IRELAND will have a “different but special Christmas”.
Those were the words uttered by Taoiseach Micheál Martin last week as he announced an end to the level 5 lockdown.
The relief that greeted his loosening of Covid-19 restrictions — in particular the joy at the news retail shops would be re-opening — was understandable.
However, the more I peruse this ‘Level 3 plus extras’ stage and analyse what can be done and can’t be done, the more I start to wonder at the fairness of it all.
Different but special, Micheál said.
But I would contend that this will be a special Christmas no different to any other for folk who go to the gym. And it will be a special Christmas no different to any other for those whose idea of a good night out is to have a meal in a restaurant.
People like politicians, to give one example. Or well-heeled city folk, to give another.
However, it will be a very different Christmas, and not special at all, for folk who enjoy a variety of sports and activities away from the gym which remain on the banned list, and for people who like a pint in the pub that doesn’t come with a ciabatta attached.
The more I look at this ‘new normal’ which began yesterday, the more I see it as grossly unfair.
What’s especially hard to take is the fact we are highly likely to go in one direction from Level 3 Plus; back up to four or even five in the New Year.
So, here is what the Government is effectively saying: We have a small window of opportunity and we will open gyms, shops and restaurants, but Covid numbers will inevitably go up, and we will have to lock down again.
Yet, they are also saying: if we open pubs, Covid numbers will go up — so better not open them at all!
Where is the logic, and indeed the fairness, in that?
The decision to keep pubs shut is baffling and both NPHET’s and the Government’s attitude to landlords and their customers appears to me to smack of arrogant, lofty superiority.
Like, all those people meeting up for a meal and wine would be far too nice and well-behaved to spread the virus, but once Paddy and Mick get together at their local for an equally socially distanced jar, they will become a veritable petri dish of germs.
During the week, it was even speculated by a Government insider that pubs will remain closed until October, when a vaccine finally begins to produce the herd effect necessary to negate Covid.
This is nonsense in the extreme. No wonder pub owners are up in arms.
I find it shocking that both landlords whose businesses are sinking fast, and the type of person who likes a pint in them, can be treated with such contempt.
They make up a large sector of our population, have sacrificed as much as all of us, and deserve a break too. By all means, send gardaí into pubs to police the rules, close any down that break them, and put a time limit even as low as 90 minutes to two hours on pub patrons too. But for heaven’s sake, give them a chance.
Let me say here, I am not a pub regular myself, but I believe it is right to speak up for those who are, and for whom Christmas would be a little more... yes, special, if they could have the pint in the coming weeks after a rotten year.
The lack of trust in landlords in their ability to police Covid regulations is staggering, and there is also a word for it: Snobbery.
What type of person goes to the gym and eats out in restaurants? Politicians, the middle class, urban dwellers? OK, it’s a generalisation, but accurate enough.
It’s a snobbery that appears to extend to the decision to open gyms but not allow outdoor sports matches or dance or ballet classes, which are equally as important to mental and physical health — and many of which take place outdoors.
My local dance group, Aideen Johnson School of Dance in Macroom, is seeking the views of the parents of her children on the situation. Aideen said: “I do not believe we are being treated fairly in our industry and strongly believe we have taken every precaution to make sure our dance school is a safe environment.”
Then again, fairness seems to be in short supply at present.