Bray People

Martin’s sim­ple new Covid plan is about as clear as a muddy pud­dle

- Ireland · Micheál Martin · Leo Varadkar · Stephen Donnelly · Dublin · County Kildare · County Laois · County Offaly

THERE are a few con­stants when it comes to Ire­land’s re­sponse to the Covid-19 pan­demic. The daily virus brief­ing usu­ally in­spires lit­tle more than a de­sire to scream into the void; the smell of hand san­i­tizer and rub­bing al­co­hol per­me­ates ev­ery in­door space and see­ing some­one’s nose and mouth is now akin to glimps­ing a Vic­to­rian era woman’s an­kle.

Fi­nally, there’s Govern­ment pro­nounce­ments and the, by now, in­evitable con­fu­sion that fol­lows the lat­est mixed up health mes­sage Micheál Martin and his team try to is­sue.

The Govern­ment’s dire com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­egy – though to call it a strat­egy is to give it far greater credit than it de­serves – has come in for plenty of crit­i­cism in re­cent months but it reached a new nadir last Tues­day.

Af­ter weeks of build up – and days of care­fully crafted ‘ leaks’ – the Taoiseach; Tá­naiste Leo Varad­kar and Health Min­is­ter Stephen Don­nelly stepped up to their re­spec­tive podium’s to set out the Govern­ment’s vaunted plan for ‘Liv­ing with Covid’.

The idea – ac­cord­ing to Mr Martin – was to pro­vide the peo­ple with a clear, con­cise and easy to un­der­stand ex­pla­na­tion of the Govern­ment’s plan for the coun­try to deal with Covid-19 over the win­ter months. The idea was and is a good one. The de­liv­ery, how­ever, left an aw­ful lot to be de­sired.

In the midst of speeches that were as heavy on jar­gon and plat­i­tudes as they were light on de­tail, it was con­firmed that, for the next six to nine months, day to day life in Ire­land will be gov­erned by a care­fully de­signed five level sys­tem of re­stric­tions based on the level of the virus in var­i­ous ar­eas.

So far so good. The plan, well flagged in ad­vance, made sense and the ap­proach seemed em­i­nently log­i­cal.

Then – mid brief­ing – the Govern­ment de­cided to tear it up. Dublin, re­spon­si­ble for more than half of the hun­dreds of new cases each day, was not go­ing to be part of the ‘five level’ plan.

While the rest of the coun­try was on Level Two the cap­i­tal would be one level ‘ Two and a bit’ as one uniden­ti­fied Min­is­ter told the me­dia shortly be­fore the brief­ing.

In Dublin – where wet pubs would re­main shut – there was anger that the city was set for three more weeks of tough re­stric­tions.

Across the rest of the coun­try – and, one imag­ines, par­tic­u­larly in Kil­dare, Laois and Of­faly – there was anger and in­credulity that Dublin seemed to be re­ceiv­ing spe­cial treat­ment.

Was the Govern­ment re­ally so spine­less that it wouldn’t im­pose the re­stric­tions on Dublin that it had lit­er­ally just an­nounced? Is that not enor­mously un­fair on the rest of the coun­try?

Not at all, bris­tled a clearly ir­ri­tated Taoiseach when those sug­ges­tions were put to him by the me­dia and the op­po­si­tion.

The Five Level plan is ‘nu­anced’ and can be tweaked when the need arises, as it ap­par­ently had in Dublin. Fur­ther­more the Cabi­net had merely fol­lowed the ad­vice of Nphet. A point Mr Martin was a pains to re­peat sev­eral times lest it es­cape un­no­ticed.

While the Govern­ment did, even­tu­ally, pull the trig­ger and im­pose a new lock-down on Dublin the dam­age to its cred­i­bil­ity and mes­sage had al­ready been done.

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