Roscommon-Galway independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice made a passionate response to news of new covid restrictions….
“When I saw stuff coming up on my phone today, it reminded me of the song about “the day the music died”. For the youngsters of this country, the announcement this evening is devastating. It is devastating not alone for them but for any person who talks about being a politician or being involved in politics because we politicians saw what was coming from NPHET today on our phones. It was not from a Minister. We did not get any briefing.
It is similar to every bit of emergency legislation that has come in to this Dáil in the past year. Some of it was got ready on a Thursday or Friday and, over the weekend, every journalist was able to write about what we would look at next week. If we are elected by the people, we should be informed.
Government Ministers, especially, should be informed of what is coming down the line and not reading it on a phone, like we did two to three hours ago, before our Taoiseach came out to tell the people. It was not a new story because it was on the phones before he came out. We knew what was going to happen.
Unfortunately, Ministers are in a no-win position. The likes of NPHET will make their decisions. If a Minister does not go with it, he or she is made a pariah in the media.
Between the media and the doctors running this country, we are like the last link in the chain. We come in here and we vote one way or the other, be it on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday evening, but all we are really doing is endorsing what unelected people have advised be done.
I worry where we as a nation are going. Sometimes, you have to stand up and be counted. Everyone in this House and society in general wants to suppress Covid and to get rid of it. Some of the youngsters in Ireland have never been to a disco. That is sad.
It is all right for us, we have lived life, been to places and we did not have to wear masks for years, but the youngsters who are of an age to go out do not know what is to go into a normal place. This will be the second Christmas they do not have a lot to look forward to. This Christmas they will be under the feet of their mothers and fathers, which is not a normal Christmas.
If I want to travel from some other country into this country, I have to get a negative PCR test 72 hours beforehand or a negative antigen test 48 hours beforehand and I can sit beside another person on the aeroplane for up to two hours while, at the same time, when it comes to the local pub, I cannot go to the bar, I cannot sit at a table with more than six persons and I have to produce a document confirming that I am vaccinated and, if not, I have to go outside to a shed with my drink. Where are we going as a country? We need to make sure that we bring people with us.
I worry about democracy. There will always be debate, disagreement, people who have different views, right and wrong, and people to whom you could not tell one thing or the other. I worry when I look at what is happening in Australia and what is being talked about in Austria and in Germany by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her sidekick, Ursula.
I hope Ireland does not go down that road. I believe in democracy and the political system, whether on one side or the other. We should always respect each other. We should not shut down debate and questioning. Unfortunately, in the media you are put into a box. You could be the biggest supporter of something, but if you ask a question against it you are now put into a little corner and you are one of them. That is not the way politics should be done.
“I worry as well about powers. We were told by the so-called experts that if we reached an 85% or 90% vaccination rate, it would be happy days, happy Christmas and happy everything. I talk to people from around the country.
Ordinary, hard-working people are asking me if this is ever going to end. They were told this and that a year ago, something else six months ago and now we are back to square one. I understand that Covid is a virus and that nobody knows the ins and outs of it but, my God, we are at a crossroads in our country.
We need to give people hope, in particular those working in the hospitality sector. In a normal year, disc jockeys would have 16 nights’ work over Christmas. This year, they will have none and they will get only approximately €200 per week because the PUP will come back. They are not part of an employment because they are subcontractors. That is the reality. What did they earn in the past year? The PUP came down and because they had no tax, they were not open.
Will this be a happy Christmas for them? Definitely not. Make hay when the sun shines is a lesson we in rural Ireland always learned. Unfortunately, those people have gone into darkness tonight. I urge the Government to think of all aspects of the hospitality sector.
“As a Dáil, we need to start scrutinising some of the decisions that are coming forward. The Government cannot keep wobbling, twisting and turning. We need leadership or we will lose the people around this country who, in fairness, have made an honest effort this past year.
“We need to bring everybody with us. If someone has a reaction to a vaccine, let us not be afraid to talk about it. Let us talk about it and not shut it down. In being open and transparent we bring people with us.
“I do not believe in bringing in more and more powers. Powers will not solve this. I have trust in the people of Ireland, who are making an honest effort. We do not need to make criminals out of them.”
Earlier: Derek Mooney: Filtering NPHET
Taoiseach says he will investigate circumstances over the weekend where members of NPHET were declared ‘unavailable’ for interviews in various outlets [including my radio programme] and says public health officials should remain available for media and to issue independent advice pic.twitter.com/TNzFRA2H0I
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) December 6, 2021