The silence is evident in our latest national pandemic pastime – demonising the small minority of those who are as yet unvaccinated.
The more voices we hear railing against the 8pc of selfish free-riders, the louder the silence from the refuseniks.
In a culture of judgment and shaming, no wonder they are mute. We never hear their view, so we never hear the why – which is the key to addressing concerns.
Do we want to know the why? Or do we just want to be right and for everyone to see life like us and shout down all those who don’t?
As the Covid pass system was predictably extended, despite its introduction as a temporary measure, there was much glee among those who now see the small pocket of vaccine resistance as a crime against the collective.
A sense of smug satisfaction greeted the predictable news that all our liberties will be curtailed with the continuation of the pass, because it means the unvaccinated will be cast out from social society for the foreseeable future. “Tough,” as one commentator put it.
We could have added the option of a negative test alongside it, like most European countries do, and what Professor Luke O’Neill advocates. But we didn’t, because the main purpose is to incentivise stragglers to come forward for the jab and punish or compel vaccine hold-outs.
Aside from the usual voices on basic rights – deprioritised in the Covid era – there was no reaction from the unvaccinated.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the system “gives rise to serious human rights and equality concerns”.
It urged the Government to provide a test option with the extension. Tumbleweed.
People got into paroxysms on the airwaves over this elusive 8pc. Soon we were seriously talking about bringing in private security firms to police vaccine passes in hospitality.
After enduring one of the harshest lockdowns in the world, the Irish want more surveillance on themselves, more checks, more laws.
Vaccinated or not, I won’t go into a premises if it means giving proof of medical status to gain entry. I haven’t been indoors in a restaurant as long as I can remember.
So I know those without a Covid pass are all outside. They’re generally not trying to sneak in, hoping they’ll slip through the net. That’s why you’re still seeing outdoor seating occupied in October. Likely the reason restaurants or pubs became lax is that passes were so universal.
Popular opinion that the 8pc are all “hardcore cranks” or “anti-vaxxers” is straightforward discrimination in the midst of an unprecedented global public health emergency that has shocked us all in different ways.
If Ireland is so pro-vaccine, we should be delighted to have the EU’s highest jab rate of 92pc, but that’s not enough for some people, who won’t be content until we live in a utopia of full compliance.
According to a survey on Claire Byrne Live this week, 46pc of respondents agreed with mandatory vaccination. That would effectively bring us in line with China, where there have been reports of forcible injections. And half of us think this is warranted, even with our triumphant vaccine rollout?
The level of casual discrimination against the relatively tiny number of unvaccinated in our population is callous and counterproductive.
These 300,000 people are not one homogenous group of brainwashed headbanger public health terrorists. It is blind bigotry to dismiss them as such.
There is a wealth of research that shows most resistance is to do with vaccine hesitancy. A lack of trust in the vaccine is linked to psychology and socio-demographics.
In Ireland, the vaccine-hesitant were most likely to be young women aged between 35 and 44, those on low or average incomes, the non-Irish born and the socially disaffected. Minorities.
Isolation is not just a personal problem, it’s a political one. Further stigmatising and marginalising through laws and media messaging only adds to that sense of ostracisation.
Some of the number have valid concerns. Until recently, pregnant women and younger people worried about fertility and virility were afraid to take the jab, and did so when their fears were allayed.
The 70,000 who got their first injection but didn’t come forward for the second may have had a bad reaction or received AstraZeneca initially.
“They are a cohort of people we can entice back,” said DCU Professor of Immunology Christine Loscher.
Others may feel it is too soon to take the vaccine. Or they are still grappling with individual concerns, or anxiety. They will get it – they just aren’t ready yet.
Pete Lunn, from the Economic and Social Research Institute’s Behavioural Research Unit, said research shows the overall picture of the vaccine-resistant is not what is assumed.
“Those advocating taking the vaccine need to be careful when it comes to criticising refuseniks. It’s unlikely to persuade the minority to come forward for belated jabs,” he said.
“When groups are targeted like this, they create a stronger bond and dig their heels in further. It’s more important to find out why they refused in the first place.”
If we are so progressive and caring in modern “liberal” Ireland, we will listen without prejudice. Otherwise, our inclusive society comes with a caveat: we will accept you, as long as we all think the same.
Those who don’t – for reasons that make sense to them – will be left out in the cold.