This week I feel utterly exasperated. Both the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation said the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective. Why in God’s name did our government feel compelled to slavishly follow the likes of Germany and France, whilst also apparently ignoring the evidence of the millions of people successfully vaccinated by AstraZeneca in the UK. By choosing to pause, under what has been described as an abundance of caution, they have upset a vulnerable cohort of people and possibly undermined people’s confidence in AstraZeneca and vaccines generally. Let us just remember that apart from being safe and effective, the AstraZeneca vaccine is the cheapest, easiest and most flexible of the vaccines in that it is easy to store and distribute. It has been central to the stunning success of the British programme which without doubt has saved thousands of lives. Their population will shortly be able to enjoy a return to a normal way of life and put the British economy in a position to kick-start a recovery. How many months before we are in that position ?
Ursula von der Leyen was not a good German Minister of Defence and so far she has hardly proved to be a good President of the Commission, displaying an extraordinary lack of judgement over the Northern Ireland protocol. Now she wants to go nuclear again by invoking a device called Article 122, last used during the international oil crisis in 1973. In short, this is all driven by her desire to get the UK to surrender the jabs it has secured from AstraZeneca. She simply cannot accept that AstraZeneca is contractually obliged to supply the UK from its British factories first. Just to put all of this in context, the EU Commission was 3 months behind the UK in signing up with the company. Article 122 would permit the EU to waive international property rights and theoretically produce the AstraZeneca vaccine without paying for it. Can you imagine what that would do for free-trade and the already strained relationship between the EU and the UK. Well, the Taoiseach had better start developing a position on the issue as Von der Leyen, otherwise known as Very Damaged Leader, wants to put this to a summit of European leaders next week. I have some faith in Micheal Martin to understand the folly of going down such a path.
Now to another unfortunate situation for Leo Varadkar and, indeed, Fine Gael, traditionally regarded as the Law and Order Party. Leaky Leo has now become the subject of a criminal investigation. Sinn Fein, the not quite Law & Order Party, have asked him to resign. The Tánaiste, no doubt not wanting to lose his aide-de-camp and other government perks, is refusing to budge. He admitted to “errors of judgement” last November and has also stated that any suggestion that his motive was for personal gain was “false and deeply offensive”. I believe him but I’m afraid the optics are not good and there will be whispers that there is no smoke without fire. Suddenly the leader that was chosen to revive the Blue Shirts electoral fortunes is looking a little tarnished. He needs to put this behind him and regain people’s trust.