A LIFT IN OUR STEPS

There is no question my wife and I have a lift in our steps. Bolstered by 2 Pfizer jabs in my case and one AstraZeneca in hers, we can begin to contemplate a few joyous re-unions.  All in good time and with an abundance of caution, of course staying within rules laid down by An Taoiseach, even though his Tánaiste, Leaky Leo, was frantic to get the good news out first.  I just hope people don’t go too berserk because the cursed virus is still out there and the number of cases uncomfortably high.  The key to turning this around is mass vaccination.  Even in India, which is in the midst of an appalling 2nd wave, experts feel that the best way out is to vaccinate its vast population.  The numbers are staggering.  So far 9% of a target of 600 million got their first jab, a disturbing fact is that India is the world’s largest vaccine producer but is now short of the supplies required to manufacture the vaccine.  How may you ask could such a catastrophe happen ?  One word, complacency.  They allowed weddings which are huge events in India go ahead unchecked, mass political rallies, some held by the Prime Minister Modi and perhaps most significant of all, the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu festival along the Ganges river which took place this month and was attended by 3.5 million people.  Now they have a battle and a race against time on their hands. The Serum Institute of India , which is firstthe largest plant in the world and responsible for 60% of vaccines, is running out of raw materials.  On the 16th April, Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive of the Institute called on President Biden to “lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up”.  Last Sunday Biden said he would send supplies.  On Monday he announced that the U.S. would release some of the 60 million doses of AstraZeneca it has been sitting on.  AstraZeneca has been central to India’s response.  The images coming out of India are truly shocking but we should remember India’s problem is the world’s problem.  In this inter-connected world, complacency is the enemy, as it is, indeed, with climate change and both require a global response.

So Goodbye Arlene.  The North’s First Minister falls on her sword or should I say trips over the Protocol.  I was asked during the week whether I believed in a United Ireland and like many responded in the affirmative but also said, at what cost.  That gets back to talking about Arlene because who succeeds her as leader of the DUP matters to all of us.  Mind you, there are those who might say, who gives a damn who heads up that group of Nordies.  The truth is it matters a great deal and if there is ever going to be a United Ireland we need to understand how we are going to accommodate those from a distinctly British tradition.  So I will be watching very closely how this contest unfolds.  I hope that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the MP for the Lagan Valley, emerges victorious.  He strikes me as a pragmatic man and understanding of the many traditions that live on this island.  On Tuesday he called for the restoration of the Glasnevin Memorial Wall, describing it as “Sensitive, inclusive and visionary”.  So despite being in the UDR, he is the kind of guy who could play a constructive role in our shared future.