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