To be fair, the Young Fine Gaelers are too dull to have been on the lash last week. The current crop are said to be so conservative they make Patrick O’Donovan look like a raging liberal.
The junior Blueshirts decided to pick the same time as the country is convulsed with a new Covid-19 surge and consequent restrictions to have a row with themselves. To borrow the jibe once directed at Alan Dukes, it’s raining soup and they’re carrying a fork. Fine Gael’s future is obviously in safe hands. And they wonder why the Shinners are cleaning up with younger voters.
Brutalising a Henry Kissinger observation, student politics is so vicious because the stakes are so small. The bickering YFGers weren’t as busy as the students down in Limerick, who decided the morning after the latest pandemic alarm went off was the opportune time for a day-long piss-up. It was annual ‘Christmas Jumper Day’ in Limerick, Cork and Galway, where students go on the tear. The videos showed throngs filling footpaths in Limerick city. Not a mask nor an inch of social distancing in sight.
Let’s not blame the poor innocent students though. The publicans’ groups who have been lecturing us about how responsible they are went fierce silent.
In University Hospital Limerick, half the ICU beds are being taken up by Covid patients. The hospital broke the national record for patients on trolleys last week.
Above in the Dáil, Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell sounded like a US senator appealing for federal emergency help after a disaster in his state. He wanted the Government to support Limerick during the crisis. What about Limerick helping Limerick? No mention of the drinking session the day before. Wouldn’t do to upset the publicans or the students or their parents.
It’s not Dublin’s fault if some pubs in Limerick decide to cash in, rather than recognising there’s a real health crisis in their city and it would be best not to encourage a mass booze-up. A few thousand students letting the hair down didn’t cause the surge. Colleges were shut for 16 months, nightlife for 18 months, the threat of a return to lockdown – and that means shutdown in their case – is imminent. Cause and effect.
The disconnect between personal responsibility and rising cases is rife. People don’t want to be told what to do, but when cases rise because of increased socialising they complain they weren’t warned. Besides, it’s the Government’s fault the virus continues to evolve.
In the midst of a fourth surge of Covid-19, we’re getting student politics dressed up in a statesman image. Everyone knows the problem, the problem is nobody wants to admit what has to be done to solve it. Micheál Martin is happy to stand in front of Government Buildings announcing a series of measures he knows won’t stop the rot.
Once he’s done, Mary-Lou McDonald is both for and against, pro and anti whatever he proposes. She’s not saying reopening the nightclubs was wrong nor is she saying there should be a midnight curfew now. “I am opposed to the whole approach this Government is taking,” she told a bemused-looking David McCullagh on the SixOne news.
McDonald is consistently inconsistent. Sinn Féin votes against the extension to Covid-19 emergency powers, she called for pubs to be opened well before it was advised and her party wanted mandatory quarantine of everyone coming into the State, when it was impractical.
Anyway, it didn’t matter to her what she said. She was broadcasting from a wood-panelled office with a tricolour in the background over her left shoulder. No cold broadcast in the Leinster House car park for the Taoiseach-in-waiting. The optics said stateswoman. The politics were still student-like.
Childish politics was to come for the Taoiseach from the all new Labour Party. Disappointed that his first national conference as leader didn’t have fireworks, Alan Kelly decided to start a fight. Alan says Micheál told him teachers would be exempt from a rule about going into five-day isolation if there’s a positive case in their home. Micheál says he never said it and has suddenly realised Alan likes to fight dirty.
Kelly had the misfortune to time his conference speech alongside Ireland beating the All Blacks. He gave a fine enunciation of Labour values, albeit with far too many hand gestures. “From the first Dáil (arms out like the Pope) in this room (index fingers pointing down) over a century ago (arms half out) Labour has always (hands touching in a triangle) lead that change (fingers turned in).”
Kelly bemoaned a “lack of depth in politics in Ireland at the moment”. Four days later, he started a row nobody could understand, while the country just wanted to know what was happening about the pandemic. Don’t look to Leinster House seems to be the answer.
In another misunderstanding, the Dáil authorities brought in free antigen tests for all. But when there was a furore, it miraculously turned out TDs and senators were exempt and would have to pay. Meanwhile, a TD, who ates his dinner in the middle of the day, has been spotted several times barrelling past the staff at the door of the Oireachtas restaurant who are checking Covid passes. More childish behaviour.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg went all in on a lockdown and mandatory vaccine last week. He got support across most of the political spectrum, from the centre-left, centre-right and left, with only the far-right opposing. If the Taoiseach tried that, the Opposition would blame him for inventing Covid-19.
Fine Gael veteran Bernard Durkan has more important matters on his mind. Bingo Bernard wants more Lotto jackpot winners by dropping a few balls. Cause and effect. Covid-19 is not so easy to beat.