Daniel McConnell: Hope for some but outlook is bleak for others

Confirmation of the easing of restrictions is a most welcome development for most in the country, but not all.
Daniel McConnell: Hope for some but outlook is bleak for others

Members of the public in Cork City. Picture: Larry Cummins

Common sense and personal responsibility — the two main themes of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s address to the nation.

Mr Martin placed a heavy emphasis on the need for people to take personal responsibility in combating the virus and managing risk in the phases of reopening.

“Every contact counts,” he said.

“We are trusting business owners, and we are trusting their customers. 

We all have individual personal responsibility, and by closely following the rules, we believe we can make this reopening sustainable.

The Government is taking a major risk, a “calculated risk” as they see it, to open the country despite warnings from medics that the major progress made in terms of suppressing Covid-19 will be undone in the coming weeks.

Confirmation of the easing of restrictions is a most welcome development for most in the country, but not all.

On the positive side, by this day next week, more than 90,000 people currently out of work should be back in employment and off the live register.

That is a significant advancement and clearly one the Government feels confident making on foot of its own wide spectrum of data and advice it obtained in advance of its announcement.

“It is the best Cabinet meeting on Covid I have attended. It was well organised and the basis for moving to level 3 is well-founded and evidence-based,” said one minister.

But yet again, a small number of sectors, namely the wet pubs, are condemned to pay for the sins of others and are precluded from opening.

A woman walks past a pub in Dublin's city centre. Wet pubs will continue to be closed once the level 5 restrictions are lifted across Ireland. File picture: Brian Lawless
A woman walks past a pub in Dublin's city centre. Wet pubs will continue to be closed once the level 5 restrictions are lifted across Ireland. File picture: Brian Lawless

Despite many of them adhering to all of the guidelines, and the Government willing to take some risk in opening things up, the major concern of large gatherings involving alcohol meant their reopening was not possible.

Mr Martin said there was no evidence supporting the safe reopening of wet pubs before Christmas.

In his state of the nation address, in what will be seen as a major blow to wet pubs, Mr Martin said there was no evidence to support reopening. 

“Unfortunately, nothing in the research available to Government supports any further reopening of so-called wet pubs at this stage," he said. 

I know how deeply frustrating this will be for business owners in this sector. 

"I fully accept their goodwill about respecting guidelines — but the reality is that reopening indoor hospitality carries risks and there is only so far we can safely go.

“In easing restrictions, we are going as far as we believe is possible it is possible to achieve the best balance of health, economic, and social considerations, but no further,” Mr Martin said.

Marie Mellett, a publican from Swinford, speaking on The Last Word with Matt Cooper, described her “devastation” at the news.

“This is a black Friday for all the wrong reasons,” she said, clearly struggling to contain her emotions. “The Government is saying to us they do not trust us, they do not trust our staff, and they do not trust our customers. I do not know what we will do,” she said.

While for many, the news brings a sense of hope and a fresh start, for those such as Marie Mellett, who have been out of work for nine months, the outlook remains very bleak. And that is most unfair.

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
Revoiced
Newsletter

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from irishexaminer.com, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up