Daniel McConnell: Collective gratitude for healthcare staff

Daniel McConnell: Collective gratitude for healthcare staff
Eamon Ryan praised the work of the Government and its ministers. Picture: Gareth Chaney

A dreary day in the Dáil was saved yesterday by our collective gratitude for frontline workers, writes Daniel McConnell.

It’s a sure sign of the times we live in, that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar referred to Brexit, as a “simpler time”, as the Dáil convened.

Our socially distant (in more ways than one, as we languish without a mandated government) TDs, 22 in total, settled into their seats in order to fly through some more of the most sweeping measures ever implemented in the state.

Mr Varadkar kicked off, telling the chamber “as a doctor and a politician” he understood the need for repetition, (ironically as the country faces another Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael coalition), and it’s importance in terms of heeding medical advice on social distancing.

When Micheál Martin took to his feet, he appeared to be in a different room to the rest of us as he noted “this highly- diverse Dáil”, had come to an agreement for the good of the country.

This highly-diverse room included a total of five women, zero people under 30, and just one from a minority background.

The stand out for the opening remarks was Eamon Ryan, who appeared as a man suitably chastised for his last contribution to the chamber, in which, mid-pandemic, he extolled the virtues of seeds, salads, and painting your house.

The Green Party leader praised the work of the Government and its ministers, not surprising in light of his recent letter to party leaders requesting that Mr Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris stay in situ for the foreseeable future.

The day continued with little fanfare or theatrics, with small signs of things to come, most notably when a proposal to extend the ban on evictions to 12 months was defeated by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil with the help of four rural independents.

The more cynical among us might surmise that these upstanding rural gentlemen might be signalling they’re happy to prop up any such government formed in the next few weeks.

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After almost all was said and done, at 8pm, the chamber, along with thousands across the country and in the UK stood up to applaud frontline workers — a genuine moment of emotion for those in our health service, whose work had been extolled by politicians of all colours throughout the day.

The debate seemed small in the face of what the country is facing, and will face down the line, and tiny for what our healthcare workers deal with minute to minute. Yesterday, Mr Varadkar said politicians did not have a good reputation, and most of the time, didn’t deserve one.

Reputations aside, anyone who watched the chamber yesterday could be assured that every single one knows the debt of gratitude we owe to those on the frontline in this crisis.

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