When looked at in comparison to the response of governments elsewhere around the world, not least in the US and even the UK, which astonishingly allowed a race meeting at Cheltenham to proceed last week, the Government here and the medical authorities upon whom they depend for advice have so far done a good job in managing the national crisis that is the spread of the coronavirus. The public has responded in kind, by and large heeding the good and sensible advice which has been given. The country is far from out of the woods. Indeed, the crisis is expected to get worse before it gets better. But it is vital that the social cohesion which has so far emerged, and the trust which has been placed in the authorities, is maintained in the difficult period ahead.
The formation of a new government in the midst of this crisis continues. The pace quickened somewhat last week, and rightly so. It now seems certain that a combination of the two traditional political parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, will form a large part of the new government. For all the public criticism of these two parties in the past, it is notable that the trust in them during this crisis has maintained and strengthened if anything. Last week the Green Party, which looked set to make up the third leg of the new government, for its own reasons grew cold and seemed to withdraw from the process. This was a disappointing decision, to say the least. However, the two main parties should continue their efforts with all haste, with Independent TDs if necessary, and put a new government in place as quickly as is reasonably possible. The country, meanwhile, is in good hands, and is being well served by other authorities and policymakers, whose advice should continue to be followed.
There will undoubtedly be real and possibly severe consequences to the coronavirus outbreak, not least to the economy and in due course possibly also for the new government. Fears of these consequences are thought to be the reason behind the reluctance of some to take office, and therefore responsibility at a time of national emergency. This should not be forgotten when the crisis is behind us. Those who stand up to serve now should be remembered for performing an admirable civic duty.
Similarly, the spirit of society at large should be noted. One of the most heartening images of the outbreak across Europe has been that of the residents of the cities in Italy, confined to their homes, singing popular songs with great community endeavour. That is the spirit. The people of Ireland will rise to the occasion, too. It is already happening is so many small and unreported ways around the country, from neighbours looking out for each other to social media groups and friends reaching out to the wider public. That is the spirit too. The times ahead will be difficult. The death toll is expected to rise. Other restrictions on the public may well be put in place. Ultimately, an economic recession may hit, perhaps with further consequences for many members of the public at large. It is important to remember that the crisis is not the fault of any one individual and grouping, and that the authorities, including those working admirably in the front line in our hospitals and wider social services, are doing their best, which will be found to be good enough. Now is a time for a national pulling together, not apart.