Testing times ahead as we adjust to the ‘new normal’

“Hopefully on St. Patrick’s Day in 2021 we can raise a glass and look back and banish the memories of this very difficult situation and be proud to say that we all played our part”

I am writing this on a St. Patrick’s Day the likes of which we have never seen before and hopefully will never see again. The many traits that have made us uniquely Irish over the generations will be severely tested in the coming weeks and months.

We are known as a very friendly people with a great sense of humour. We are warm, kind and generous and, for the most part, we are understanding and calm. But every single one of those characteristics have been shattered in the past two weeks as this deadly virus takes a hold of our country and the world. It will take some effort for our people to get used to the new ‘normal’.

No warm embraces, no shaking hands, no going to funerals or weddings, no going for a drink, no football or hurling matches to argue over, no Premier League soccer or rugby on TV. No club meetings or training, no music, no dancing and no fun. It’s as if the Almighty has asked us all to push the reset button because it seems that nothing will ever be the same again.

But while people are desperately worried and anxious at the moment, maybe something really positive will come out of all this mayhem. Maybe we will look after each other more and place much more value on our health and look after ourselves better. At the end of the day it is family and health that matters, everything else is irrelevant. Cars and holidays and nice clothes and money in the bank are of no significance as this disease sweeps through all communities, whether rich or poor.

Our generosity of spirit as a people is being severely tested, but I am confident that we will rise to the challenge. We must do what the health professionals are asking us to do. We must look after our families and the most vulnerable and follow the guidelines. We have got to do everything we can to support health workers as they battle with this deadly virus. Over recent days, as this crisis has deepened, there have been incredible stories of how generous people have been. I haven’t been surprised to hear them.

I know that people are scared and that some have resorted to panic buying in shops over the past week. But once more people realise that the shop shelves will be re-stocked almost immediately, that trend will hopefully settle down.

The people we need most in our thoughts at this time are the elderly and those people who are ill, those who are scared about the arrival of this disease. Who would ever have thought that churches in Ireland would be closed and that there would be no Masses? It’s even tougher for the families who lose loved ones as it’s a sad reality that funerals are currently family-only. It’s also a reality that people hospitalised by this virus won’t be allowed any visitors while they are being treated. Tough times surely.

It’s an unprecedented situation for our nation, but I am a big believer in the generosity of spirit that is within most Irish people. If we do what we are being told by the authorities we will come out of this at the other end. We might be a bit battered, but we will be much stronger and we can all face the future together when this virus is at bay.

I am glad that the Government is taking decisive steps to fight the spread of this disease. We must do what they say as they are been guided by the health experts. Hopefully if we all act responsibly we will come out of it. It may take a few months, but when we look back as a people we can be proud that we acted in the best interests of everyone. Hopefully on St. Patrick’s Day in 2021 we can raise a glass and look back and banish the memories of this very difficult situation and be proud to say that we all played our part.

Leadership from Leo

In these unprecedented times what people need is leadership and Leo Varadkar provided that when he addressed the nation on St. Patrick’s Night. The Taoiseach was honest, but he was also empathetic and understanding. I would have been a big critic of Leo and of Simon Harris in the past, but they, alongside Simon Coveney, have been very impressive over the past few weeks as they have put the people of the country first. It’s a pity that it took a crisis for them to show what is possible, but we can all be very thankful that they have come up trumps. Credit where it is due.