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Róisín Ingle: We’re raging, sad, exhausted, fed-up, confused and uncertain

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‘To suppress the virus we must all do the same, basic things … avoid places and situations which are crowded … limit your social contacts.”

I’m listening to the State-sponsored radio announcement about how we should all be comporting ourselves these days.

“The virus remains a threat, every one of us needs to play our part,” the woman who does the voiceover says, in a friendly, persuasive voice. “Supported by the Government of Ireland. ”

It’s comedy gold. Fair play to her for keeping a straight face.

The phone rings. It’s my friend. She’s upset. She wants to talk about something pandemic-adjacent. I have other friends who have banned Covid-19 from all conversations and won’t even talk about lighter topics such as which face masks are the most comfortable and whether smiley ones are creepy or cordial.

I’m considering the Covid-19 conversation ban myself. My friend hasn’t gone that far. Not yet anyway.

“I never knew what people meant,” my friend says, “when they talked about the Civil War, how it divided families, pitting brother against sister, father against son, friend against friend, but I do now.”

She’s annoyed, it emerges, about the way people’s attitude to this pandemic seems to be more fluid than she once thought and about how everything is going a bit pear-shaped solidarity wise.

At this point she’s not even talking about #golfgate the Oireachtas Golf Society gala dinner held in a hotel in Co Galway for loads of lads and a sprinkling of women including, the “Lady President”.

The actual president of the Oireachtas Golf Society is a man, Donie Cassidy. But he is not known as the “Gentleman President” on account of him being the real president of the society. He is the real president because despite all the shrill whining and politically correct nonsense being bleated by feminists in recent decades, “man” is still the default gender in the cult of golf.

But forget the golf. My friend has issues closer to home to worry about.

I don’t know about the Civil War but it’s maybe like Saipan all over again, except less entertaining

It turns out our other friend is deeply critical of lockdown. He keeps sending her links to articles and podcasts that support the idea that the global and Irish restrictions were over-the-top and that they and the subsequent effect on the economy make them the biggest act of self-harm the world has ever committed on itself.

He is scornful of the level of compliance shown in Ireland. He has used the word “sheeple”.

“I don’t know about the Civil War but it’s maybe like Saipan all over again, except less entertaining,” I tell my Covid-compliant friend, buying a bit of time.

The small-talk etiquette around the pandemic continuously escapes me. Keep it light or remain serious at all times? It’s hard to know.

A lot of the time I find myself adding “if it’s okay to say that?” after even innocuous statements.

“It’s actually a relief not to have to hug people you aren’t that close to, if it’s okay to say that?”

“It’s funny that I used to go to the Pod back in the day and now my kids, Covid-willing, are going to be in pods in school, if it’s okay to say that?”

“Your face mask is a bit creepy, if it’s okay to say that?”

It’s a minefield.

Anyway, back to Saipan. I was fully in the Keano camp back then (obviously) and deeply opposed to the flawed position of Mick McCarthy. I still say “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” in a Cork accent whenever I find that phrase is relevant to my life which is often.

“Yeah, I never got into that soccer business, it did nothing for me,” says my friend. “So this is the first time I’ve experienced it. The Civil War style drama.”

“Have you read any of the articles or listened to the podcasts he sent?” I ask.

“I don’t have the energy,” she says. “He thinks I am a sheep who can’t think for herself and who has been brainwashed by the Government. I did everything I was told because I believe it’s the right thing. But I don’t want to fall out with him.”

“What are you going to do?” I say.

“I’ve decided to be equanimous,” she says.

“That’s good,” I say.

“Yes, but Jesus some people are being real arseholes, aren’t they?” she says.

We’re back to #golfgate, clearly.

“That’s not very equanimous,” I say.

“Maybe not,” she agrees. “But it’s true.”

On the radio, Brendan O’Connor is telling the nation about his daughter who has special needs, a little girl who is up to 90, excitedly counting down her days until her 10th birthday. O’Connor says he was dreading breaking it to his daughter that because of Covid-19 she wouldn’t be able to have a birthday party. But when the dreaded moment came, that bright nearly-10-year-old girl immediately understood and was fine about it.

“It’s because of the sickness,” she said.

When I told my 11-year-old daughter about the golf dinner attended by a crowd of 81 “great and good” – what a ridiculous notion – including a judge, a senior minister, a revered journalist, Senators, lady and gentleman presidents, she didn’t believe me.

“But you’re not supposed to do things like that,” she said.

When some of the people who made the rules don’t care about the rules, where does that leave the rest of us? When children have more cop-on than the adults in charge who are we supposed to listen to?

And meanwhile, our perceptions at the moment are skewed according to a recent Ipsos MRBI poll published by The Irish Times. When those polled were asked if a heart attack, Covid-19 or a car accident over the next 12 months was of greatest concern, coronavirus finished on 64 per cent.

People are five times more concerned about contracting Covid-19 than they are about having a heart attack. Concern about a heart attack was only 12 per cent which, given the stress swirling around at the moment, seems astonishing.

My greatest concerns are that, six months into this pandemic, everything we thought was helping is unravelling, and that the worst might yet be to come. Last Friday, listening to Liveline in the aftermath of #golfgate, was informative. As host Katie Hannon carefully held listeners’ stories of loss and sacrifice over lockdown, the pulse of the nation could be heard beating clearly.

We’re raging. We’re sad. We’re exhausted. We’re fed-up. We’re confused. We’re deep into a Covid-weary autumn, facing into a winter of uncertainty.

It’s enough to send some of us off to check out those lockdown-sceptic articles and podcasts, because these days it’s hard to know what to believe.

The virus remains a threat. Every one of needs to play our part. But there’s only so much people can take. If it’s okay to say that.

roisin@irishtimes.com

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