand why our churches remain off limits. I am no religious fanatic but it makes no sense to me. In some European countries churches did not close at all and the majority of countries across Europe are opening their places of worship this week. Daily mass in Roscommon Town and in other churches around the country was sparsely attended before all this started and it would be very easy to operate social distancing in that instance. The bigger crowds that go on a Sunday might be more of a problem but surely the bishops could come up with a plan that works in that instance.

The cohort of people that I feel most sorry for at the moment are our young people. We have heard non-stop about the over 70’s and all the other groups affected by this terrible virus (and rightly so too) but there hasn’t been a word about the huge negative effect that this is all having on the younger set, particularly those from 16 to 30.

From the time we were 14 or 15 until we got married we had so many opportunities to meet members of the opposite sex with school discos, dances, night clubs, pubs, social clubs, concerts, festivals, matches and countless other events. Now that’s all gone and it is unlikely to be back any time soon. Young people need their friends, it’s as simple as that.

From today people can gather in groups of four outside to meet their friends and I hope that is the start of something positive for our young people. They have to live too.

I just hope that people do not abuse the easing of restrictions and that a phased return to some sort of normality can begin. To be quite honest the past 10 weeks have been a nightmare but we have to get on with it.

Last week a good friend of mine, Gerry Corcoran passed away after a brave battle against illness. Once again we had to make do with standing on the side of the road to pay our respects. It is a very hard time on families who lose loved ones. It must be incredibly lonely to have to say good bye with only a few people there to share in the grief and the memories. It’s probably the cruellest of all consequences of this pandemic. My heart goes out to all the families involved,

This week should be one of the most exciting of the whole year. If Roscommon had beaten London in the Connacht championship on the first Saturday in May it would be Roscommon v Mayo at Dr Hyde Park this Saturday evening in the Connacht semi-final.

Not only would this be one of the biggest games in Connacht for many years but there would be huge interest in it nationally as well with a big TV audience ready to tune in . Having beaten Mayo in such dramatic circumstances in 2019 the build up would be incredible as Roscommon would be putting their Connacht title on the line. I will so miss that this week.

Not alone would Hyde Park be packed but so would the town of Roscommon. It’s one of those magical days that we savour so much as GAA people and especially for us who work in the local media.

Now the only thing in Dr Hyde Park on Saturday evening will be the daisies and a summer breeze. The big question is. Will we ever see those days again? This is such a loss on so many levels

I hate this bloody virus.

“For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’……”
John Greenleaf Whittier

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 16

Saturday 23rd May

Ten weeks on and our world has been turned upside down. I’m delighted that some people are back to work and some businesses are open again but there are still large numbers of who are still out of work and for whom the future is decidedly unclear.

One major aspect of this whole situation is the mental strain that a lot of people are under as a result of what has happened. I was talking to a friend this week who is a prominent businessman and he is struggling with the enormity of what has happened to him and his family over the past 10 weeks.

I would wager that there are tens of thousands of people like him out there but we don’t’ hear anything about them. The vast majority of people I know would never commit their thoughts to Facebook or Twitter nor would they confide in anyone if they were having a problem with their mental health. It’s going to be a massive issue in our society if this crisis does come to an end at some stage.

On Friday there were suggestions that people entering Ireland should be sent to ‘holding areas’ where they would be isolated for 14 days. The only things that weren’t mentioned were barbed wire fences and guard dogs. It’s another sign that our health experts and doctors are now running the country and that the politicians have no say at all. That regulation finishes the tourism industry with one swipe of the pen.

I am not for one minute trying to diminish the brilliant work carried out by Tony Holohan and all the other people who are running the health service and we should be grateful as a country that they were there to take the decisions that they did at the start of this crisis. But the country has got to start re-opening under the restrictions established. The situation where the Government are paying out billions of Euro every month to people out of work is simply not sustainable. That money will have to be paid back and I think most people know who usually pays back these debts. It’s the ordinary Joe and Josephine soap.

With regard to the GAA the situation is very unclear. You read the likes of Colm O’Rourke in the Sunday Independent and he makes so much sense about allowing action to return But then you see a survey in Cavan of all club players which reveals that 30% would not be comfortable to return to action this year. If that’s an accurate figure then there could be no club championships this year, never mind inter-county action. Things might be different in a couple of months but for the moment a return to GAA action is off the agenda.

At least there was some sort of a return to live sport last weekend with the Bundesliga and the Golf and while neither event will go down as the sporting highlights of the year it was good to see players back in action. I know I sat down and watched the return of llve sport and I enjoyed it too.

I hope what we saw on Claire Byrne Live is not what we can expect to see when the pubs re-open. If it is, then the Irish pub will be finished. For the majority of pubs the social distancing rules will mean that very few will be viable, and even at that it is hard to know how the situation could be controlled as the night goes on. I know that I go into the pub for a chat with my friends. I don’t want to be sitting two meters away from them shouting at them to be heard. It’s a non-runner.

The situation with regard to music is even more bleak. It looks like dancing is a thing of the past which is incredibly sad. People who know me know that I absolutely love popular music. Anything from the 60’s to the current charts. Even after all the years I still get a great thrill out of playing a few tunes now and again. The prospect of that happening in the medium to long term future is very unlikely.

It’s been 10 weeks and being involved on a voluntary basis with Ros FM on the Rossie Way programme has been a life-saver for me. It means I get out of the house for a few hours every day Monday to Friday. The programme has been a great success but I suspect that it will be coming to an end soon and I cannot wait to get back to work. Any kind of work.

This evening (Saturday) if Roscommon had beaten London and Mayo had beaten Leitrim it would have been Roscommon v Mayo in Hyde Park in the Connacht semi-final, What excitement there would have been between the build up and the game itself. Will we ever see the likes of it again?

Hopefully the number of cases and deaths will continue to fall because if there is a spike at any stage and the lockdown is re-introduced it would be the last straw for a lot of people. Obey the restrictions and keep washing your hands.

It’s our only hope.

Stay Safe People

Covid 19- A Diary Part 9 To Part 12

A Diary Part 9
Saturday 18th April

It’s now five weeks on, and the indications are that the sacrifices being made by the Irish people in terms of the restrictions are beginning to pay off in terms of positive cases and lives lost which is fantastic. But if anyone thinks that we will be returning to any kind of normal in the foreseeable future, they are going to be very disappointed. This will take a long, long time to resolve.

It may be that after May 5th that the ban on over 70’s going out might be lifted and that some hardware and shops and garden centres will be allowed to open. It may also happen that some construction work will be allowed to re-start, but that will be it.

I am not a health expert of any description, but it is hard to see the schools opening again before September. The pubs will be the last businesses to be allowed to open. In fact anywhere that there is the possibility for crowds to gather in close proximity will be out for most, if not all of this year.

Chatting to several people this week I am now convinced that there cannot be any team sports this year, and that includes the GAA.

Let’s ignore the crowds for a minute. If any kind of GAA (or any amateur team sports) were to resume we would be asking 50 (2 teams) of young men and women to gather in dressing rooms togging out. They would then be expected to run hard, tackle, sweat and cough as players do in every game, and then they would have to tog in again.

But the biggest danger is that every one of those young people would have families that they have to go home to, elderly parents and grandparents, partners, girl-friends and boyfriends, brother and sisters. I would be amazed if that was allowed to happen. Rugby is in the same position and so is amateur Soccer.

The Premier League and the elite players in that sport are in a different position. They are still vulnerable but they are contracted to play when they are told to do so even if they have reservations. With so much money involved I can see the Premier League and the Champions League being completed behind closed doors and on TV in July and August.

But without a vaccine I cannot see much team sport happening this year. There is no way around it.
I can see how Golf would be allowed to resume without any spectators, maybe Tennis and Horse Racing too without any people attending. The next few months will tell.

But that’s just sport ,and we will get by without it if we have to. The situation in our nursing homes is heart breaking and very sad. The huge loss of life in our care homes is one real down side of this crisis. So many old and vulnerable people are losing their lives.

It is heart breaking that these elderly people who have worked all their lives and in most cases have raised families, are faced with ending their days alone with no family there to comfort them.

The HSE, the Government and HIQA and making frantic attempts to improve the situation in nursing homes which is welcome but I hope that it is not too late.

With so many health care workers testing positive for covid-19 it is a further reminder to us that these people are putting their health at risk every time they go into work. We will be forever in their debt.

On a personal level, the exercise is continuing thankfully and the weather is fine but it is hard to see an end to the grinding boredom of this lockdown. Our only consolation is that it’s for the greater good.

Here’s to better days ahead.

Stay Safe People.

A Diary Part 10

Wednesday 22nd April

It was tomorrow six weeks ago that Leo Varadkar made his speech from Washington and since then our lives have been turned upside down. I have tried to be as honest as possible writing this diary and have tried to accentuate the positives where they exist. There is much that is positive going on for sure, but I have to say my mood has darkened considerably this week.

On a personal note the fact that it is unlikely that there will be any local or inter-county sport this year and also the fact that the pubs will probably be the last businesses to re-open means that it is very unlikely that I will have any work to go to for the rest of this year.

A neighbour and good friend of mine and of our family over many years passed away suddenly last night and it is extremely frustrating not being able to go into the house and sympathise with his heartbroken wife and family. This is one of the worst things about this situation brought about by this cursed disease.

I read today that it will shortly become mandatory for people to wear a mask in public because talking may spread this virus. So as bad as things were up to now, we are now being told that not alone are we to avoid any contact with other people, we are told that we probably should not be talking to them either.

Before people come with the arguments about saving lives and being responsible I understand all that fully and I have complied to the letter of the law with the restrictions.

I have family members on the front line of the health service too and I understand the challenges they face every day. But there is a big difference between existing and living and what most people have been doing over the past six weeks has been existing, hoping that the day passes as quickly as possible. There are only so many times you can cut the lawn and go for a walk and watch the news.

There are no arguments to the social distancing rules, but the facts are that they are having a devastating effect on the mental health of some people who are afraid to speak out. I would ask the question, is this a price that we as a society are willing to pay or what will be the fall-out?

If, for instance, there is not any significant changes in the restrictions for the rest of the summer what type of society are we going to return to in the long term? One where people avoid each other at all costs? It’s something that we will all have to think about over the next month or two. We have all done our duty for the past six weeks but if you told people that this situation will probably last until 2021 would the reaction be any different?

It is clear that the restrictions being endured by people are having a positive effect in the general population although the ongoing situation in our nursing homes is very worrying.
The nurses, doctors and the front line workers are doing a great job under enormous pressure and they will be forever in our debt as a nation and that needs to be said as many times as possible
.
But the question I ask today is how long are people willing to exist before they have a chance to live their lives again?

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 11

Monday 27th April

First the positive stuff, and there is much that is positive. The weather has been simply glorious, and for those of us who were not great in terms of taking exercise, this situation has been a God send. Thankfully I have not missed a day in over 6 weeks. It has meant a small bit of weight loss and I am definitely in better shape now than I was 15 years ago. It also means that I can sleep at night too!

It would also appear that sport will be easing back into our lives as the weeks go on. Golf and maybe even Horse Racing could be back behind closed doors within the next month as they operate in big open outdoor areas and social distancing will be possible.

Other sports such as GAA, Rugby and Soccer will be far more tricky to organise and return. Today I read where the GAA could well agree to a programme to testing for players, backroom staff , media and anyone else who might attend a championship game behind closed doors although I think we are a long way off that scenario at the moment.

But I just want to mention the members of the Roscommon senior football team who organised the fund-raiser for the Mayo/Roscommon Hospice. They set a target of 30,000 Euro and now it look like they will get closer to 50,000 Euro. That’s a charity that is close to my heart and I have been involved for the past few years with the group. The pandemic has meant that their fund-raising has collapsed and this is a wonderful gesture from the Roscommon players led by Colm Lavin.

There are a lot of great initiatives in terms of fund-raising going on all over the country and it is hugely positive to see that even in the face of such a calamity people are prepared to think of others.

But the enormity of the implications of this horrible virus are beginning to dawn of people. Only last week on one day I learned of a threat or the cancellation of The Galway Races (150,000 people), The Ploughing Championships (250,000), The Electric Picnic (60,000), and the Rose of Tralee (100,000 ).
Those are just four big events out of the thousands of smaller ones that go on every summer in this country. Quite how the economy is going to recover from all this is hard to comprehend.

Every day I look at the death notices in the papers and on every single notice for the past 6 weeks it says ‘a mass in celebration of his/her life will be held at a later date’. At this stage by my reckoning there are well over 1,000 such situations. The uncomfortable fact is that the vast majority of those masses will never be said. The priests are not there to say them number one, and unless families agree to have fifteen or twenty names included in the same mass it won’t be happening, which is sad. The longer the restrictions go on the less likely it will be that those masses will ever be said.

The PC brigade are out in force on social media too and there are a number of people who would be delighted if the pubs in this country never opened again. There is no doubt that pubs will be one of the last sectors to re-open but for the mental health of a lot of people that day will be welcomed by the majority. In this country people in the minority frequently have the loudest voices.

It’s also very amusing to look at some of the social media coverage here on Facebook and especially on Twitter. It is amazing how many health and other experts that we have in this country. Thankfully it is not these people who are running the country.

It’s hard to believe that it is over 80 days since we all voted in a general election and still there is no Government in place in the midst of the biggest crisis of our lifetime. The politicians should be ashamed of themselves that they have not been able to elect a Government.

We are going to have to deal with the massive problems as a result of this pandemic for many years to come. I would say to them all ‘Get up off your arses and make it happen. Do the job you were elected to do and stop posturing’

While most people are doing what they have been told in terms of the restrictions the pictures of a packed Salthill prom at the weekend and increased traffic on the roads shows that some people just don’t get it and what is trying to be achieved. Stay at Home FFS!!!

In that context I am not expecting any major easing of restrictions in the next week. Hopefully the construction industry will come back and some people will get back working again. Maybe the over 70’s will be allowed out to exercise but that will be about it.

For the rest of us there won’t be much change.
We are in this for the long haul unfortunately.

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 12

Saturday the 2nd May

Another week of lockdown has passed but at least on this Saturday morning we have a plan. Whether it is realistic or not will become clear as the weeks go on, but at we have something to aim for. People want direction, and now we have some. I know that there are three third level students cooped up in our house for the past seven and a half weeks and their mood is definitely the most positive since this lock down started since yesterday evening’s speech.

There is still a lot of uncertainty and one thing is for certain. This virus will be with us for many months ahead and maybe even a year. But it is good to imagine that life might well return to normal and we need positivity.

A lot of people will be looking forward to July the 20th when hairdressers and barbers will be re-opening. Never will a nation lose so much hair as it will over the days and weeks following that deadline!

Like the rest of the nation I listened intently to what Leo Varadkar had to say on the Late Late Show on Friday night and his opinion that “An All Ireland could take place this year” is a bit previous to say the least.

As a sports fanatic I desperately want sport to re-start, and the GAA activities in particular, but if there is even the slightest threat to the safety of the players or their families then it is certainly not worth it. Club and county players will have to be consulted in conjunction with the medical advice and only when everyone is one hundred per cent happy should action resume and we have a long way to go in that regard. I would still be pessimistic about the inter-county scene returning this year.

I know the Taoiseach was trying to be positive but when it comes to sport I cannot think of two public figures who know or understand less about sport and how it works than Ryan Tubridy and Leo Varadkar.

There have been soundings that the Premier League in Soccer will be completed starting in June behind closed doors, and at neutral venues however in the past week players have begun to voice their severe reservations. It’s not a done deal yet.

But there should be good news for club golfers. It is easy to observe the social distancing rules on a golf course and it would be great to see clubs re-opening. The club houses could remain closed for another while. At least it would be something.

Other sports like Horse Racing ,Darts, Tennis and other individual pursuits can resume again I presume and that is all very positive.

But we haven’t gone from one extreme to the other in the space of a week. The number of people who have passed away in our nursing homes in particular is a frightening and very sad legacy of this horrible disease.

The hammer blow to the economy might take ten years to recover from. Many tens of thousands of people who have lost their jobs will never get them back.

Small shops, pubs, restaurants, car dealers, cafés hotels and others will find it very hard to survive and re-open at all when this situation eases. Even if the pubs were to re-open in the morning would people be wary of congregating in big crowds. ? I would say that the answer to that question is yes.

Many people have suffered a sudden and very severe blow to the system. I have been out of work for the last seven and a half weeks and it is the first time since I was 18 that I have been without a job to go to and it is very difficult to get used to it. I’m not on my own, and like many others there is no guarantee that that work will ever return.

Of course public health is by far the most important aspect of all this but there is an economic reality too. The Government have been spending huge amounts of money since this pandemic started and rightly so too. If we had 64 billion to bail out the banks in 2011 surely we can help out our people in times of crisis.

But the reality of it all is that this money will have to paid back at some stage. In the past it was the ordinary people who footed the bill and we have to be careful that doesn’t happen again.

In the meantime while all this is happening the politicians are still dithering and delaying and the formation of a new Government is as far away as ever. We have had a situation over the past seven weeks where a cabinet which includes several people who lost their seats at the election, are making some of the biggest decisions in the history of the state while those who were elected are engaging in petty squabbling and ego massaging. They should all be ashamed of themselves. We need a Government and we need one now.

In the meantime we must all deal with this virus.

It is truly amazing that in the space of a couple of months it has brought the world to its knees. It doesn’t matter how many cars you have outside the door or how much you have saved in the bank or how many letters you have after your name, this virus has stopped everyone in their tracks.
It goes to show that no one is indispensable.

Sometimes when you’re feeling important
Sometimes when you ego is in bloom
Sometimes when you take it for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room

Sometimes when you feel that you’re going
Would leave an unfillable hole
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul

Take a bucket and fill it with water
Put your hand in it up to the wrist
Pull it out, and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed

You can splash all you wish when you enter
You may stir up the water galore
But stop and you’ll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before

The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can
Be proud of yourself – but remember
There is no indispensible man

Stay Safe People

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