Sir - As our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced tough measures to counteract the coronavirus in Ireland from Washington at lunchtime last Thursday, which limited outdoor gatherings to 500 people and 100 at indoor events, in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland, across the pond, the Cheltenham Racing Festival continued at a hot pace until last Friday evening - attracting many thousands over the duration of the four-day race meeting.
Many were Irish jockeys, trainers, grooms, owners, and of course, punters. And they will be returning home in the course of the coming days, potentially as virus carriers.
It appears the recent announcement came a little late to discourage these people from travelling. Maybe they would have gone anyway, as the punt, pint and the craic at this annual festival are like a powerful drug to some.
As the coronavirus spreads, it is the most vulnerable in our society that will be most at risk. It appears that expecting the powers-that-be in the racing game to encourage people not to put vulnerable lives in danger, is a horse of a different colour.
Cloonacool, Co Sligo
Don't downgrade Bantry Hospital
Sir - The powers-that-be are not always fully aware of the impact of decisions, or proposals. An example is the fear that the HSE is thinking of Bantry General Hospital downgrading its emergency service. This would mean patients in a health crisis would be mainly taken to hospitals in Cork city - under pressure all year around in regularly crowded A&Es.
It could mean a person may travel from one and a half to three hours to a Cork city hospital, and if it is to a public hospital, may have to wait hours or a day to be seen - causing huge stress to the patient and their relatives. Some patients may not have living relatives to help them.
Bantry Hospital serves a very large area, from Allihies in Beara and inland towns like Skibbereen and islands like Cape Clear and Bere Island. Hundreds have attended meetings to show their support for Bantry Hospital and what it means to them as a hospital helping people for generations.
Their appeal to the HSE and Government is for the HSE not to implement the recommendation to downgrade the hospital and for its main emergency service to remain. Democracy, if it truly means anything in a country that holds elections every four to five years, must consider medics and people's informed views and the very good points they made on it. It stands as a recommendation at the moment.
College Road, Cork
Greens must grasp a big opportunity
Sir - The Green Party's call for a 'crisis national government' for three months, extendable by a possible further three months, demonstrates its inadequacy in grasping reality, a characteristic that has long shadowed the party in the minds of many.
Has it not occurred to the party that containing Covid-19 is just the first half of an enormous challenge.
An equally difficult problem will be the rehabilitation of many facets of our citizens' lives and the re-energising of the social and economic fabric of the nation in the aftermath, all of which I suggest will take a full government term.
There are clouds of opportunism here, where the Green Party can claim participation in government at a time when citizens will be at their cooperative best, while giving no undertaking in the longer term when the most difficult of decisions will have to be taken.
For a party that sees itself apart from 'the rest' and with genuine potential to contribute to our future, it needs to nurture its credibility, and cede from opportunism.
St Thomas' Square, Kilkenny
This is the politics of a dead man walking
Sir — Hindsight is a luxury we can ill afford, facing into the next weeks and months. And who would not feel a modicum of sympathy for an exiting government, out of its depth and lacking in legitimacy?
There is no telling whether a new administration would have handled this crisis any differently. But neither should we avoid calling out the flawed thinking that has paved the road to where we are today. The fact the globe is again being savaged by a black swan is not the issue. It is to the governance of our own country we need to look.
We have a set of political parties that are a disgrace to the values that shaped their governance for so long. Two parties that have been colonised by the same “woke” culture.
Two brand names selling the spin that there is more than a ha’p’orth of difference between them — when we all know there’s not. One of them damn near ruined the country. The other has drained political governance of all reflective thought, displacing it with ever-more shrill tones of spin.
The people delivered their verdict — and for some of us a scary verdict it is.
The results of the last five years of government are all around us. The debacle of the Children’s Hospital, the nightmare of the cervical cancer debacle, the adversarial engagement with the medical and nursing professions — a sector on which we are all now so very dependent.
And on top of that, last month’s election — marked by billion-euro election pitches funded by what were clearly exceptional inflows into the exchequer from a handful of multinationals. The insistence up to a week ago on going ahead with a St Patrick’s Day parade.
It is difficult for non-medics or epidemiologists to know what should have been done differently to anticipate, manage and mitigate risk. But this much we do know. There is causality between our rotten, broken political system and trust in its capacity to get us through this “event” — not to mention the systemic damage it will inflict on our economy, our country, our people.
Who would not empathise with ministers suffering nervous exhaustion in these circumstances? But the cliches, platitudes and exhortations are the final gasps of a politics that’s a dead man walking.
I hope to heaven some good may yet come out of this awful crisis if it makes us better understand our fragility as individuals and as a country.
Ashford, Co Wicklow
Is this a warning from nature?
Sir — Karma is a word basically meaning: “You will reap what you sow.” And as Covid-19 sweeps the world it would appear to be a message from Mother Nature.
Are we being told to change our ways? Other warning signs, which seem to be escalating in the last decade, include parts of Australia being destroyed in fires so intense they nearly wiped out the beloved koala.
Meanwhile they are burning the Amazon rainforest for grazing land to feed our ever-increasing population. At the poles, ice sheets are melting at an ever-increasing rate, causing rain and floods in certain parts of the world — and there is so much plastic in the oceans it forms massive plastic islands.
In these days, when it seems we are no longer the apex predator on this planet, we would do well to heed Mother Nature’s warnings — because if we don’t change our ways, Covid-19 might just be the start .
Sixmilebridge, Co Clare
Call a national emergency
Sir — If we believe the two parties chiefly responsible for leaving us with a health service that has been run into the ground, leaving us with over half a million citizens on waiting lists for healthcare and ill-equipped to face any crisis, let alone one of such catastrophic proportions, are capable of leading us forward then we have not learned anything.
Yet they are continuing to cling to power when a national emergency should have been declared long before coronavirus raised its merciless head.
For Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to form a coalition that disenfranchises representatives of half the population at a time such as this demonstrates a mindset which should be deeply worrying and which will further burden a population reeling from a growing realisation of the enormity of the task ahead.
A national emergency government with representatives of all parties, large and small, including independents, should be formed without delay.
Large buildings suitable for isolation wards should be commandeered, together with a special communications structure linked to a central command centre. This needs to be started with a sense of urgency. Equipment and personnel must then be sought.
However difficult this task will be, it deserves serious consideration. One thing for sure is that there is no room for a “preservation of party nor of self” mentality in this equation.
Ballinspittle, Co Cork
Disgruntled voice of Sinn Fein
It has become blatantly obvious nobody wants to play ball with Sinn Fein. The other left-wing parties have all gone camera-shy when an alliance with Mary Lou’s party is discussed. The wrath of the SF supporters has been totally directed at FG and FF however. No surprise there.
Thank God the so-called “change” has not manifested itself into government yet. Imagine the chaos that would exist with this coronavirus paying us an unwelcome visit.
The voices of condemnation are becoming louder from these disgruntled SF supporters now that they have Covid-19 to use, half of them blaming the Taoiseach for closing the schools and the other half blaming him for not closing them earlier.
Pat Burke Walsh,
We need to know where the virus is
Sir — Can we learn nothing from what has happened to others? In Italy the virus was allowed to spread from infected areas. Here in Ireland we are kept in the dark as to where those who have been infected are located.
In Italy, by the time they got round to considering isolating these areas, the virus had spread like wildfire. Now the whole country is in lockdown.
Trump has stopped anyone getting in from Europe except for Ireland and England, which seems very strange. Perhaps he considers our virus a friendly virus.
Our minsters, on the other hand, have sprung into action. They have ordered 280 new trucks for the Army. Are they considering these trucks might be required to collect and take the dead to funeral pyres?
The refusal to let us know where the pockets of virus are means it can spread freely as it did in Italy. Is this their master plan?
Isolation is the only thing that can stop the spread. Protect the areas not infected and provide all aid to the areas that are. This way services can be directed to maximum effort.
Michael O Meara Faha,
Killarney, Co Kerry
Don’t feed your own fears
Sir — I turned off the radio just now because I can’t listen to it any more. All it’s doing is making me anxious and the more I listen the more anxious I feel and then the worry sets in... and then the inner voice starts.
We all have that voice. Go on, admit it. That’s the little voice that, if we allow, gets out of control and, boy, does it roar — especially if we feed it with too much fear and worry.
You see it loves that. In fact it thrives and gets bigger and bigger by the day. It gets so bloody big we can’t control it, so it ripples out to those around us and on and on it goes and then they worry and then panic sets in. Bit like a virus really. The more we feed anything, the more it grows.
Don’t think I’m being flippant about what’s currently happening in our world. Of course it’s scary and worrying and frightening but we have to live. It’s bloody awful on so many levels but the reality is we have no choice but to deal with it head-on as best we know how.
We owe it to ourselves to get up every day and live our best possible life and if we allow too much fear to take hold we will create a worse inner disease for ourselves.
So instead of feeling helpless I am going to live. Whatever happens we can only take our own personal responsibility for it.
Yes, be sensible about personal hygiene, etc but choose what wolf you are going to feed.
With the time ahead, instead of sitting worrying about “what if?” I am going to return to my bucket list of hobbies. I’m going to use the time as best I can to read, walk, write, bake, declutter... sure the fear won’t have a chance to get a look in.
And, on a final note, I won’t hug or kiss or shake hands — but there are so many
other ways of showing people we care.
Gorey, Co Wexford
An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.”
He continued: “The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed.”
We’ve survived a lot in the past
Sir — Like everyone in Ireland I was shocked when I heard the announcement last Thursday to close schools and limit public gatherings. While we all suspected this was likely at some stage, it still hit us hard.
However, later in the day I felt a huge pride in my nationality. Some people have been critical of certain aspects of the official response to the crisis, such as allowing flights from northern Italy while things deteriorated there. While we heard some commentators talk up the importance of the economy and that without the economy, life as we knew it would collapse, it seemed to me the importance of vulnerable members of our society such as the elderly was being ignored.
However, after Thursday’s announcement I realised that Ireland does value all its citizens.
The Irish people have been through a lot over the years when we had nothing. It is the memory of that which will bind us together.
We had nothing before and we survived and prospered. And we can do it again.
There’s a price for everything
Sir — The recent panic buying reminded me of a piece of advice I picked up: “If you can’t afford two of it, you can’t afford it.”
Blessington, Co Wicklow