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The Irish man refused right to leave Canada: a reminder of Covid times not long past

Everyone who lived through the Great Covid Panic whilst retaining any semblance of sanity amidst the sometimes hysterical – and occasionally Goon Show level hilarious – coverage that dominated mainstream media will recall just how crazy it sometimes was.

While there were numerous belly laughs to be had at presenters getting lads to roll about in plastic bubbles and so forth, there was also a certain level of menace. There are certainly quite a few public personae who would not thank anyone for reminding them of the threats and abuse and cringeworthy De Gaullean speeches they directed at dissenters from their plan to turn Ireland into a smiley prison camp.

Gript can point to its role in highlighting much of that absurdity and proto-totalitarianism, and in particular the forensic evisceration by Gary Kavanagh of the zero Covid fanatics in the Independent Scientific Advisory Group (ISAG) and the mutually beneficial and, dare one say it, insidious relationship of the state with the well-connected Kinzen and its ironically titled and expensive daily “disinformation digest” on how the deluge of scare propaganda was playing in the sticks.

Thus, it was interesting to listen to an interview yesterday morning on Raidió na Gaeltachta that would have been unthinkable and indeed impermissible even one year ago. Iris Aniar presenter Máire Bríd Ní Chualáin spoke to Pádraig Ó Donnchú, originally from Ros a Mhíl but who has lived in Canada for many years.

Ó Donnchú teaches Irish on the internet, and has been a regular visitor home to Conamara to visit his father and other family members. That at least was until the outbreak of Covid and the resulting restrictions which were even more stringent and long-lasting in Canada than they were in Ireland.

Even when the restrictions on international travel were for the most part lifted, the Canadian authorities refused to allow Ó Donnchú to fly from Toronto because he had not taken the vaccine and was therefore not in possession of the certification that was required. He is currently in Ireland where he spent time with his 76 year-old father, He spent two weeks in quarantine prior to travelling and seemed to be unsure as to what the procedures will be on his return.

Pádraig explained that he had not taken the vaccine, mostly because he says he has medical exemption as he had been operated on for cancer eight years ago, but also on the basis that he does not accept the right of the state to insist that any person ought to agree to a procedure that impinges on their bodily autonomy. He seems to suggest that there are a lot more Canadians in that boat than the official line and statistics might have claimed.

Ó Donnchú similarly referred to the unhealthy atmosphere that had existed in Canada during the draconian measures imposed by the Trudeau administration which had led to people not speaking to one another, a phenomenon which of course many people will be familiar with on this side of the ocean. He accepted that while the stringent measures introduced at first in response might have been justified and understandable, that he personally thought that Florida had taken the correct approach in having done so at the beginning but having opened up again within a short period of time.

In fairness to Iris Aniar, they had highlighted Ó Donnchú’s case back in April when he had again been refused permission to leave Canada. In that interview, reference was made to Senator Sharon Keoghan having raised the issue in the Seanad. Keoghan referred to the fact that Ó Donnchú is an Irish citizen and that his not being allowed return home warranted intervention by the Irish state on his behalf.

The acting chairperson that day was Senator Seán Kyne and, while expressing interest in the case, referred to the fact that Canada is very welcoming to Irish people, and that sure not everyone was happy with the Covid laws. What exactly that had to do with anything was unclear.

Anyway, the issue has been resolved to some satisfaction and we can only hope that Pádraig Ó Donnchú will arrive back in Toronto and resume his life over there with the minimum of interference.

A currently popular theme on the interweb is a desire to see the more extreme advocates of sanctions on the unvaccinated, and of the most draconian measures, named and shamed and possibly even brought to account.

I confess to not being greatly attracted by such a notion. I tend to take the view that those who demean themselves have to live with themselves. In any event, it is more pleasant and life affirming to listen to the voices and read the words of those who did not shame their kind, to quote Mr. Kipling.

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