THESE are without doubt the strangest of strange days.
I’ve never known Ireland like this. And yet, amongst the disorientating weirdness and the rumbling fear, I can’t help feeling lucky and fortunate that we are here whilst this is happening.
Looking across the Irish Sea I find myself thinking surely now, surely the British can see how they’ve been hoodwinked.
Boris Johnson is incompetent in a way that is astonishing even to those of us who thought he was a mere showman charlatan.
The Irish government, by contrast, have been measured, controlled and capable.
They have brought us along with them. I am, politically, utterly opposed to Fine Gael and to Varadkar, Harris and Coveney. But this isn’t about that. It isn’t about politics. It is about the ability of those in a certain position at a certain time to do a certain thing. And faced with the Coronavirus the Irish government have made one sure step after another.
They have made it clear, as to be fair have all parties, that this is not about party politics, this is about life and death.
It is about following the science and sticking to the facts.
By contrast Johnson told you one week to carry on, everything would be fine, and the following week to not step outside the door. For a man so fond of wartime imagery there is one that seems to fit him.
An image from WW1 that was used to describe British soldiers in the trenches and the generals that ordered them to their deaths. Lions led by donkeys.
Much like those generals, Johnson’s initial idea of herd immunity seemed willing to sacrifice thousands of you only for him to turn around in the middle of no man’s land and run for cover.
Of all the European leaders he has looked the most out of his depth, the most shallow, and vacuous. These are dark times and rambling verbal buffoonery looks as essentially useless as it essentially is.
And on the other side of the Atlantic Donald Trump, the leader of the free world, has shown himself to be petty, astonishingly vain, and utterly lacking in basic human empathy.
As people die, as people worry and fret, wonder what is happening to their lives and to the world, the American President toured the Centre for Disease Control and told everyone there how wonderful and clever he was.
We live in the strangest of strange days.
Even in the face of growing numbers of dead Americans the American President focuses on telling his country how great he is.
It is as if the man has the most insecure personality we’ve ever known.
Whatever the situation, surrounded by any kind of expert, Trump insists he knows more than anyone there. He craves attention and is seething with anger if ever questioned.
He is a giant toddler and there’s not one thing funny about it. Especially now.
So, I do feel lucky that we are here in Ireland during all of this. Leo Varadkar may well be a man overly concerned with image and PR. Fine Gael may well be a right wing party overly focused on the magic of the free market.
But that all seems irrelevant. What we have to our advantage is the fact that we are a small, intimate island. We have a small population. We have a social cohesion that has appeared obvious in these days. People are looking out for each other. They are being kind and generous.
I’m sure there have been instances of shabby behaviour, I’m sure some people have been selfish and self-serving.
Reporting back, though, from Covid Ireland, I have to say I haven’t seen that.
Out there in the basements of the internet I’m sure the likes of the failed Presidential candidate and fully paid up conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty, and all those like her, are formulating their messages of division and hate. But that only exists in the virtual world.
Out here in the actual world Irish society has come together.
If we lose people in the close communities we inhabit we will feel it. It will hit us hard.
We are not fooling ourselves. We know this could get bad. But we are not being led or spoken to by the blustering and the narcissistic.
We’re lucky. I hope we remain so.
And I dearly hope you, our neighbours, our friends, and our family, on the other side of the Irish Sea, I dearly hope you get lucky too.