If there was an award for “brass hypocrisy”, to borrow Mattie McGrath’s term, then Sinn Féin would be short odds favourite to land the spoils.
McGrath was referring to the party’s call to move Dáil proceedings back to Leinster House – after they had previously refused to support him at a Business Committee meeting where he made the same proposal arguing that the use of the Convention Centre was costly to the taxpayer.
SF Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn called McGrath “charlatan” in a heated off-camera exchange in the Dáil – but McGrath’s version of events was confirmed by the Ceann Comhairle and An Taoiseach.
The same ability to speak out of both sides of their mouths, was once again today on display. Sinn Féin displayed their consummate skill in hunting with the hounds and running with the fox when supporting the Government in voting against a motion brought by the Rural Independent Group’s calling for the annulling of the Covid-19 restrictions placing onerous responsibilities on pubs and restaurants.
Just 15 TDs voted for the motion while all the Sinn Féin TDs voted with the Coalition despite once again spending their speaking time attacking the restrictions on pubs, hotels and sports. As another opposition TD pointed out, it would actually have been difficult to know what way they might have voted given the content of their scripts.
McGrath challenged the Shinners to “pony up” and referred to the “bizarre” and “illogical” restrictions which he said were threatening to devastate not only the businesses and sports targeted, but “the very spirit of our community way of life.”
Sinn Féin jibbed once again and resorted to attacks on the framers of the motion and the claim that the alternative to the latest restrictions would be to have “no regulations at all.”
Matt Carthy TD concluded with a strange reference to the regulations having “created confusion” and stated that they “cannot continue to exist.” No more confused than himself obviously given that he has voted for them twice.
Michael Collins summed up for the Rural Group with a very pertinent point: “We must live with Covid 19 and we can live safely with this curse upon our people.” That is the nub of the issue.
If there is no immediate sign of a vaccine becoming available and cases continue to rise over the coming months we need to make a choice. We have to come to terms with what threat exists, and protect those most vulnerable, who are older people with underlying conditions.
We also have to start to allow our communities to live a normal life again. If we do not, then we are facing the prospect of a period of increasing authoritarian restrictions that damages every aspect of economic, cultural and social life. The statistics on suicide and domestic abuse are just one indication of that.
In a world where huge numbers of people die from preventable diseases – often the consequence of our own actions with regard to alcohol and smoking in the more developed world; or from diseases brought about by poor housing and sanitation that could be addressed like malaria and cholera – we need to be apply some perspective in the manner in which Covid 19 is being tackled. Few here seem to be willing to do so.