Virgin Media presenter Muireann O’Connell has revealed her heart was warmed as she took her mother back to the shops for the first time in months as lockdown restrictions were lifted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking exclusively to Independent.ie, Limerick-born Muireann admits she has been reluctant to return to shops and restaurants after four months that have reshaped our country for good, yet she admits the sight of a smile returning to her mother's face as she escaped from her own isolation gave her hope for a brighter future.
"We all have to be optimistic about what comes next after this horrible period in our lives and seeing my mam's face when she went back to the shops for the first time since lockdown, I could tell how much it meant to her," said the Six O’Clock Show presenter.
"She had a smile on her face and it was lovely to see. She's a different person. Now it's not about going shopping for clothes or anything like that, but being among people again was definitely good for her head. To be able to go out and have that little bit of normality is all we want and it is a case of getting used to doing what was normal to us not so long ago.
"It's so important for your mental health to go out, to go to shops, to see people. It is amazing how everything has changed in our world and we are now happy to follow these new rules because we know the virus is still out there, but we also have to try to get our lives back on track as well.
"All of us need to get out there and rebuild our confidence. We have been shaken by what has happened, of course we have, but now we have reached a moment when we have to try and get moving again.
"This is the moment to start going to shops and restaurants again. When we do, we just need to have a little bit of patience towards businesses who are getting used to the new social distancing restrictions that are now in place."
Muireann also hopes the community spirit that has emerged during the COVID-19 crisis can be maintained, as she has developed closer bonds with her neighbours and friends.
"I really hope some of the mentality we all had during the lockdown period can be maintained," continued Muireann. "Checking in on neighbours and doing good deeds for people who might need our help around us was a wonderful part of what happened when lockdown came in and we need to keep that going now.
"I got to know my neighbours so well during lockdown. I have keys for my neighbours' house now and if they go away we pop in and do the plants for them. All that wouldn't have happened before this crisis was injected into our lives, so we have to keep that community spirit going now."
Virgin Media's #BackingBusiness campaign is a €1m support fund to boost Irish businesses nationwide, with free-to-air advertising being offered across its full schedule covering Virgin Media channels One, Two and Three.
"Small businesses that would never have the finances to consider a national television advert can now embrace that idea with this #BackingBusiness campaign we have launched with Virgin Media and I feel we all have a duty to get behind our local businesses and give them our support," added Muireann.
"A fund is there now to get the message out there and tell people who you are, what you do and how we can get it. Irish businesses need our support now so let's try and give them everything we can."
Virgin Media will broadcast a day of programming from Limerick on July 22nd to highlight the #BackingBusiness campaign, starting with Ireland AM through to The Six O’Clock show and The Tonight Show.