Covid-19: Ireland stops to give round of applause for front line workers

Grateful nation unites in a show of solidarity with under pressure medical personnel

At 8pm on Thursday, people across Ireland gathered in streets and on balconies against a backdrop of beeping car horns and song to applaud its healthcare workers. Video: Kathleen Harris

 

At 8pm front doors opened, windows were unlocked and they gathered in streets and on balconies against a backdrop of beeping car horns as Ireland applauded its healthcare and front line workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic

As far as any professions go, it is a long-lived appreciation for medical staff ad gatdaí but this was different – this was coronavirus and a selfless front line response.

A country gripped by sudden uncertainty and largely confined indoors briefly put aside its fears over health and economy and came out in unison to recognise those taking the biggest risk in this global pandemic.

Beginning in recent weeks in France, Spain and India, among other countries, people urged each other towards unprecedented public displays of gratitude and admiration.

On Thursday it was Ireland’s turn and the message spread by word of mouth and through social media.

In the Dáil, TDs stood at the allotted hour, forgetting their discussions of emergency measures for a brief moment to clap with gusto in appreciation of the hundreds of battles being fought by medical staff around the country.

Exactly how far this applause spread is not clear. But on social media blurry videos quickly emerged – some of neighbours gathered on streets, some of echoing applause in apartment blocks lit by balcony lights.

Irish Times staff - working from home from Donegal to Douglas - also reported a strong turnout in their areas, with clapping, cheering and horns being honked by passing cars.

“Just a moment to show our appreciation for all the good work going on in our health service. Ladies and gentlemen, we salute you,” said RTÉ news presenter Eileen Dunne in a special report minutes after the hour.

The broadcaster’s cameras were primed – they captured clips from Lanesboro-Ballyleague on the river Shannon, Sligo Town, Cork Airport, the Department of Health in Dublin, Waterford City and Galway.

Elsewhere, in the small Meadowfield cul-de-sac in Dublin 18 every household was represented in the front gardens, waving and exchanging greetings with neighbours not seen for some time amid the isolation.

Families, couples and people living on their own stepped out on to Oxmantown Road in Dublin’s Stoneybatter. They waved from a distance as the applause rippled up and down the street for a full two minutes. “A street coming together while staying apart,” said one onlooker.

At the York Street flats in Dublin 2, residents cheered and banged saucepans and whatever else they could find. Passersby stopped and joined in.

Not so far away, a small crowd gathered on John Dillon Street. Dozens more hung out of windows at the Iveagh House flats on Clanbrassil Street whooping and cheering.

When the applause eventually died down at the Furry Park Court estate in Killester, Dublin 5, more could be heard across scattered nearby streets.

In the Culmore area of Derry, somebody was at the door – or leaning from the window – of about half the homes. Nearby cheering echoed in the night.

It was a strange unifying act, one that ultimately slowly gave way to the same silence and lonely streets that has become the new normal.

And to a lingering appreciation of what healthcare workers might be applauded for in the weeks to come.

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