Happy St Patricks Day from Northern Ireland. It feels no time since I was writing the same words a year ago, when the country was in lockdown and all the pubs were shut. And, here we are, 365 days later, still in lockdown and all the pubs are shut. There will be no parades, no music and the black stuff will not be flowing. We’ve all been told to stay at home and dig in. Next year will be better our leaders have promised, which is exactly what they said last year.
Northern Ireland entered lockdown at one minute past midnight on 26 December, the third time the country has pulled down the shutters since the pandemic arrived last March. All non-essential shops remain closed. Cafes, restaurants and bars have yet to re-open. Churches, gyms and hairdressers have been given no real indication as to when they can open their doors again. It’s fair to say the majority of people are now well and truly fed up of it all.
Our political leaders unveiled a ‘roadmap to recovery’ a few weeks ago to almost universal criticism. It provided no dates as they maintained any relaxation of restrictions would be data driven. When people dared to ask to see this data they were told that wasn’t possible as it was far too complicated for the public to understand. The roadmap did nothing but cause additional confusion and resentment.
Schools are a prime example of the unfolding chaos. First we were informed that some primary children, but not all, could return for two weeks but then had to remain at home the following week to allow older years to attend. This was then changed so they could remain in class for the additional week before being amended again yesterday to allow all primary years back before the Easter break. Don’t worry if this makes no sense to you as I don’t understand it either and I wrote it.
The only positive spark is that some outdoor sporting activities are permitted again from 12 April. This means Adam and Rebecca can return to their respective teams, to train at least. We don’t know when they will be allowed to play competitive matches but it’s a start. The caveat is that the infection rates and hospital admissions must remain low. They have been falling for some time now, a combination of the continued lockdown and vaccination rollout.
These are tough times indeed and I hate to sound like a moaning minny but the blog is often the only medium whereby I can vent my frustration and utter exasperation at the situation. There are only so many cliches you can dredge up about ‘being all in this together’ and there being ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ We’ve been told this for a very long time now and it’s become a tired, largely meaningless line. This must the the longest tunnel in the history of very long tunnels.
My drinking days of debauchery are long behind me but I do feel sorry for the many people who regard today as a highlight of the year and look forward to drowning their shamrocks in time-honoured fashion. I only hope people behave and refrain from the temptation to flaunt the regulations on our national holiday today. It’s just not worth it and you could well end up with a hefty fine if caught by the authorities. Police patrols are being stepped up around the country.
I’m tempted to say next year will be different, that we will be back to normal and all will be well again. But bitter experience has taught me to hold fire on such utterances for fear that I will be writing these same words again on 17 March 2022. Wherever you are, if you have a drop of Irish blood in your veins, enjoy the day the best that you can. But please be safe, act responsibly and think of others.