Suzanne Harrington: I’ll clap for frontline heroes, not Boris

Never has reaction to a disaster differed so starkly as the way Ireland and Britain have been handling this pandemic.
Suzanne Harrington: I’ll clap for frontline heroes, not Boris

Never has reaction to a disaster differed so starkly as the way Ireland and Britain have been handling this pandemic.

I know we are all exhausted from death maths, but thanks to Dr Elaine Doyle, first on Twitter and then in The Guardian, for her figures about the difference in UK and Irish death rates from Covid-19.

Basically, more than twice as many people per capita are dying in the UK as they are in Ireland.

At the moment in the UK, that’s around 11 Hillsboroughs a day.

For two full weeks after Ireland shut down, when every hour mattered, Boris Johnson and his government gave the impression that opting out of the pandemic was a choice.

Like Brexit.

Unlike the rest of the EU, frantically closing schools and cancelling stuff, the British government decided British exceptionalism was the best route. So Cheltenham went ahead, as Ireland banned St Patrick’s Day.

While Johnson is not quite the lunatic governor of South Dakota who, at the time of writing, was still refusing to order lockdown (saying it was a matter of personal choice and hydroxychloroquine, having taken her medical advice from top epidemiologist Donald Trump), what is most unsettling about the British media’s response to these thousands of entirely preventable deaths is its acceptance.

Hiding behind battle language, to cover up a series of catastrophic government health policy failures.

Instead of taking its leadership to task for fiddling as the virus spread, dithering with an ineptitude that continues to kill thousands, and ignoring basic WHO advice, the British media has made it all about Boris. Outrageous cultish piffle about his health being symbolic of the nation’s health; hourly reports from his bedside about him being in good spirits; his luxurious convalescence in Chequers, a country mansion paid for by the proles.

Yet no reference to this being the same Boris who voted against a modest pay rise for nurses in 2017, his party clapping and cheering when they blocked it.

While he was in hospital being kept alive by these very same underpaid nurses, people were urged to come out of their houses and clap for him, as we had been clapping for health workers. I am unable to fully share my reaction to that idea, because of this newspaper’s effing-and-blinding policy.

As one of the 400,000 Irish citizens living in Britain, I couldn’t give a flying facemask about the health of Boris Johnson.

I care about my exhausted, shell-shocked friends who work in our local A&E; I care about the supermarket workers; the bin collectors; the people stuck in small flats with small kids, going out of their minds; the voiceless old people in care homes, their Covid-19 deaths not even counted.

I care about my anxious friends, my fed up kids.

At least I know my family in Ireland is safe. Unlike Britain, Ireland has been guided through this mess by a leadership that broadly appears to know what it’s doing.

For that, I am grateful. For that, I am relieved.

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