WITH this being a second Covid Christmas there’s no denying that these are now the Covid years.
We live now in Covid Ireland. There’s no getting away from that until this virus abates and we can live like we used to.
That day will come. I’m sure of that, at least.
In the meantime, if we assess these Covid years, Ireland’s response tells us a lot about ourselves.
As a whole we overwhelmingly went along honestly with the Covid restrictions, and we overwhelmingly went and got ourselves vaccinated.
We are up there with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
Now, of course, there have been those who have complained about this, complained as one nurse put it, for having to queue to get a life saving vaccination for free, but whilst they’ve been loud they’ve been in the minority.
True too is that there have been Covid deniers and anti-vaxxers with a combination of fascism, conspiracy and exalted ideas about the purity of their own bodies.
But loud as they have been, amplified by the peculiarities of social media, they’ve been a minority too.
An intensely annoying and tiresome one, one even threatening to social health, but essentially the voice of the spoilt, the foolish and the nasty few.
Has our government made mistakes? Yes, indeed they have, and I suspect they will again before this is over.
But this is one of those rare cases where a lot of government action is irrespective of ideology and personal political beliefs.
This has been beyond all of that.
In many ways the government have been damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
There is a cohort in society that will complain about government actions because complaining is what they do.
They seem to have confused critical thinking with being critical.
I wouldn’t vote for Mícheál Martin or Leo Varadkar in a blue fit, but I think government actions taken on the back of public health advice, in the context of a global pandemic, aren’t really about my voting intentions.
Much like deciding not to drink and drive. It doesn’t really say anything about my political beliefs.
But our big uptake of the vaccine, something like 86 per cent of the population, and our general adherence to Covid restrictions speaks of Irish society’s coherence.
It tells us that Irish society functions well. We are connected to each other.
We feel committed to each other. We feel a social responsibility.
We feel a duty to our fellow citizens.
Sure, we bitch about each other and begrudgery pops up from time to time. But Covid tells us we are essentially good to each other. We wish each other well.
I’m not sure why that is. Is it simply because our society is quite small?
Ireland, you know, is an intimate place. There’s always someone who knows someone who knows, at the very least, one of your cousins.
So even government decisions don’t seem that far away. They don’t seem that removed.
Our TDs sit in the Dail but their kids go to school with ours.
Someone knows someone who knows them.
Also, we are a relatively new State. We are still connected to the very fact that we exist independently. That we have our own democracy.
Our society is important to us because we are connected to it.
Growing up in the UK and spending my life there until into my thirties I didn’t in any way feel the connection to the wider society there that I do here.
Irish society works. Covid has taught us that at least.
There aren’t any positives to be taken from Covid.
It has killed and destroyed. But we can at least take comfort in how we’ve responded.
We can be pleased and reassured in our society as a truly functioning thing.
Not in any self-satisfied, aren’t we great, kind of way.
None of that greatest little country in the world nonsense.
But at a time when the consolations are hard to find we have at least that.
With a Christmas again shaped by the global pandemic we can look at the lights, listen to the children, see the loved ones we can, and think of Ireland, the country, the society, well, if nothing else, it works.
Happy Christmas everyone. Nollaig Shona Duit. Keep keeping on.