September 21, 2023
News Opinion

MICHAEL WOLSEY: Thanks, folks, for looking after us

Last week, when the country took its first steps towards lockdown, I was glad the message came from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, not Taoiseach Micheál Martin or Taoiseach Mary Lou McDonald.

I do not mean to disparage these leaders; I am sure they would have handled the task well.  But a new government and a new taoiseach need time to work themselves into the job and I found it reassuring to know that the country was in experienced hands.

We should be in no rush to change those hands. Government formation can wait – the country has more pressing matters on its mind and, anyway, who would really want to take over the job of taoiseach just now?

Throughout the past week, Mr Varadkar has performed the difficult task of  conveying urgency without spreading panic. His televised address struck the right note and I thought he was particularly impressive in Washington, diplomatically chiding President Trump, who could spot the mote in the eye of others while ignoring the beam in his own.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has  been impressive too; calm and clear,  he inspires confidence.

The Opposition leaders have also played their parts. From Mr Martin, this was no surprise. He helped keep the country steady throughout the difficult Brexit negotiations and was unlikely to let us down now.

Ms McDonald is, by nature, a more confrontational politician and she can have little love for Varadkar and Martin who intend to exclude her from the government they will eventually form. Yet she has resisted the temptation to score points and, through her low-key approach,  has done her bit for Team Ireland.

As events unfolded,  I thought – not for the first time, of late – that we are fortunate in our politicians, particularly when compared to those leading our neighbours in Britain and our friends in America.

Here, the worst performance came from the Greens who wanted all parties to divert from the task at hand and form an emergency, national government.  It was a daft idea that rightly got short shrift but I think it came from inexperience rather than any selfish motive on the part of Eamon Ryan and his team.

Kicking our politicians is a sport we all enjoy. We rarely say thanks to them and that’s OK. It’s how it goes in a democracy. But just this once it is well to acknowledge that, almost without exception, they have served us well.

There are others who also deserve thanks. Health workers, obviously: the doctors and nurses, medics and ambulance crews.

And there are many people in less glamorous roles whose mundane jobs have suddenly become risky. The post staff and the people who keep public transport running; those who operate vital public utilities, such as water and electricity.

And the people who keep the food supplies coming: the farmers, the deliverers, the workers restocking shelves emptied by panic buyers. And the checkout operators who have to make contact with the public, like it or not.

It’s a dull old job and it’s not well paid but who would have thought it could be dangerous? Now it is.

Thanks, folks,  for looking after us.


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