Saturday, April 4, 2020

When all of this is over ...

Irish Current Affairs Blog of the Year 

Medical staff in Galway with a message for us all

When all of this is over, will we remember . . .

The rich people who flew all over the world so that poor people could die.

The 17-year old denied treatment at an urgent care centre, because he did not have health insurance in the richest country in the world.

The horse racing officials who thought it was fine for 250,000 people from all over Britain and Ireland to mix, drink and mingle at Cheltenham Racecourse, right at the outset of a pandemic.

The Taoiseach (or Prime Minster) who claimed workers were asking to be laid off because the Government was paying them so much in emergency welfare. Because, you know, poor people are lazy and don’t really like to get up in the morning.

The politicians, “celebrities”, and “royals” tested so quickly; while no test kits were available to doctors, nurses, and carers on the front line.

The Irish TV presenter who got his results back while a doctor missed seven shifts due to worry that she had contracted Covid-19.

The deliberate downgrading of a public health service which had been in crisis for decades, while handsome grants were provided for the building of private hospitals.

The landlord who reckoned it was a good time to rent out a shared room to two single people in Galway City, for €400 per month per person.

The Dublin landlord with at least three properties who ruled out a temporary rent freeze for tenants who had just lost their jobs.

The health service worker who was asked to leave her accommodation by another landlord . . . because of her job.

The rich state in a rich country which painted out social distancing markings for homeless people to sleep in boxes in an outdoor car park, while dozens of hotel rooms lay empty nearby.

The Irish hotels who put in elaborate security systems because they were closing up for three months, leaving empty rooms when there was never such demand.

The banks who decided to charge thousands of people “quarterly charges” or punish them for not having enough money in their accounts, two weeks after thousands had lost their jobs.

The Government officials who thought “social distancing” and “self-isolation” were possible for asylum-seekers sleeping in bunk-beds, seven to a room.

A proposed 'self-isolation' facility for asylum-seekers in Ireland

The local supermarket owner who more than trebled the cost of hand-sanitizers; because he was “only responding to demand”.

The football club which told its staff it could not afford to pay them €600 per week, while their “superstar” players continued to pocket €150,000.

So they put their ordinary workers, the ones who never appear on TV, on a Government scheme.

The “celebrity” tweeter who invented fake news about the deaths of four health care workers, because he wanted us to believe everything the Government did was wrong.

The minority of pubs who stayed open for a few “sneaky pints” because social distancing didn’t apply to their customers or their families.

The big country which tried to hijack life-saving equipment on its way to small countries, or which tried to bribe a private company in order to get exclusive access to a vaccine.

The Israeli who said there was “no way to spin” footage of thousands of Palestinians being massacred if they rushed to the border fence in urgent need of health care.

The Indian authorities who announced a three week lockdown at such short notice that, in the absence of public transport, thousands of jobless poor people had to walk hundreds of kilometres home.

The thousands of homeless people who found “social distancing” an impossibility as they were forced to queue for food.

'Social distancing' for the homeless in Nevada

The British and American politicians who insisted on keeping their schools and workplaces open, forcing millions to cram into crowded buses and subway trains. Long after they knew the disease would not spread if they just stayed at home.

The ‘wet markets’ in China where animals are treated appallingly and were supposed to be permanently shut down in 2003.

How stocks and shares still mattered to some people as the Intensive Care Units and morgues filled to capacity.

The US troops flying in and out of Shannon, buying leprechauns at the duty free shops, when commercial flights were being shut down.

The President who called the virus a “hoax” before his inaction and desire to put the economy over people cost thousands of lives.

The poor people who felt they had to work, even with the symptoms, because (unlike in Ireland) there was no safety net for those who had to isolate themselves at home.

How politicians who opposed a strike by nurses, seeking decent pay and conditions, asked us to stand and applaud them outside our doors. In Germany, they applaud their health service by funding it.

The absurdity of a rich country with no public health system, and how a global pandemic has shown us that health care for all is a necessity – not a luxury – when something like coronavirus rampages through a country and takes so many lives.

How empty the lives of shallow “celebrities” seem when we stop and pause and tune in to the real people living around us in our daily lives.

In Ireland, and indeed across the world, we have so much to be proud of in terms of how we have responded to the coronavirus emergency.

Will we remember how the smog lifted in Chinese cities and that people could hear the birds sing for the first time in years?

Will we remember how clean the air was or the beautiful blue skies?

The blue heart, a symbol of hope, overlooking Galway Bay

Will we remember the Italians who sang to each other across empty squares or the Dubliners who played bingo on the balconies? Reminding us that community and solidarity are more important than the economy, stocks and shares.

Will we remember the hotels in the West of Ireland offering free meals to the elderly even as their businesses were about to shut down?

Will we remember the businesses who put up symbols of hope, such as the blue heart on the big wheel in Salthill, even as their businesses fell apart?

When all of this is over, will we remember the huge lessons to be learned?

Or will we just go back to the way we were?

--  * A digital journalist based in Galway, Ireland, Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award. Find him on Facebook  or Twitter here. Visit his website here -

Cheltenham Racecourse in March

Friday, January 31, 2020

Why bother blogging about the election?

Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year 

Noel Grealish TD has targeted immigrants and asylum-seekers 

Why bother blogging about the election?

After all, every fool seems to have an opinion, and nobody seems to want to pay for decent journalism these days.

Why bother writing about the old friend you met at Christmas who you rarely bump into any more?

He’s voting for Noel Grealish in the upcoming election, he said, because he “said what nobody else is saying”.

With a straight face, he told you that immigrants and asylum-seekers are to blame for nearly all our woes, but nobody else has the courage to say so.

Your friend has a business to run, a young family to feed, and spends hours stuck in traffic every day. Life’s a struggle, he said, and when he heard a local politician describe African migrants as “spongers” it seemed to really strike a chord.

My old friend doesn’t pay much attention to what goes on in the Dail. He doesn’t know that Noel Grealish has one of the worst speaking and attendance records in the Irish parliament or that he was exposed as one of the worst offenders for signing in, claiming travel and accommodation expenses, and failing to turn up for votes.

Or that he plucked figures about Nigerians from thin air before raising spurious questions about reparations in the Dail.

He’s too busy to pay attention, you see, but he bought into the atmosphere of intimidation, fear, and hatred whipped up by the prospect of a Direct Provision centre being located in a small Galway town last October.

Blaming the immigrants because you can’t buy a house or get a bed in a hospital allows him to find a scapegoat and feel better about himself, but does it offer a solution to our problems?

Scapegoating the most vulnerable and marginalised never tackles the cause of injustice or inequality, but it sure allows some people to find a target for their rage.

Why bother blogging about the health service?

Why bother writing about the 48 hours your late father spent lying on a trolley in a corridor after a fall in his house two years ago?

Dad was 93, a lifelong Fine Gael supporter who had worked hard for 45 years, when he suffered that fall.

Like thousands of others around the country, he lay in silence at University Hospital Galway for two full days and nights before being transferred to a ward.

It is hard to know exactly when the unacceptable became the norm, but the tendency of Irish people to just grin and bear it – and never complain – was very clear to me when I took two days off work to sit or stand by his side.

How could such an elderly man be left to lie for 48 hours in a brightly lit corridor with not a hope of privacy or confidentiality for such a long time? It felt like a war zone in that Emergency Department just down the road and I wondered what kind of Government could treat its most vulnerable citizens with such contempt.

My dad was lucky because he had a family member by his side, to provide him with an occasional glass of water, to look out for him, or just to ask what the heck was going as his wait for a bed and some comfort continued over two horrible nights.

All around me, other relatives were faced with the same ordeal. We shared each other’s agonies and frustrations. I had to stand for three hours without a chair as I paced up and down, feeling like a burden or an inconvenience on the nurses who seemed unable to cope with so many patients.

“If you treated an animal in the way the HSE (Health Service Executive) is treating patients you’d be up in court and rightly so,” a woman tweeted me in frustration, four months after her father died 36 hours after being admitted to an overcrowded public hospital.

I counted 18 trolleys occupied by patients in the corridor at any one time and I know the situation has deteriorated since then.

Almost 900 people were left lying on trolleys in January 2020.

What kind of heartless Government would allow this kind of situation to continue, to promote a “two-tier” health service which favours the rich?

What kind of canvassers would dare to come around to our houses to ask us to vote to keep the people responsible in power for another term?

Why bother blogging about the housing crisis? The students sleeping in hostels, or  sharing rooms with strangers, or sleeping in vans, or forced to clear out of their accommodation on Friday nights so that the landlord can get tourists in (and make bigger profits) at the weekends?

Why bother blogging about the domestic violence victims who opt to stay and be abused because the alternatives are unthinkable? Or the people you know in their 30s and 40s who have moved back in with elderly parents because they can’t afford the rents?

In a country which is supposed to be “booming” it’s amazing how many of us are just a monthly pay cheque or two away from living on the streets.

Why bother blogging about job insecurity?

Why write about the colleague you know who, at short notice, was given just one week’s work for the month of January? He still has the rent to pay and feels guilty each week when he has to share the bad news with his wife.

He won’t go on the dole, he tells me, because people on Social Welfare are “spongers” and it just wouldn’t feel right. So he suffers on with no money, hoping things will pick up, and the Government statistics will insist that he – like thousands of others – is gainfully employed in 2020.

So there’s an election coming up and the choice seems to be between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the two parties who have shared power between them since the foundation of the State.

When Fine Gaelers come canvassing will I be too polite to tell them the devastation their policies are causing in the provision of health care?

When the Fianna Failers knock on the door, will I thank them for being so greedy, bankrupting my country, and forcing many of my friends to seek new lives overseas.

Or will I do “the Irish thing” and smile and thank them for calling, because their dad used to play for Galway or they once managed to get a few workmen to fix the road outside my estate?

We vote for the same chancers time after time and then we are surprised when hospitals are overcrowded, houses are unaffordable, and there is no security in our jobs.

We vote for them again and again, and we expect the results to be different.

Yep, when there are false promises and appalling track records to be challenged, why bother blogging at all?

--  * A digital journalist based in Galway, Ireland, Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award. Find him on Facebook  or Twitter here. Visit his website here -

A meeting to oppose a Direct Provision centre in Oughterard