Stand strong - we are back in the eye of the Covid-19 storm
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Stand strong - we are back in the eye of the Covid-19 storm

WELL, we are in the eye of the storm now.

If last March was a shock this is the other end, the grim aftermath.

As I write these words our Covid-19 infection rates are proportionately the worst in the world.

If last March showed the strength of Ireland’s social cohesion these days are more splintered. There’s a sense of blame in the air. Not too much. But it is there.

The World Health Organisation has said our surge in numbers is due to Christmas socialising.

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Our strength became our weakness. We were too interested in each other. In society.

And people did come home. And they did see loved ones. And they did gather.

Isn’t that what human beings do? Make mistakes.

Which one of us, after all, could truthfully say we have adhered 100 per cent to the guidelines?

Who hasn’t dropped their guard? Who hasn’t bent the rules, just a little?

I don’t mean those who have been wantonly foolish, but they are a small minority anyway.

And I certainly don’t mean the far right tinged anti-mask crowd.

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They are living proof that while the internet has arguably given us more information it definitely hasn’t give us any advancements in critical thinking.

The ability to assess the value and credibility of information hasn’t developed alongside the tidal wave of ‘facts’ that are now available at the end of every fingertip.

Indeed the nature of the anti-mask movement, the underlying character that underpins it, was recently laid bare.

Now Ireland’s far right is, to our credit and to our luck, mercifully small.

But it is loud and it is active. It is especially active on social media because social media, until recently at least, seemed to allow you to say anything.

Over the summer, for instance, a social media-generated storm led to protests against the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman.

In the usual manner of these people, they began a campaign of homophobic online trolling against the openly gay Minister, citing the fact that he was pictured with the British LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell at Dublin Pride in 2018 as a concern.

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See, they deal in hate and the dealing of it is the one thing they are good at.

There are now many reports circulating online about a leading anti-mask proponents, the ex-journalist Gemma O’Doherty.

She is the person who, with another former journalist, John Waters, took the Irish State to court during the summer over Covid regulations being a breach of their rights.

The recent story that is being widely shared on social media concerns the tragic death of a young Garda, Alan Leblique.

There is widespread footage, initially posted by Gemma O’Doherty, of this Garda being confronted by O’Doherty as he seeks to enforce Covid restrictions.

O’Doherty continually reads out his badge number and exhorts her online followers to take note. The barrage of online abuse he subsequently suffered was sadly predictable.

During the exchange the Garda is described by O’Doherty as the ‘absolute scum of the earth.’

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Hate, you see and the Irish far right. It is the one thing they are good at.

Alan Leblique, to his credit remains calm and respectful but still manages, God rest him, to come up with the finest riposte to O’Doherty and her ilk. ‘You don’t speak for the Irish people,’ he says.

Covid has divided us. It has done so by its very nature.

We have had to distance ourselves from each other in order to combat it.

We have to hide behind masks. We have had to divide ourselves.

At this time it is coming at us harder than ever.

I’m not sure what the Covid deniers are making of all this.

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Now that more and more people are sick and more people continue to die. I’m not sure what they make of ambulances queuing up outside accident and emergency departments.

But we should all do all we can to avoid the loud infection of hate that is Ireland’s far right.

We should make sure that those people don’t speak for us.

That their spite and distaste for their fellow citizens, their ‘absolute scum of the earth’, does not become part of our vocabulary and thinking.

Sure, some people let their guard down, let their masks off maybe, let themselves and us down.

They were just like us, though, they were just making misjudgements or miscalculations.

It has left us in the storm now. Right, bang, in the middle of it.

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But we’ll come through.