It’s time to ask: Has the country gone mad?

This weekend, in the name of safety, the Irish Government interned – without trial – a fully vaccinated man who had also provided a negative covid test, and fully intended to prevent him from going to see his dying father.

The man took them to court, and, rather than allow the court to rule on the legality of the man’s detention, the state then released him. This has the rather advantageous side effect, if you are the Government, of meaning that no court has declared the policy unconstitutional, and that therefore the same thing can be done to others.

This farce – and it is a farce – is the result of a policy the Government calls “Mandatory Hotel Quarantine”, or “MHQ” for short. MHQ is designed, its proponents say, to stop new variants of the Coronavirus arriving to our shores, by making people from designated high-risk countries stay in a Dublin Hotel for two weeks, at their own expense, after arriving into Ireland. In practice, the hope is that the prospect of having to pay for a two-week hotel stay, and being forced to stay in their rooms, will simply prevent people from coming here in the first place.

Of course, the policy is highly selective. If you fly in from Israel – one of the most covid free places on earth – as this man did, then you must quarantine. If you fly in from France, you do not have to quarantine. If you come here from the south pacific islands, you have to quarantine. If you come here from Germany, you do not have to quarantine. Vastly more people, of course, come from countries which are not on the list than come from countries which are. The whole thing is an inconsistent, bad, joke.

It is, of course, not simply the matter of Mandatory Hotel Quarantine that raises the question, in my mind, at least, about the sanity of the Irish Government. Yesterday, a teacher friend texted me that he was watching mass online, yet again, while preparing to go back into school today to be greeted by 800 teenagers in a close contact setting. Last night, the world watched crowds cheer golfers at the Masters in Augusta. In Ireland, you can’t play a round of golf by yourself, with no spectators. Too dangerous, you see.

All of this, of course, despite the Government’s own figures showing that outdoor transmission of the virus is responsible for about 0.1% of all covid cases. In a normal country, you’d think that would lead to people talking about lifting some restrictions: In Ireland, it resulted in warnings on the national broadcaster that it might be dangerous to run in the “slipstreams” of joggers.

We are told that in Ireland, it will be late summer at the earliest before pubs and restaurants can re-open. Our tourism industry, for many years one of our most important, is now the enemy. It used to be that if you uttered the mildest word of warning about immigration in Ireland, you were a suspected xenophobe. And yet, now we are governed by an establishment so paralysed by fear of foreigners that they are locking them up on sight without trial.

And all the time, of course, the philosophy is selectively applied, without any consistency. Schools are safe, we are told, without any evidence that they’re any safer than hairdressers, or clothes shops, or restaurants. We are told this only because the Government has determined that schools are politically important, while all those other businesses just aren’t. It’s not about stopping Covid, so much as it’s about stopping votes from draining away. If it’s safe to put a teacher in a room with 200 different students over the course of a day, why isn’t it equally as safe for a small restaurant to host 100 different customers in a night? It makes no sense, it has no logic to it, and it isn’t defensible on any basis other than that nobody is ever allowed on the airwaves to question it.

Every day that this madness continues, lives are being damaged. Jobs are being lost. Businesses are closing. Loved ones are going unvisited, and unmourned. In one case that really got to me this weekend, a grieving widow (no, not Queen Elizabeth) who lost her husband of fifty years last summer told me that she hasn’t seen her grandchildren in a year, and worries that with her own health declining, she may never see them again.

For what?

What, exactly, is being accomplished here? When was all perspective, and reason, lost?

The headline asked if the Government have gone mad. Perhaps they have not. Perhaps it is those of us who cannot understand any of this who have gone mad, and they’re the sane ones. But look at those photos above from Augusta, Georgia, at the golf last night. Why can the Americans have their freedom, while Ireland remains locked up? Why can Britain re-open, while Ireland remains locked up?

What makes this country so different, other than those running the place?

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