Construction worker opens up on toll of three lockdowns

Construction worker opens up on toll of three lockdowns

Ivan McCarthy says he is fortunate but hopes for the full return of the construction industry soon for his friends and colleagues in the sector. Picture: Don MacMonagle

A lifelong construction worker has described sleepless nights 'staring at the darkness' as he opened up on the mental, physical and financial toll of three lockdowns.

As the building sector prepares to reopen more widely, Ivan McCarthy has revealed details of a personal essay that he read to colleagues in the midst of the third wave of Covid-19. 

Mr McCarthy, a construction manager with KPH Construction in Co Kerry, described sharing his feelings with fellow workers.

I kind of broke down in the middle of it, I got a lump in my throat and I had to take a deep breath, and it was hard to read it.

The essay details a full year of the pandemic, the social isolation, the family disruption, the lack of human contact, the economic uncertainty, and the full effect of this on Mr McCarthy and his mental health. 

"My mind was not in the game. This was hell," writes Mr McCarthy in his essay.

"Sleeping was very intermittent, and I would regularly wake up in a lather of sweat, on a few occasions with severe pain in my chest like I was having a heart attack.

"After calming myself down for an hour I tried to get back to sleep. I remember often spending nights, eyes wide open, just staring at the darkness wondering what was going to happen."

Mr McCarthy said the talk gave him a lift to shift his perspective. 

"Since I read it out, I'm a totally changed person," he said, "I think I'm handling it a lot better now."

Positive response

The response was more than positive. 

"My boss said it was really truthful and down to earth and hit home a lot of points to him," said Mr McCarthy. 

An outgoing man, his colleagues were surprised at how the lockdowns had been affecting him. Many of them reached out to him afterwards to commend him for sharing his thoughts. 

Ivan McCarthy: 'Sleeping was very intermittent, and I would regularly wake up in a lather of sweat, on a few occasions with severe pain in my chest like I was having a heart attack.' Picture: Don MacMonagle
Ivan McCarthy: 'Sleeping was very intermittent, and I would regularly wake up in a lather of sweat, on a few occasions with severe pain in my chest like I was having a heart attack.' Picture: Don MacMonagle

Working previously in private home construction, Mr McCarthy returned to the workplace recently after his construction firm began social and affordable housing projects. 

He said he is fortunate but hopes for the full return of the construction industry soon for his friends and colleagues in the sector. 

The Government is set to announce a cautious easing of level 5 restrictions tomorrow, including a wider reopening of construction, from April 5.

The cabinet sub-committee met last night to discussed the recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team and Taoiseach Micheál Martin is due to make an announcement today to confirm the changes. 

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