Is it not amazing that we have to wait until next week before the Cabinet meets to deal with adding countries like France, Germany and Italy to the quarantine list. As far as I’m concerned, Simon Coveney has by his obstructionist tactics been endangering the nation’s health. We can only travel 5 km, but anybody can fly in from France where several worrying variants are circulating. Such an individual could seed the variant here with potentially lethal consequences. Most incredible of all, the Blue Shirt geniuses have raised questions about the legislation, which they have already voted on. Did they not read the bill ? Frankly, Stephen Donnelly is right and the Minister for Foreign Affairs needs to get off his high horse and support the extension of the quarantine before he starts causing serious damage to Fine Gael’s base and his prospects as future leader of the party.
So finally we have some good news. Hospital admissions are falling and the numbers of those over 65 catching the disease is plummeting. Yet despite the HSE crowing about administering one million jabs, I fear that some people are falling through the cracks – a number of cases have been drawn to my attention. Soon we will be inundated with different vaccines so a word of praise for AstraZeneca which really is the “workhorse” of vaccines. Despite the recent queries over blood clots it still remains a highly effective and safe vaccine. Apart from being central to the UK’S successful programme, it is going to be critical in the global effort to control the disease, as unlike the other companies it is not-for-profit. When you look at what is happening in countries like Brazil, you realise that this pandemic is far from over.
I have to admit to being shocked and depressed by events in the North. Some of those participants were so damn young. In Derry 12 year olds were throwing petrol bombs. Is another generation being poisoned by sectarianism, criminality and violence ? The answer to this question is quite possibly yes, which is why it is so critical that both the Irish and British governments treat this with the attention it deserves. There is no question that whilst the hooligans throwing the missiles at the police may have no direct connection to politics or trade, those directing them are different. They are suffering from a sense of betrayal and of feeling they are on the losing side. The cursed protocol encapsulates all of this. Add in the drug lords and criminal elements who are stoking all of this for their own purposes and you have a volatile mix. There is no question that the respective governments have been ignoring this growing powder keg. It is beyond me that all the principal parties involved, including the EU, do not realise that there are serious impediments to trade between the North and mainland UK. Surely to God a less cumbersome regime can be introduced. Then the ordinary person will be able to find what they want on supermarket shelves. These things matter. Failure to address these kind of things shows a disconnect. In the context of Northern Ireland that is dangerous.
Finally there needs to be a concerted effort to sell the virtues of the North’s unique status as part of the UK but also with access to the European market. Arlene Foster is happy to talk about a Centenary Year – make it about Trade.