Miriam Lord: A spring in Micheál’s step as he brings good news for summer
The Taoiseach was happy to do the heavy lifting: lifting restrictions, lifting our spirits
Happy days: Minister for Culture and Sport Catherine Martin, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar during the announcement of easing of Covid-19 restrictions and the reopening of hospitality, hairdressing and other services. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire
But then, once jabbed a lifeline
The longed-for tidal wave
Of liberty can rise up
And hope and histology rhyme...
You’d miss the bit of poetry all the same.
Even though this live television address was as eagerly and anxiously anticipated as all the others, the Taoiseach had no need of stirring verse to stiffen the national spirit on this rarest of rare occasions for him.
A good news event.
Micheál Martin appeared at the summit of the Stairway of Gloom in front of the serious stained glass, framed by two flags and a couple of droopy houseplants. But this time, he was the Light at the End of the Tunnel.
The Taoiseach moved towards the microphone, high-kicking cymbals to his left (ba-dum-tss!) and to his right (bad-dum-tss!) as he sashayed down the steps.
Maybe he calmly walked, but inside he was dancing. And there is no evidence to prove he didn’t slide down the marble balustrade on the way down from his office.
Micheál couldn’t wait to start talking.
“D’Yeeve!” he shouted, a half smile on his face. (“Dia Daoibh,” when he isn’t so super-keen to get the good news out.)
This was a spot of heavy lifting he was only too happy to do. Lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions – not fully, but enough to lift the mood of the public and kindle warm feelings of optimism about days of relaxed summer living to come.
He fairly rattled though the speech. Yes, we must all remain vigilant for the variants and stick to our knittin’ and we could have this virus on the ropes and lockdown licked in a few short months.
All eating houses and pubs will be ‘wet’ because they will have to do all their business outdoors where the weather may not always be dry
“Hope is returning,” he quivered. With vaccinations motoring along (“the rollout is really ramping up,” said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at the press briefing afterwards), it really seems that way. The country has been waiting for well over a year for such an encouraging display from the bottom of the staircase.
And it felt good.
Yes, yes, “subject to things remaining stable”. We know. But it felt like such a weight was being lifted. Or at least beginning to lift. Micheál’s little smile as he went through the list of diminishing impositions was understandable. Although perhaps he was straining credulity when declaring: “It is with no small personal relief that I can also confirm that on the 10th of May hairdressing and other personal services may open by appointment around the country.”
So that’ll be a full head balayage with 12-week blowdry and gel nail extensions for him so.
Of course, we were in the general vicinity of this happy place before. Restrictions were lifted. Things didn’t go well.
“The vaccination is the big change from last year,” said the Taoiseach. “It changes the risk equation significantly.”
In further good news, he said that next week the porter will be opened for those aged 50 to 59.
What’s that? Oh, the “portal”. Never mind, outdoor pints were promised for the start of June, when all eating houses and pubs will be “wet” because they will have to do all their business outdoors where the weather may not always be dry and the portaloos will be swamped.
So good riddance to April. “May is spaced out,” he said during the briefing, but May must deliver because June is fully dependent on her while returning Hope springs eternal and Joy awaits.
Each and every one of us has an image in our head of a moment we are looking forward to enjoying when we get through this. I know I have...
“The key factor remains sticking with the strategy,” Micheál reminded his audience, gulping for air as he raced through what he would probably call his key deliverables. In what has been “a very tough and unprecedented year”, the Taoiseach praised the weary public for staying the course.
“You have done everything that has been asked of you.”
Now it is time to start looking forward and planning for the good things again.
“Each and every one of us has an image in our head of a moment we are looking forward to enjoying when we get through this.”
“I know I have...”
What? What is it? You can’t just leave that hanging there.
Does it involve inflicting pain on Marc MacSharry? Or is it something cheeky to do with the Shinners? Then again, there was that long passage in Irish near the end of his speech, so maybe the Taoiseach’s special moment has to do with his remark about spending balmy summer evenings in Corca Dhuibhne again.
Leo didn’t seem too distraught at Micheál’s good fortune in landing the coveted “hope is returning” gig. He predicted that in the wake of the Great Reopening “there might even be a mini-boom”.
He also brought along an inspirational quote to compete, sorry, complete his few words at the media briefing after the main event.
I should say that Coppers has a large outdoor area and a nice balcony, so you never know, Taoiseach, you might get there yet!
“I end with a quote from a great scientist.” Luke O’Neill, if he was looking in, must have been beside himself with anticipation. But the Tánaiste inexplicably plumped for Albert Einstein instead.
“Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope for tomorrow.”
Catherine Martin, standing in for her Green party leader, Eamon Ryan, who was on Dáil duty, was in the right place, given that she is Minister for Culture and Sport among other things. She held out the prospect of live music and sporting events in the near future. “We want this to happen.”
There isn’t much joy for people in the nightclub business, though. The Taoiseach said he didn’t see much prospect of clubs reopening for a while.
“I don’t think I’ll make it to Coppers anytime soon,” he quipped, ruling out one option for an enjoyable image he might have had in his head.
Leo was there.
“I should say that Coppers has a large outdoor area and a nice balcony, so you never know, Taoiseach, you might get there yet!”
Micheál and Leo in Coppers, fully vaccinated. Doses on the dancefloor.
Anything is possible, when hope and histology rhyme.