Derek Mooney: This Week’s Reopening Must Go Ahead


From top: Minister Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar; Derek Mooney

The idea that the way to stop folks breaking rules is to make more rules is akin to saying if two wrongs don’t make a right… let’s try three.

It is absurd to hear the government talk about not lifting restrictions only days after boasting about our being the Covid resilience world leader.

Yet that’s where we are. You cannot turn on a news show without hearing yet another minister preparing us for the October 22 re-opening not going ahead.

The Taoiseach took it a step further in yesterday’s Sunday Independent. There he hinted that the government had already decided to pause further reopening. As if to sugar coat this failure of policy, Martin sought to comfort us by saying:

“… we are not contemplating going backwards. The only issue facing us now is going forward”

If he is expecting the public to be grateful that we are not going back into lockdown, he will be disappointed.

The government is doing this the wrong way around.

Rather than passively accepting that they cannot go ahead with the October 22 re-opening, they should be proceeding with it. Rather than preparing us for disappointment, they should also be tasking public health officials with putting the necessary measures in place.

The majority of businesses, organisations, and the vast majority of us – by which I mean the majority of the 90% plus who are vaccinated – are fed up with the remaining restrictions. We do not take to the streets to protest the way the anti-vaxxers do. But that does not mean we are content to see another deadline slip by, unhonoured.

People know there are dangers and difficulties. That is why people got the vaccine in such incredible numbers. It is why people accepted and tolerated the longest lockdowns around.

They know that the new case numbers have risen in recent weeks, hitting 1,380 yesterday, though that is down from the alarming 2180 the day before.

They know there has been an increase in the numbers of Covid-19 patients in hospital, with daily admission figures now outstripping hospital discharges by almost 2:1.

But they know something else. They know that over 50% of those admitted to hospital, and sadly 65% of those who go in to ICU, are unvaccinated.

They know that our numbers in hospital and ICU are still among the lowest, though they are not as low as they were three weeks ago.

They know that over 90% of people over the age of 12 are vaccinated, leaving less than 10% of us, unvaccinated.

As dubious as this silent majority is about the notion of a “right to be unvaccinated,” they accept that opting not to get the Covid vaccine is a personal choice that people are free to make.

But they also know there is no right to be shielded from the consequences of your own [in]actions.

Postponing the October 22nd re-opening because of the vaccine hesitancy of  some 300,000 of our fellow citizens is neither fair nor proportionate.

I doubt many of those who have opted, either purposefully or unintentionally, to go unvaccinated would believe postponing the reopening is a fair response.

So, what should the government do?

Well, it should stop re-reading Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking and start looking around to see how other countries are managing to keep their numbers down.

Then it will see that many of those countries who were doing worse than us a few months ago, are now faring much better. They will see that all these countries use antigen testing a lot more than we do, a point made many times by Prof Luke O’Neill, including yesterday in the Sunday Independent.

They will also see that these countries apply the Covid cert/pass requirement to all indoor activities/mass gatherings, and to all employment settings.

We should too.

This would enable 90% of us to get back to a relative normal, both in the workplace and socially.

The vaccination scheme would remain voluntary. There would be no compulsory vaccination. People who decide against getting the vaccine would have the negative test option to allow attend their workplaces.

Only those who refuse to get the vaccine and also refuse to produce regular negatives tests would fail to benefit from the re-opening.

Having to produce negative text certs every days might encourage more people to get their shots. At the moment only just over 1,000 persons per day are registering to get vaccinated.

Employers and employees are perplexed that a punter entering a café, pub or restaurant must produce a Covid cert/pass, while employees going to work don’t.

As France, Germany and Italy have shown there is no data privacy or equality law obstacle to doing it. All the government has to do is to make the production of a Covid pass/cert, or a negative test, mandatory. Do that and the GDPR need for a lawful basis for requesting information is met.

For months political pundits have been wondering if the government parties might get a Covid bounce in the polls.

But …rather than the parties getting a vaccination bounce from the public, how about the government give the country the vaccination bounce it needs by proceeding with the October 22nd reopening?

That would show leadership. Who knows though… showing leadership might even provoke the public into giving Varadkar, Martin and Ryan the polling bounce the leaders long for but, as the two latest opinion polls confirm, never get.

Though the two polls, in The Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times (Ireland), differ starkly in some respects, they agree on several findings. They also show a degree of consistency with recent polls.

They both show Sinn Féin well in front of the pack, each putting Mary Lou’s party at 31%. They also show the Greens, Labour, and the Social Democrats at between 4% and 6%.

It’s when it comes to the support figures for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that the two polls differ. Dramatically and diametrically. But, even so, the polls show the two parties combined at either 42% or 44%.

This is not good news for either Martin or Varadkar, regardless of which of them you think, or hope, is ahead. It is very unwelcome news for middle ground politics.

In 2016, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael combined were on 50%. By the end of 2018 and for most of 2019, the two parties were edging their combined total up to 60%. Today it has tumbled back down to less than 45%.

Both parties need to take a long hard look at themselves and change tack soon. Their current zero-sum game-playing is hurting both… and benefitting no one.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here every Monday. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney


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43 thoughts on “Derek Mooney: This Week’s Reopening Must Go Ahead

  1. Janet, dreams of an alternate universe

    this article made me very angry,
    you are talking out of your bottom region.

  2. Janet, dreams of an alternate universe

    to blame a small percentage of unvaccinated people for the failure of our government is ridiculous

    1. Micko

      It’s moronic.

      I do find it pretty funny how the narrative has changed so quickly though – like, in a week.

      We’ve been having over a thousand cases a day for months now, but none of those cases and restrictions were the unvaccinated “fault” up till now.

      As soon as the vaccination program is over, then it’s “yeah it’s the vaccinated fault we cant open. Sorry about that”

      Are people stupid or what? :-)

      Also, does anyone actually think that the unvaccinated are getting Covid tests voluntarily?

      These 1000+ cases every day are mostly in the vaccinated.

          1. Micko

            Am afraid you’ll just have to wait until home time so Bert

            The suspense eh?

            Oooh I could crush a grape

  3. Micko

    Antigen tests, COVID passes, masks everywhere etc

    No chance of just opening up with none of these things no?

    Denmark did it over a month ago and we’ve the same amount vaccinated as them.

  4. Gabby

    The continuation of the pandemic is nerve wracking and motivates floating voters. Longterm disillusionment with the centrist two party routine is another reason for voter bemusement, bewilderment and disenchantment. Political party strategists use clever advertising and brand enhancement techniques to market themselves; but this can stall but not resolve historical malaise. Jittery politics is found in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands among other democracies. Time for existentialist reflection. Bring on the philosophers.

    1. SOQ

      They sat with their thumbs up their backsides right through the summer when it was the ideal time to open up and now, at the begining of the flu season, they decide it is appropriate. It is either a level of stupidity beyond comprehension or, they know rightly that it going to spike the figures.

      At which point they will claim they have no choice but to lockdown again.

      It is so predictable that one has to ask if there is not an ulterior motive and as you say, there is growing disquiet from the general public. It wouldn’t be the first time politicians put their own interests in front of the country’s now would it?- history is littered with such examples.

      1. E'Matty

        “One has to ask if there is not an ulterior motive”. Paul Reid thinks it’s time for a “Reset” anyway. Should be great.

  5. Mr.T

    Looks like the current govt spin works just as well on Derek – less than a week of spin and he’s already blaming “de evil antivaxxers” rather than consecutive govt’s mismanagement of the health service.

    Hospitals reaching capacity in the winter due to respiratory viruses, hmm, where have I heard that before?

  6. John

    You are talking nonsense “Postponing the October 22nd re-opening because of the vaccine hesitancy of some 300,000 of our fellow citizens is neither fair nor proportionate.”

    It is purely a health issue not a question of being fair or proportionate it is a question as to how many emergency ICU beds are available

    It is because of these 300,000 clowns that all health-related items have been put in jeopardy due to their general ignorance and selfishness.

    I expect Martin/Varadkar and their boot licker Ryan will hopefully continue to plummet in the polls.
    Their combined execrable handling of housing/health/taxation/transport/Mother and Baby prisons etc since they have been in power is a disgrace and the only “bounce” they deserve is one that will remove them from government.

    The only good thing about the pandemic is that it has exposed just what a dreadful health service we have under successive FF/FG government’s, the sooner they merge and fade into oblivion the better.

  7. Higgles

    It’s obvious that they’re going to open up, but leave the unvaccinated still restricted via covid certs, because, tin foil hat on, this is all about those passes, which are going nowhere. All of this supposed caution, is just to get the vaccinated fully onboard with the segregation of society. You’ll get your nightclubs, gigs and restaurants, don’t worry.

    1. Micko

      Ah sure as I’ve said before, it is pretty funny how people think standing in a queue with a mask on, eagerly showing their health status via a government mandated smartphone app, just so they can buy a burger, somehow makes them better off or “more free” than the people who aren’t buying into this crap.

        1. Micko


          Too late for me I’m afraid.

          Must go now, the girl who rolls me over once a day is coming at at lunchtime


      1. Nigel

        Well that’s because you are entirely, perhaps deliberately, misconstruing what people are thinking. Don’t get so caught up in your self-mytholigising struggle for freedom that you forget most people aren’t sharing it.

        1. Micko

          Which one of us in this conversation do you think is struggling for freedom Nigel?

          The one who’s ignoring it all entirely or the one who’s tied their current and (potential) future freedoms into a smartphone app and continued medical procedures.

          Have a think again there.

          1. Nigel

            I don’t know about the Danes, but the English aren’t fighting much for the freedoms the Tories are merrily chipping away and they’re dying from covid at the rate of about 100 a day while it’s happening.

    2. Nigel

      Nobody is actually interested in segregating society. We already have a segregated society – between settled and Travellers – and it’s an absolute pain for everyone affected. Nobody has anything to gain from a new form of segregation. It’s possible someone is absolutely delighted at the antivaxxers for funding their vax-pass or covid cert business but other than that it’s still just a pain.

      1. Micko

        “Nobody is actually interested in segregating society.’

        Have a listen back there to Pat Kenny and come back to me…

        1. Nigel

          No. Then I’d have to listen to Pat Kenny. But even if he’s getting mad at unvaxxed, which is useless, the idea that he or anyone else WANTS, or worse still has planned all along for(!), a segregated society is ludicrous.

          1. Micko

            “No, I don’t think a viocal minority do.”

            Really? – Check out twitter some time why doncha

            And yes it is bad. But, I thought YOU’D be happy Colon got ze covidssss… he was public enemy number one for a while there a few years back and I know you love the Muricans and their politics ;)

            Me? I couldn’t care less.

          2. Nigel

            Twitter and Muricans and loud protestations of apathy. You really are just way out there in your own little world.

      2. Higgles

        They don’t want a segregated society, they want a uniform one. The segregation is just for coercion purposes but they also want as little backlash about it as possible So tell the vaccinated they might lose freedoms and then say no, it’s only the bold girls and boys. It’s a means to an end. I hope I’m wrong, I’d love to see a properly open society back, but my cynical brain says otherwise. The passes will stay on to encourage booster(s) uptake.

        1. Nigel

          They want some uniformity because anything else is administratively expensive and causes headaches, so at worse they’re being lazy and inflexible and looking for short-cuts. There’s no bait and switch going on here – nobody wants this, if we have to have it everyone wants it limited, short-term and relatively simple. The unvaxxed extremists are running around banging on doors looking for the devil. Remember there are people who CAN’T get vaxxed getting lumped in with these clowns.

          1. Nigel

            No, unless one of you clowns posting here is a pregnant woman. But pregnant women are going to end up in hospital. Hospitals are full of people with covid. It’s a cause for concern for anyone who isn’t a clown.

          2. Janet, dreams of an alternate universe

            I did my whole pregnancy during covid, multiple hospital and doctors visits and public transport and yet I got through it just fine. Ladies are quite rightly putting baby’s safety first by not having a vacine that does god knows what to development in utero. A huge increase in still births amongst the few who risk it.

          3. Janet, dreams of an alternate universe

            well being treated like some kind of mad rat licker doesn’t help

  8. Verbatim

    The man-child moaning that he did all that he was told to do and now look, da government is not holding up their side of the bargain! Well duh!!!
    He even tries bargaining with them, if you give us back our freedom, you might even get the votes you need to lead us further…
    Pathetic on many levels. Didn’t he get the memo on vaccinations, here I’ll post a synopsis:-

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