A few weeks ago, as a friend of mine was traversing cross country on his way to the south east, he stopped for a coffee at a big service station on one of the motorways. But as they got there, they could see that inside it was overly packed, that while the numbers might not have been in breach of anything, it was still not conducive to good public health were they to go in. His daughter noticed this too and said as much. “Daddy, there are too many people in there, let’s move along and go somewhere else.”
She was 11.
And she had the cop on to know that something was not right.
It might be just a coincidence that so many of those who attended that dinner last week are in receipt of some penny from the public purse. For most of us, there is a realisation that you are at all times representing the place that pays you. That there is a requirement that your behaviour falls into line with your role. That every step you take is preceded by a thought about whether this is the right thing to do. Of course, everyone makes mistakes, everyone has an error of judgement. But when you elect people to an office to represent you, you sort of hope that this will be few and far between. That you are voting for them based on their ability to think for you, to advocate for you, to be your friend in court. But even then, was there not one person among them that night who had the common sense to say that something was not quite right, and that there was a reason why these sort of events have not been held for months.
For holidaymakers who witnessed what went on, there was no doubt that this was a throwback to a pre-Covid era. For staycationers who eschewed their foreign travel this year in order to help the drive to beat Covid, how galling it was to see the guidelines breached in the manner they were. To hear the legislators then bleat about how they thought it would be ok because the Irish Hotel Federation had told them it was, beggars belief too. These were all grown adults who should have had the comprehension to read the situation, to know that guidelines were at worst being breached, at best being stretched.
For five months, the country has been in this together. Many families have lost invaluable time with one another; our children have had their normal summer regress doubled, our elderly have looked at life through net curtains at a world that suddenly categorised them based on their birthdate.
There are people who are counting numbers for their children’s birthday parties and telling them that numbers will prevent them from having more than the recommended. And yet, some of those we elected either did not have the wherewithal to query the exact guidelines. Or gave a damn.
This is not a place to call for heads. The oft-misused word ‘fulsome’ was out in force this week as apologies came falling from the skies. We are living in a crisis and we need our politicians to be brave, to be savvy, to be au fait with the legislation they are well paid to draft.
This week, when the country needed them, after a year of too much banana bread and Joe Wicks workouts, of sideline Return To Play apps taking up training time, of empty aisles, of job losses, when the tide went out, we saw the bluffers, the shapers, the chancers.
If we learn anything from golfgate, let it be a wakeup call against the complacency and the arrogance. That we all think individually about what we are doing and what we have to do.
And that is how we will get through all this.
However, the stupidity will never be forgotten.