Air of liberation lingers as plans for an autumn return to education remain unknown

Welcome to Liberation Day on Monday of this week! As you all know by now, many areas of life have opened up that were not due to open up until later, particularly shops, other retail outlets and so on.

I don’t know what brought about this liberation, whether it was the Cabinet finally asserting itself over the Health Committee or whether it was just the natural progression of people in the community deciding that they were just not going to be locked down anymore and that they wanted to break free.

Whatever the reason, there is a lot more freedom, both in travelling and in shopping this week. I was so disappointed there was no word of hairdressers and barbers, but then I read in the weekend papers that they may be allowed to do their business from June 29.

I really hope so; as I go around town and as I sit out at the Hodson Bay, I notice people with hair much longer than they ever had it before, and of course to add a bit of spice to it, it is sometimes a very different colour to what it was before!

You see, the big difficulty about the coronavirus is that there are so many experts giving so many different types of advice that sometimes it is quite difficult to decide whose advice to believe and whose advice to spurn.

Brendan O’Connor had such an expert on his Sunday radio show (11am-1pm ). I think he was an epidemiologist, and he said that there should be a more severe lockdown, that nobody should be allowed to leave their homes until there is zero virus.

I think that is never going to happen. However, it is allied to a strong conviction by almost all the experts that yes, we will have a second wave of the virus. It has happened, apparently, all over the world.

If that is so, well at least we will be better prepared on this occasion with our hospitals, our testing and our tracking, and all of the other medical knowledge which we have slowly built up during the last number of weeks.

Be that as it may, with all the uncertainty abounding, enjoy what little liberation you find during this week. I believe the retail shopping will be difficult with only small numbers allowed in, no browsing, no fitting on, just a decision you will purchase A, B, C or D and it will be wrapped up and you will pay, presumably, and then leave. But it is certainly a change from online shopping.

I would say to people, buy local because that means you are helping someone you know get back their job and be a part of a functioning society again.

Well, the political talks trundle on, against the backdrop of the upcoming leadership of the Green Party. It appears that Catherin Martin has an edge with all of the radical young followers of the Green agenda, which would surely point towards her being the new leader.

This week, hopefully by Thursday when the Advertiser newspapers come out, there will have been a Programme for Government agreed and publicly issued.

Then, of course, we come to the real dilemma: each party sends it to its party members. In the case of Fianna Fáil, 50 per cent of the membership must agree the programme. I understand there will be professionals appointed to ensure everything is handled correctly.

In Fine Gael, it is a more complex situation in that the various strands of political life – ie councillors, national executive, Cabinet, etc – have different percentages of the votes allocated to them. But even at that, they will have to get a sound party membership vote.

In the case of the Greens, it is the most difficult party in that they will have to get two-thirds of their membership to agree to the Programme for Government, otherwise it does not pass.

Hence the effort last week to call in some of the Independents to see if they would consider backing the Programme for Government that will emerge. Therefore, it is all still very fluid in the negotiations, with apparently some quite imponderable huge issues still remaining to be surmounted and agreed.

There has been very little comment on education recently. I so hope that primary schools will re-open to all children come September 1. It would be good if the Minister for Education Joe McHugh gave an update from time to time on how their plans for early September re-opening are proceeding. The Department is reported as having ongoing discussions and decision-making with the INTO and the management boards, parents’ groups and everyone connected with primary schools, but we still are at a loss as to how it is to happen. Will the successful opening still depend on the change from two metres to one metre in social distancing?

I hope some of the numerous questions can be reported on soon.

We have all changed during the lockdown period, haven’t we? For myself, I have changed dramatically. In the beginning, I thought the days would stretch out endlessly in front of me, but not so. I have found comfort in the regularity of life, and in the idea that I had to stop dashing everywhere. I was always in a rush going hither and thither, planning events so long in advance, etc etc, and always seeming to be in a hurry. But no longer, and I think that is good.

Like many of the readers, I am sure, a sense of calm has replaced that sense of doing and going and planning, and I think that in itself is no harm whatsoever.

I’m getting philosophical now, so it certainly is time to stop.

I would encourage all readers to still go easy on themselves, take it easy, stay at home more often, and good luck with Liberation Week.

Mind yourself until I talk with you all next week.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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