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”

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