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The national mood is always linked to the weather - and it's been nothing but rotten

Ian O'Doherty


Brolly good: Seamus and Sue Watters from Crossmaglen refuse to let the rain spoil their day out as they enjoy a coffee in the rain on Berkeley Road in Dublin. PHOTO: FRANK McGRATH

Brolly good: Seamus and Sue Watters from Crossmaglen refuse to let the rain spoil their day out as they enjoy a coffee in the rain on Berkeley Road in Dublin. PHOTO: FRANK McGRATH

Brolly good: Seamus and Sue Watters from Crossmaglen refuse to let the rain spoil their day out as they enjoy a coffee in the rain on Berkeley Road in Dublin. PHOTO: FRANK McGRATH

Now is the summer of our discontent.

Ever since the emergence of Covid-19 and the lockdown that was introduced in the ­middle of March, it's fair to say that we all feel as if we have wandered down some strange and terrible rabbit hole with no immediate sign of escape.

Initially dismissed by some as little more than a bad case of the sniffles and inflated by others as something which would be worse than the Spanish Flu epidemic of 100 years ago, the truth lies somewhere in between.

But the truth still hurts - literally. More than 25,000 Irish people have been infected and nearly 2,000 of those have died. How much higher that figure goes depends on the rest of us behaving with a bit of common sense.

We've spent the guts of six months in a state of suspended animation and as the Government dithers about when to ­reopen the rest of society, it actually looks as if we're further away from that goal than we were a few weeks ago.

When historians look back at the Covid crisis - and it will be predominantly ­historians, because most of us never want to speak of this period ever again - they will see a world paralysed by a virus, ­hampered by political ineptitude and riven by social division.

If you wanted an example of politicians making things up as they go along, look no further than the Green List.

Initially delayed because of Cabinet disagreements, the list is a masterclass in fudge. While I'm sure many of us are delighted that we can now return to our old summer stomping grounds of, um, San Marino and Monaco, the list is indicative of the genuine confusion in the ­corridors of power.

We should give this fledgling regime some slack because it inherited a ­crisis rather than caused one. But issuing a list of countries we can visit while also urging people to stay at home is the very epitome of a mixed message. ­Matters ­certainly weren't helped when Leo Varadkar declared that said list "May not be simple, but it is very straightforward."

That was a piece of semantic spoofery right up there with Regina Doherty's claim that ID cards would be 'mandatory but not compulsory'.

But Varadkar, who had earlier hinted at his preference for having no Green List at all, perhaps inadvertently reflected the mood of the people.

We're all confused. We're all cheesed off. We'd all love to go on a nice holiday. But the unfortunate reality is that the virus hasn't gone away, will undoubtedly return in the dreaded but inevitable second wave and, if yesterday's report is accurate, it has now jumped to household pets.

It's interesting to note that there seems to be a greater mood of despondency now than there was in May, when the virus was even more active and we were even more locked down than we are now.

That was down to one simple reason - the weather was glorious. The ­hottest May in years meant that those of us with a ­garden could at least enjoy balmy ­barbecues in the evening. Following the wettest June in years and a July that has been rotten, even the small consolation of the sunshine has been denied us.

The buzz word of the year has been 'staycation', but as we have seen in the last six weeks, the unfortunate reality is that ­Ireland is where all the clouds go for their summer holidays. They have been so heavy and low recently that they looked like they could be scraping the chimneys before each new deluge. Let's put it this way, the warnings issued in May about water shortages and a hose pipe ban now seem a fond memory.

So, having been issued a list that we're effectively told to ignore in favour of taking a break at home, the Government also suspended the reopening of rural pubs until August 10 - at the earliest. Staying at home and spending your money locally may be an act of economic patriotism in the current climate. But I doubt most people's patriotism extends to sitting in a caravan in Courtown for 10 days, counting the raindrops on the ­window while the kids kill each other out of boredom.

We're obsessed with the weather in this country but the old joke that you can tell the seasons in Ireland because the rain is warmer in the summer doesn't seem so funny when confronted with the reality of trying to enjoy a break in a waterlogged country with no pubs and few restaurants.

The public mood certainly hasn't been improved by the fact that, from Thursday, the Dáil will take a six-week break and not return until September. That, on top of handing themselves another pay rise, has justifiably enraged many people.

While a jaundiced eye would argue that at least they can't do any more damage while they're on their holidays, it certainly reinforces the perception that many of the TDs and ministers still haven't grasped the gravity of the public anxiety out there.

How many of these politicians will avail of the Green List they don't want the rest of us to use? We live in cynical times, and trust in politicians is at an all-time low. That is a shame, because a healthy democracy needs the people to have some trust in their leaders. But such derision and lack of respect is inevitable when you look at the shenanigans of the last few months.

The petty gamesmanship of the negotiating teams was tiresome in the extreme and the fact that none of them can even agree what time it is indicates that this will be a rather short-lived government. So we just have to accept that we're stuck here, in the rain, with nowhere to go for a bite to eat and a beer while the politicians conspire to find more ways to confuse us.

But if you think this summer is a bust? Well, just wait for the winter and that dreaded second wave. That's why we should all stay at home and suck it up this year. Because the alternative is even worse.

Although Monaco does look mighty attractive at the moment...

Irish Independent