Enniscorthy Guardian

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Community spirit will determine our fate

There's still a long way to go, a lot more hardship and heartache ahead, but we're doing okay.

We've followed the guidelines, heeded the warnings and taken precautionary measures. We've self-isolated, worked from home and washed our hands till they're red raw. We've even resisted visiting our mammmies on Mothering Sunday.

Sure, we're converging upon local hotspots in our droves, displaying a remarkable lack of foresight, not to mention originality, as we congregate on beaches and greenways, fighting one another for parking spaces.

And yes, many of us haven't quite grasped the concept of social distancing yet either; blithely standing inches behind one another in the queue for the supermarket, then walking straight past the hand sanitiser, the disposable gloves, and going about our business carefree and unconcerned.

But by and large we are doing okay.

The reasons for this are twofold. The first of these - and I'm as surprised as you, believe me - is down to our government, which has chosen to treat the coronavirus with all the seriousness it deserves.

You could argue it doesn't take a genius to realise this thing is dangerous, that only a fool would allow it to run wild. But plenty have done just that, none more so than the fool across the water and the genius on the other side of the Atlantic.

No, they may have overseen the biggest homelessness crisis this country has ever seen, continually ignored the needs of our health system, and signalled a death knell for rural Ireland, but the lads in Fine Gael have responded admirably to the challenge of Covid-19.

Ignoring 'the speech', and the fact it was delivered from Washington DC at a time when we're all supposed to be avoiding unnecessary travel, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health have, for maybe the first time in both their careers, showed how leaders should behave in times of peril.

There has been little hysteria, no chest-thumping rhetoric. Instead, they have listened to the experts, implemented the appropriate measures and focused on ensuring the loss of life is minimised.

Essentially they have trusted us to handle the truth and then asked that we act accordingly.

And there's the second reason why we're doing okay: We, the people of Ireland, tend to do as we're told.

For a long time this would have been seen as a negative, "oh typical Ireland, always so submissive. What can't we be more like the French? Stand up for ourselves every now and again".'

We lost the run of ourselves for a while there with the Water Protests, the repealing of the Eighth, the Sinn Féin tsunami, but now we're back on familiar ground, asking "how high, m'lud?" when told to jump.

This humility, tendency for subservience, will serve us well in the long run.

But it's not just that we're very good boys and girls, that would be to do us a disservice. Underpinning everything, and keeping those dreaded daily figures at manageable levels, has been our community spirit.

I know it sounds corny, the kind of line trotted out by, I don't know, political speechwriters, but it's the truth. It helps that we're a small island nation, that you can't go anywhere in this country without meeting someone you know, but that doesn't explain the hoteliers delivering free meals to the elderly, the chefs working for nothing, the chemists delivering prescriptions, the thousands of people offering to help and assist those most vulnerable in whatever way they can.

Nor does it explain the grit, the lack of self-pity, shown by those who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus. And clearly it doesn't explain why so many people would choose to return to this country, come out of retirement, or resume a career they had long since left behind to put themselves right in the firing line of this crisis.

These doctors, nurses, medics, healthcare professionals know the risks, they know the danger they are placing themselves in, but they also know that their skills, their expertise and know-how, have never been needed like they are now.

Leading by example, answering their country's call, they have shown us what community spirit really means. The least we can do is replicate it.

Enniscorthy Guardian