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.