Miriam Lord: Messages of hope but no bank holiday weekend rollover jackpot
Three more weeks of restrictions as Leo quotes over-plundered Heaney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: “We need to persevere and we need to maintain our discipline and resolve.” Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA
Only one Solemn Liturgy for Good Friday was supposed to be broadcast live on afternoon television. The proper one from Mullingar Cathedral.
Although as it turned out, it was the perfect warm-up to get everyone in the mood for an extra programme which was broadcast live directly afterwards from Government Buildings.
We tuned in with barely bated breath. All over Isolation Nation, people knew in their hearts and souls what was coming.
Would there be a big bank holiday weekend rollover jackpot?
The Taoiseach didn’t keep his audience in suspense. He strode on to the platform in the government media centre accompanied by his glamorous assistants (Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Education Joe McHugh) and the most famous chief medical officer in the history of Irish chief medical officers, Tony Holohan.
Straight in with the grim news. The word according to Leo.
“Good afternoon everyone. Throughout our history, Good Friday has had a special meaning. It is a day associated with suffering, and sacrifice, and sorrow . . .”
Oh, goodnight. So that would be a no, then. No rollover dividend this week, after a fortnight of hoping for the best.
The Taoiseach tried to soften the blow by following up with words of hope about new beginnings, rebirth, renewal and better days to come. He had nothing but praise and gratitude for the people of Ireland who have come together magnificently to halt the spread of the vicious Covid-19 virus.
It is difficult, but by observing the instructions to stay at home and observing social distancing, many lives have and will be saved.
It’s a pain, Leo Varadkar acknowledged, but it’s for the greater good.
“I know many people are feeling frustrated, and I know the fine weather makes it even harder. We want to be outside, we want to be with friends and family, and we want to feel like we can go anywhere. We want to be free.”
But it cannot be.
The virus isn’t beaten yet.
“Today’s message is that we cannot be complacent and we cannot lose focus. What we are doing is difficult, but it is making a difference, so we have to keep going. We need to persevere and we need to maintain our discipline and resolve.”
And with that, the Taoiseach, on the advice of the experts, announced a three-week rollover period, holding out the enticing prospect of a restriction-ending jackpot at the next bank holiday weekend in May.
At which point it will be “our fervent hope” that the Government can begin to “unwind” the measures.
And parents can get used to not being so used to their children again.
Which is where Joe McHugh came in. He brought the good news that schools are to remain closed for “the foreseeable future”, bringing unspeakable joy to all those parents enjoying the delights of homeschooling and monster choruses of OMG!! to Leaving Cert students facing delayed exams.
Then back to the Minister for Health, who echoed the Taoiseach’s galvanising words to the public. The 33-year-old Minister, known now to legions of the soft-hearted as Simon “aah God, would you look at him” Harris, rowed in behind the Taoiseach’s galvanising words.
Does the chap ever sleep? He has dark circles over his dark circles and his quiff is getting more Morticia Addams by the day.
He underscored the message, telling people their actions are making “a real and meaningful difference”. He outlined the encouraging figures.
“You are doing this, you are making this happen, you are flattening the curve . . . You are saving so many lives. Isn’t that an incredible thing to say?”
Just in case anyone was in doubt, Harris confirmed he is extending the legal regulations curtailing public activity during the Covid-19 crisis. Or the “Emergency”, with a capital E, as it is routinely described now in government dispatches.
They need public buy-in above all else. But two weeks, we have all discovered, is a long time in pandemic prevention.
“Doctors can save hundreds of lives during this pandemic, but you can save thousands,” said the Minister.
Stirring words from Government Buildings in this critical “Keep Her Goin’ Patsy” stage in the war against Covid-19.
“All we can do is take one day at a time. To think of others. And to choose hope and solidarity over self-interest and fear,” said the Taoiseach.
“Thank you. Thank you for your forbearance and for the sacrifices you have made so far.”
But the Taoiseach must also be told that patience is running thin. There is only so much forbearance. Only so much the people can take before they snap.
Twice – twice – Leo Varadkar quoted Seamus Heaney in his speech. At the beginning and at the end. And this, after all the other times he has wantonly quoted Seamus Heaney. It’s too much.
This poetry pandemic, this silent literary cliche, respects no political borders.
The virus was once rampant in international speechwriting circles but the curve has since flattened to manageable proportions in nearly every part of the world apart from the USA around St Patrick’s Day.
And in Ireland, where the Taoiseach has succumbed completely to the Heaney bug and is now a super-spreader.
Do we have no other poets – alive or dead – worth quoting? Does the Taoiseach have no other volumes to plunder? Can somebody stage an intervention and shred his Heaney buke?
Leo must poetically distance himself immediately.
Because this thing is infectious.
“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests
I’ll dig lumps out of Leo with it