Micheál Martin is not a gambler.
Much is made in political gossip circles of the fact that he hasn't eaten a biscuit in 20 years and is a cerebral, serious man who doesn't leave much to chance.
But as a Taoiseach operating in a singular moment, one with no historical precedent, Mr Martin has been forced to improvise more than he might have liked, to trust his gut on issues that go far beyond the day-to-day politics to which he may have been accustomed.
By deviating from Nphet's public health advice two weeks ago, Mr Martin made a calculation that even if things didn't stabilise around the transmission of Covid-19, they would not get irretrievably worse — that there was always a big red button that the Government could push.
That button was pushed hard on Monday night, leading Ireland into a Level 5 lockdown that will last six weeks. In announcing it, the Taoiseach dangled the prospect of a somewhat normal Christmas if we are all on our best behaviour and the virus retreats to the levels seen in the summer.
"If we pull hard together over the next six weeks, we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way.
"Every Christmas is important, but this year it is particularly so. Each of us have our own rituals for Christmas, and they will take on extra poignancy this year as we remember those who didn’t survive 2020."
As speechcraft, it was a nice note — a beacon of hope in an interminably grim year for many. But as politics, it is a gamble. Mr Martin has now linked public view of his government's handling of this virus on a six-week period which, before it had even kicked off, had gyms and beauty salons demanding their customers man the barricades in protest.
The public will from here, rightly or wrongly, for better or for worse, associate Mr Martin's government with the nightly figures, those grim #Breaking tweets and the sight of journalists standing in the marble and glass reception of the Department of Health.
These will now, along with the tangible impacts of the Government's Covid supports for businesses, become the totem of the achievements of the 32nd Government of Ireland for the next month and a half.
While this is, on the whole, somewhat unfair — you would never normally take the totality of work done by a government against its handling of one issue — but as radio ads have told us since March, these are unprecedented times. The stakes for a tired, weary and sad nation are high.
And by admitting this week that Christmas, that time of year when for many the stresses of the previous 12 months are lost for just a few short days, is another potential casualty of Covid, has raised them even higher.
To see Christmas thrown on the Covid scrapheap along with weddings and family parties and music festivals might be too much for the country and compliance with guidelines would be hard to maintain if, come December 25, no household visits are allowed. There is a sense that the Christmas issue is an easy headline for journalists, a distraction from the bigger issues.
Honestly, there is an element of truth there. It is easier to headline a story if the CMO or the Taoiseach warns that we will all end up with a lump of coal than if we discuss the complex nature of virology or discuss the finer points of the Wage Subsidy Scheme.
But people who read the news are human. They want to know how the news will affect them and the things they care about. Look at the responses to tweets from Monday's press briefing when Transport Minister Eamon Ryan announced the closure of golf courses. Those golfers did not miss the bigger picture, they just saw a smaller detail in it.
And Christmas may be the largest detail of all in the bigger social picture of Covid-19 to many people. As Mr Martin said, "it will be a very special time and will give us all some respite from the hardship of the last seven months".
So Mr Martin has taken a gamble on Christmas and what the public will see is his ability to deliver it. A previous gamble on opening schools was won, despite the growing unease of some teachers and students, through a mix of manoeuvre and bloody-mindedness. Even as we face the lockdown, schools will remain open.
But Christmas will be different. As much as children congregate at the bike sheds (do bike sheds still exist?), they are no match for a Christmas rush at a shopping centre or a raucous party on Stephens' Night.
So the Government will need a plan, one which Mr Martin has repeatedly said has not been discussed at Cabinet level. The plan will need to outline, when this lockdown is lifted, exactly what Christmas will look like. Will emigrants be allowed fly home and forego quarantine? What difference is there between a house party and a family dinner? What will happen in January if and when there's a spike in cases? While this Christmas may feel small in comparison to the rest of the world's events, it is the biggest gamble Micheál Martin has ever taken.