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Killian Foley Walsh: With the sugar high of Biden fading, what’s left?

Balance has been restored.

Irish politicians have fallen over themselves to pay obsequious homage to the new leader of what’s left of the Free World in 2021. Our Taoiseach is preparing to stare danger in the face by engaging in non-essential international travel to meet him, while when asked if he was happy to see the back of Donald Trump, our traditionally polite Minister for Finance replied curtly with “Yes.”

Tom Hanks, George Clooney and the great and good of Hollywood hosted millionaires’ parties to toast the new administration—socially distanced, no doubt. A papal Lady Gaga delivered Urbi et Orbi from the United States Capitol on Inauguration Eve, and lead America in their national hymn with the assistance of a sacerdotal golden microphone the next day.

The dust has been blown from the Irish press’ familiar puff pieces about “indogurations” for the new First Pet, or the new incumbent’s 8th cousins in Mayo, or what his latest muddled stanza of Heaney might mean for the Good Friday Agreement, and the Seussian levels of rhyming that hope and history have attained.

The tech barons of California demonstrated their potency by silencing what was previously the most powerful person on Earth, and even RTE’s Prime Time got in on the act by coining the phrase “ALT-RIGHT-DELETE”.

Verily, the gaudy aberration of Trumpism is vanquished, the right of those bred to rule is renewed, and all is right with the world.

So…what now?

Well the restoration of an atypical politician to power in America and trivialities about their TV personalities might provide distractions from the woes of the world for many of us. The reality, however, is that regardless of who is in situ in the White House, where CNN’s John King is from, or how much our click-bait media wants us to focus on those things, the people of Ireland will face the same problems next week as we did last week.

Notwithstanding the end of Donald Trump, Ireland’s vaccination program is still laggard. What kicked off with much fanfare about—and many selfies with—our cutting edge vaccine fridges has struggled to get off the ground by any meaningful measurement, and despite much spin to the contrary. In fact, as if to prove my point, Michéal Martin recently announced that our frontline healthworkers should be vaccinated by May, and that our over-70’s will be “in line,” for vaccination by March, by which time some larger countries will be finished. You would be forgiven for thinking they were waiting for a public sector pay rise or a 99, and not the Messianic weapon whose eradication of this disease we’ve been locked away to anticipate for close to 12 months (so far).

While Biden’s new Transport Secretary might hail from Galway, Ireland’s social strata are still showing the strain of the pandemic in a way we haven’t seen before. Suddenly, every affinity group and union imaginable is on manoeuvres to secure places for their members as near the top of the vaccine queue as possible. Liveline is ablaze with stories of cronyism and wasted jabs at the expense of the people who need them, but the Bar Council’s demands for vaccination priority could go some of the way to explaining that.

Even though Joe Biden’s dogs are rescues, 1000 people still died with Covid on their death certificates in January, with uncomfortable but important questions to be asked about why so many EU countries seem to have been so much slower to obtain and deliver our vaccines than comparable non-EU countries like the UK and Israel, or disobedient members like Hungary, who backchanneled to secure Russia’s effective Sputnik V.

If you believe the polls, the wishes of circa 80% of Irish people have been granted with the election of Joe Biden. But while bogeymen, scapegoats, and pinatas have brought relief from the unparalleled tumult of recent months and years, Donald Trump was not the root of our most pressing problems, and—as he is demonstrating—Joe Biden will not be the solution to them.

Killian Foley-Walsh is a writer, and the former President of Young Fine Gael

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