Sir - A short while ago, my bright, witty, handsome son finally got a steady job. After years of false starts, nixers and dimmed hopes, he had a steady income and a routine.
He was proud of himself, of the wage, of the routine - but I was ashamed .
Why should my beautiful boy, destined for higher things, be wearing white boots and working long shifts on a production line?
I had dreamed of my son having a cushy job, with a bit of status - like my own job.
And so I told very few people what he was doing. Many of my friends have children studying or practising in law, education and arts. We go out for boozy meals and boast about our children - but I rarely mentioned my boy.
But today, my son put on his white boots and drove to another long shift on the production line. He is young and strong (though he has had asthma all his life and would suffer if he got this virus). But he is part of a production chain and will continue to work for as long as he can.
Meanwhile, my cushy job finds me at home, aimless and ashamed of myself - but very, very proud of my son.
And full of admiration for all those factory workers and supermarket workers who have to keep the food coming - the people baking the bread, milking the cows, boxing the eggs, driving the trucks.
These are the new elite.
Name and address with Editor
Our debt to doctors and nurses
Sir — I hope that doctors and nurses don’t ever have to strike again... they are the ones who are keeping our great little country on the right track. We all hope this crisis ends soon.
Bailieboro, Co Cavan
Tri-party only way for government
Sir — We had an election and the people have spoken.
The only realistic government for 2020 and onwards is a tri-party of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein. The Taoiseach should alternate year on year, which is completely workable.
We need the choice of the people in power at this crucial time in our history and our lives.
Whitegate, Co Cork
FG-FF coalition is the wrong option
Sir — On government formation, most of your correspondents seem to be advocating a coalition between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, saying there is no difference between the two parties.
Well, as a member of Fine Gael, I would not like to see Fine Gael coalesce with Fianna Fail.
It is almost 100 years since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the ensuing Civil War which was a terrible tragedy for Ireland.
This Civil War could and should have been avoided.
Leading up to the Civil War and the pact elections held in June 1922, the Irish public’s response to the treaty was the pro-treaty side winning 58 seats and the anti-treaty side 35, with 35 seats won by other parties, most of whom supported the treaty.
While the Anglo-Irish Treaty fell short of the Republic for which he had fought, Michael Collins concluded that the treaty offered Ireland “not the freedom that all nations desire and develop to” but the freedom to achieve it.
Nine years after Michael Collins’s assassination, the UK parliament passed the Statute of Westminster which removed virtually all of London’s remaining authority over the Free State.
This had the effect of making the Free State the first internationally recognised independent Irish State, thus fulfilling Michael Collins’s vision of having the “freedom to achieve freedom”.
Gorey, Co Wexford
Good has come with this scary pandemic
Sir — I have a confession. I was on the verge of becoming cynical, testy and unbelieving. I had lost trust; consumed by social media and countless reports of violence and cruelty, I saw little good in people.
In recent weeks, Ireland has seen a pandemic like no other; but these are the best and the worst of times. What I have witnessed — apart from a quest for survival among empty shelves — is the countless amazing acts carried out in our society.
In my own community, I have witnessed a community pull together like no other; local business people have bonded together to protect and help the most vulnerable, with new services and a continuous pull to help all they can. Earlier shopping times, free delivery, even just a kind word, have done so much to ease suffering. Neighbours helping neighbours, sharing what you can and teachers offering to help students study from home — it seems kindness cannot be contained.
The coronavirus is frightening, it’s not to be taken lightly, but its appearance has created so much good. To see restaurants in Donegal making food for the elderly and the local gardai calling to those in need, is moving and inspiring, it makes your heart burst with pride.
Leo Varadkar said: “Let them know that when we were at our worst we were at our very best.” I’m proud to say his message was heard loud and clear. May it last.
Mountrath, Co Laois
Let our experts plan for future
Sir — Despite the impending ‘storm’ which An Taoiseach has, with commendable propriety, indicated, now is also the time for him to initiate the modelling and planning for our recovery. Let this be a select cell of highly qualified, intellectually pragmatic people with a background in social, economical and psychological fields. The crisis has assured us of the expertise this nation possesses.
A key principle in our recovery, will be social cohesion. Therefore, the ‘post Covid-19 bailout’ must be different to the last one, in that the major corporations and institutions such as in banking, insurance etc, almost all of who are incapable of any degree of sensitivity or empathy, be forced to ‘step up to the plate’.
It will be neither ethically or morally acceptable to expect the ‘ordinary’ taxpayer to ‘bear the brunt’ for a second time.
St Thomas’ Square, Kilkenny
Message needs celebrity backing
Sir — If we are to have any hope of minimising the damage caused by this virus, it is clear that “social distancing” is vital. That message doesn’t seem to be getting through to all sections of our society. The reality is that some people/groups turn a deaf ear to “official advice”.
Can I suggest that the Government urgently begins a campaign of advertisements featuring prominent personalities from sport, entertainment, social influencing and any other field.
Perhaps the likes of Brian O’Driscoll/Johnny Sexton to target the rugby fans; Jim Gavin or one of the Dublin stars to target GAA fans; Hozier/Bressie/Bono/Sinead O’Connor or whoever is popular with young music fans, and so on. I believe all who are asked would willingly play their part.
Take care of yourselves and those near and dear to you. And don’t forget about your elderly neighbours or those living alone.
Economy will rise again — dead won’t
Sir — Great words of wisdom from a woman on the Brendan O’Connor radio show last Sunday. She remarked that while the economy will rise again, you cannot raise the dead.
Trump’s planning on course as usual
Sir — It only occurred to me last week that when Donald Trump first acted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, he banned all travel between all the European countries — except the ones that had one of his golf courses.
Westport, Co Mayo
Time to suspend sanctions on Iran
Sir — The death toll from coronavirus in Iran has gone above 1,600, with about 20,000 people infected. The country doesn’t have enough medical products to deal with the outbreak because of sanctions imposed by Donald Trump.
Iran has appealed to the UN for sanctions to be lifted, and surely in the cause of common humanity we must agree.
Since Trump reimposed sanctions in November 2018, the Iranian economy has been devastated. All sanctions against countries struggling to deal with coronavirus must be lifted, or at least suspended, immediately.
We are heading for emergency budget
Sir — With 140,000 people laid off from Irish bars and restaurants during the past few days, many more are due to lose their jobs in the coming week.
That will bring Ireland’s jobless total to almost half-a-million people — added to the 5.2pc unemployment rate before the Covid-19 virus arrived.
The unemployment figure — those unemployed needing Social Welfare payments to survive — may then ‘shoot-up’ to at least 20pc of the working population.
This will cost the Exchequer €1bn each week, before the worst of coronavirus has passed by; and the cost is not including the loss of those workers’ income tax remittances to the State.
An emergency budget is surely facing the citizens of Ireland, and within the next few months, too.
Why are none of the politicians of any party telling the public this?
Tighten your belts. Another dose of austerity is on the way!
Midleton, Co Cork
Keep up this effort after crisis abates
Sir — Wonderful leadership is being shown in the fight against the virus. Whether it’s emergency legislation, finance borrowed, staff and volunteers recruited, it is being done immediately.
There is outstanding support from the health staff, Defence Forces, Garda, voluntary bodies, and the community spirit has been wonderful.
We hope all their efforts will prove successful.
When the virus has been defeated, could we see the same effort put into the housing, homeless and health crisis.
Finance is at its cheapest. Back it up with emergency legislation to bypass planning objections from vested and political interests so that homes, schools and the infrastructure can be built.
Similarly with health — employ the staff, utilise country hospitals, or any state-owned building or hotels to house patients not needing intensive care. Help clear the backlog of patients waiting by utilising space in private hospitals or abroad.
Whatever it takes to get the job done, do it in the same spirit with which the virus is now being tackled.
Let’s get it done, the country needs it.
We must have unity, not empty rhetoric
Sir — Over the past few weeks I have seen much of Ireland transformed to the point now of virtual emptiness.
In one hotel I know well, I have seen the dismay on the faces of the young receptionists, cleaning staff and waiters as their jobs, security and livelihoods have disappeared in a moment. I know that they cannot live on €203 per week. Our TDs of all persuasions ought to try it if they are in any doubt. The figure required is more in the order of €450-€500 per week.
We live in a sovereign republic. It is now the duty of Dail Eireann and Seanad Eireann to show that there is more to unity and togetherness than empty rhetoric. All our TDs must show that in this moment of historic crisis we are indeed all in this together as we might not have been, for example, in the Great Famine. The tragic history of Ireland tells us more eloquently than anything else what we must do in March 2020.
High price of decision to travel
Sir — I might be regarded by some as unkind by speaking out against people who have travelled away on holidays to places like Italy and Spain during a time when we are being called upon to regulate our lives to fight off the scourge of the Covid-19 virus. Someone has to speak publicly on a topic which many may feel forced to discuss in private and being unpopular is a price I am willing to pay.
Many will say they had already paid big money for such travel packages and would be at a huge financial loss if they did not travel. To these people, I ask: “What price do you put on a person’s life?” Indeed, some were members of the medical profession, while fellow colleagues were under pressure trying to combat the dreaded virus at home. It’s not necessary that their actions should cause the death of any person, to be critical of those who brought back disease to this country. The virus has caused fear among the population, especially to the elderly and those living alone. However, the real damage has been to the thousands of businesses that have been forced to close and the vast number of employees cast from their workplaces. The mental torture this has caused to so many is like turning people into ‘‘the walking dead’’.
Finally, I am not alleging that people deliberately disregarded others, but they certainly acted in a most uncaring way and will have to live with the result of their actions.
Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
We’re all playing for Ireland now
Sir — I have come to the rather sobering realisation of what is going on here regarding the coronavirus. It was never about trying to prevent the virus coming into the country. That simply isn’t possible.
This is all about flattening the curve, as we are constantly being told. Maybe 60pc of us will ultimately get the virus, irrespective of what we do as a country.
However, what’s important is when that actually happens. If we, as a nation, largely adhere to the advice we are being given of washing our hands, keeping social distance etc, progress of the virus will be slowed, not stopped. The hospitals will be able to cope better and many more lives will be saved.
This is an exercise in collective action in a way we have been never asked to do before. The actions of each and every member of society affect everyone else in a way we have never seen before.
I have heard the phrase used of putting on the green jersey in relation to how we behave.
That is exactly what each of us is being asked to do. We are all playing for Ireland now.