Aoife Moore: No-one pulls on the green jersey for Ireland's vulnerable people

Our "all in this together" attitude for the pandemic is now done. 
Aoife Moore: No-one pulls on the green jersey for Ireland's vulnerable people
Micheál Martin has not yet made it back to banks of the lovely Lee. File picture: Sasko Lazarov/

We knew it was coming, it had been in the post for a while.

The social cohesion, the Green jersey, the fleeting mindset that we were "all in it together" — it is done.

In the two weeks since recess began, we have seen a spike in Covid-19 cases, linked to vulnerable people, migrant workers in cramped conditions who share factory floors, as well as beds, in this "nation of equals".

Meat plants had been on the radar for months. The red flags were waved that these factories would be a hotbed for the virus to spread, that workers would be encouraged to come to work even if they felt ill due to a distinct lack of other options (Siptu say up to 80% of these workers do not get sick pay) and the ever-present threat of total poverty, yet little was done, and now three counties have been plunged into lockdown, through no fault of their citizens, or those who had been infected themselves.

In homeless services, we have seen 10 preventable deaths. Ten people, who the Green jersey was rarely pulled on for, whose deaths were preventable and who passed away without a home to call their own. 

Despite calls from every homeless service imaginable, and Father Peter McVerry himself, for emergency mental health measures to be implemented to prevent further tragedy, the Government could not even manage an official statement, let alone anything else.

Meanwhile, evictions were back on the cards. Not that anyone was aware, or expecting it, not least the migrant family who were evicted from their family home in Phibsorough by a private security team this week. They were manhandled from the premises, watched over by garda officers, one of whom told a tenant: "It's not my responsibility if you're homeless". They returned to significant damage in their home. Shoulder to shoulder, eh?

Another migrant family in Balbriggan are also homeless this week, due to a housefire. They escaped with their lives, only to be confronted moments after with the rumour spread by the far-right that the fire had been falsely linked to drugs and gang violence. A rumour that had been perpetuated by not one, but two Government TDs, their own area TDs, one of which is the housing minister.

Tweet by Darragh O'Brien
Tweet by Darragh O'Brien

Rather than setting about visiting the family, or the street, or the area, Darragh O'Brien took to social media first, to say he had "information" the fire was linked to anti-social behaviour. Fne Gael TD Alan Farrell went on the radio appearing to say the same, and saying it appeared an "accelerant" was used. They offered no proof. The Minister deleted his tweet after a story ran in this paper, but offered no reply or apology for his actions.

I suppose, we should at least be grateful they are tweeting, because how else would we know they are still here?

In the middle of a global pandemic, an oncoming recession, children returning to school this month, and a spike in Covid-19 cases, the Government is in recess.

The recess itself has been shortened, and a recess in general is needed. In a welcome change, more and more TDs are younger, with young families. No one expects the Government to work year round without a break, and rest, in this incredibly anxiety-ridden time, is essential.

However, apart from the Taoiseach, who appears to have not yet left Leinster House to return to the banks of the lovely Lee, and the Tánaiste, who has continued a number of press conferences trying on shoes and talking about going back to the pub, the rest of the cabinet have been missing in action.

There has been very little sense that anyone else is even around, let alone keeping an eye on the ball, minus the two managers.

Schools are not long away from opening, and the Minister for Education Norma Foley, in a time where you would expect her to be taking advantage of quiet news days to organise photo ops and inform a worried public of every detail of how Ireland's children will be protected, is keeping quiet. In one parting parliamentary question, she told concerned TDs that protection for immuno-compromised children and staff, would be left up "to each individual school", and then she was gone.

These individual schools and teachers have worked, unlike the Government, without a break for most of this year, helping children online, calculating grades, and setting up socially distant classrooms. I am sure they will be delighted to find out they also need to brush up on their epidemiology skills come August 24.

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, a man who spent an inordinate amount of the last five years getting himself in front of cameras to tear his predecessor Simon Harris to shreds, has also barely been seen, choosing not to appear before the Oireachtas Covid-19 Committee in the midst of a spike, one of the few parliament processes still ongoing. Simon Harris, however, has been one of the few ministers who has been seen since recess, and not just in his deft social media use.

Donnelly has however appeared on radio. Two weeks ago he told us that airport testing would be rolled out. It made headlines. Most people were impressed. It has not been mentioned since, by anyone, including the Taoiseach or Donnelly himself.

Like the green list that came before, the Government is adamant all is well, we are all in it together, the pandemic is "not simple but straightforward".

Well, they were before the Tánaiste admitted that a culture of blame had broken out, which he regrets, of course. However, many would say it was inevitable, allowing travel from Covid-19 hotspots into the country, and telling people they can go on foreign holidays, but also do not, if you can help it, cutting pandemic unemployment payments, which forces many back to work, refusing to ban evictions, which forces more onto the streets or into cramped accommodation, all of which heighten the risk of viral spread, and of the public pointing fingers at each other.

It is clear that some at the top table see themselves as "essential workers", and some do not.

However, for those on six-figure-salaries while the country continues in a tail-spin, one hopes they are not expecting any applause or 'Thank yous' from the public.

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