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Tragic history repeated - but this time the UK is the victim

Conor Skehan


The past teaches us lessons about turning a crisis into a disaster by being blinded by the conviction of doing right, writes Conor Skehan

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'This is part of a persistent pattern of British political thinking that is hostile to government interference in society, even if it risks lives to sustain its rigid ideology. Of all people, we, in Ireland should know this because such thinking was the direct cause of the massive excess of deaths from the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s'

'This is part of a persistent pattern of British political thinking that is hostile to government interference in society, even if it risks lives to sustain its rigid ideology. Of all people, we, in Ireland should know this because such thinking was the direct cause of the massive excess of deaths from the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s'

'This is part of a persistent pattern of British political thinking that is hostile to government interference in society, even if it risks lives to sustain its rigid ideology. Of all people, we, in Ireland should know this because such thinking was the direct cause of the massive excess of deaths from the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s'

Hurricanes, earthquakes and pandemics are natural crises. The ancient origin of the word ''crisis'' means a ''sieve''. It occurs in many European languages from Greek krinein to Old Irish criathar. This word for separation implies a moment of decision, when different paths diverge, and a choice must be made.

Though much over-used today, the word ''crisis'' in the English language originally had a 15th-Century specialist medical meaning. It referred to the turning point in a disease, that change which indicates recovery or death. A crisis only becomes a disaster when it is mis-managed - like a doctor using the wrong treatment on a disease. We are the sum of our choices.

This week we have watched the UK government repeatedly wrestle with decisions about how to best to manage the unfolding Covid-19 crisis. The UK's current approach - do little to achieve herd immunisation - is a direct descendant of the 19th-Century philosophy of laissez-faire which held that society and markets were self-correcting.