From the government to Sinn Féin and the hard-left: all the parties who cheered on the lockdown are equally to blame for the mounting job losses and rapidly-approaching economic devastation caused by their unquestioning approach to the Covid crisis, where the only challenge put by most of the Opposition was usually for even more stringent, economy-crashing, restrictions.
Commentators on social media this week rightly called out the hypocrisy on display as the same politicians who fought against any lifting of the lockdown were wringing their hands about the damage it has caused to Irish aviation.
There is a growing sense of anger at the failure of both Government and Opposition to cost the damage caused to aviation – or any other sector or facet of Irish life – by grinding the country repeatedly to a halt, even as the evidence mounted that Covid wasn’t exactly the Black Plague.
Even now, after a year when air traffic for Ireland was down almost 80% (2920), and thousands of pilots are on the PUP, we’re lagging behind other countries with no obvious plan to rescue the devastated aviation industry.
Under orders from Dr Tony Holohan, the Cabinet refuses to listen to aviation workers or experts who argue for opening up and using antigen tests to detect Covid. Meanwhile, Irish aviation, already struggling with costs and other pressures, is now in dire straits as our restrictions continue long after other countries have got back to busy airports.
Last month, Aer Lingus permanently closed its base at Shannon Airport, with immediate job losses. The company hadn’t operated a flight from Shannon since April 2020 when the first Covid lockdown was ordered.
The liquidation of Stobart Air might have been somewhat expected, but the 481 people who lost their jobs know the situation hasn’t been helped by the never-ending grounding, not just of flights, but of a whole island.
In the case of both Shannon and Stobart, rural communities will suffer most, not just in terms of access to travel but because of the loss of necessary connectivity to attract industry and investment.
There are consequences for grinding the country to a halt – but the politicians who cheered on the lockdown are now out calling for interventions. In fact, those who repeatedly called for even more stringent restrictions seem to be trying to make us forget they ever wanted the country closed down at all. The ‘zero covid’ Opposition are hoping we’ll have forgotten the stance they took.
But, this week, when people like Social Democrat TD, Holly Cairns, did their usual grand-standing in the Dáil, commentators on social media were having none of it.
She was told that “any party that supports zero covid has absolutely no business complaining about the impacts on businesses.”
Any party that supports zero covid has absolutely no business complaining about the impacts on businesses.
— JRD (@JRD0000) June 16, 2021
Or as another reply pointed out: “Come on, you’ve been campaigning for ever harsher restrictions on travel. You got what you campaigned for largely. Unsurprisingly, it has brought aviation to its knees.The public are not stupid.”
One man, Hugh Corcoran, said he had left the Soc Dems on the issue, telling Cairns: “Sorry, [you] can’t rewrite history on this. I left the party over it’s association with ISAG and the championing of their extremist policies. Only moral direction the Soc Dems should take is to own and acknowledge this and then return to a science/evidence based approach to policy decisions.”
Journalist Ewan MacKenna, who has been a staunch critic of the continued lockdown, posted a more general comment that, after Stobart Air “any more to sadly come, please spare me the bullshit and best wishes of those people demanding lockdowns. You were told this would happen and insisted anyway. You cannot have it every way, as much as you try. You, not Covid, are to blame”
And on Stobart Air and the many more to sadly come, please spare me the bullshit and best wishes of those people demanding lockdowns. You were told this would happen and insisted anyway. You cannot have it every way, as much as you try. You, not Covid, are to blame.
— Ewan MacKenna (@EwanMacKenna) June 12, 2021
MacKenna is one of just a handful of journalists who questioned the wisdom of government policy in relation to Covid, or raised queries as to the outcomes that might be expected for the county. Another, Mark Paul, pointed out that it was obvious months ago that the lockdown policies would put aviation under serious pressure.
Anyone who knows 1st thing about aviation, or indeed anyone at all really, could predict the Gov would be under big pressure on int travel by now. I recall getting strongly criticised 6 months ago by some scientists for even suggesting it. Policy on it has been poor all through https://t.co/3ZAiJbSn0Q
— Mark Paul (@MarkPaulTimes) June 17, 2021
“Anyone who knows the first thing about aviation, or indeed anyone at all really, could predict the Government would be under big pressure on international travel by now,” he wrote. “I recall getting strongly criticised six months ago by some scientists for even suggesting it. Policy on it has been poor all through.”
The reaction on social media to Cairns’s statment was interesting in that it might be indicative that the public, come the downturn, might have longer memories than the Opposition, including Sinn Féin and People before Profit might like. Voters might remember who, exactly, spoke up against an unnecessarily long lockdown.
As one comment on Twitter summed it up: ” You called and voted for the measures to be taken which caused these job losses and many more job losses. And if you had your way with the zero Covid nonsense that you advocated, we would have had even more job losses.”
You called and voted for the measures to be taken which caused these job losses and many more job losses. And if you had your way with the zero Covid nonsense that you advocated, we would have had even more job losses.
— Peter Mernagh (@PMernagh) June 15, 2021
Truthfully, the only real political opposition came from Independent TDs and Aontú, all of whom were treated as pariahs or right-wing extremists for daring to question the Covid narrative being endlessly promulgated on the airwaves and in print.
There wasn’t a peep out of Sinn Féin, the left, and the Social Democrats except for demands to give the government more power and introduce the lock-us-all-up policy of ‘zero covid’. As the job losses mount in aviation, these parties may find that voters will seek the truth behind the spin.