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Has Donnelly gone completely Willy Wonkey?


Health Minister Stephen Donnelly as Willy Wonka

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly as Willy Wonka

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly as Willy Wonka

It was largely ignored, buffeted to the margins by the sustained gusts of reawakened Covid-19 hysteria, Stephen Donnelly's steering of Ireland into Trumpian Crazyville.

On Thursday, precisely six months before April Fool's Day, the Minister for Trampolining issued advice as lunatic as the now stricken White House capo's inject bleach proposal.

Donnelly, undaunted by his catastrophic coronavirus missteps, sunk his humourless, nanny-state, technocrat tentacles into the idea of destroying childhood joys. His divorced-from-reality tip to the parents of Ireland married the worst of Marie Antoinette with the meanest of Scrooge: "Let them eat but a few crumbs of cake."

In perhaps the most confused political intrusion into the world of confection since Bertie Ahern "upset the apple tart", Simple Simon met a pie man and ordered him to restrict children's portions to a few microscopic morsels.

Here is his edict: A child's intake of "goodies" should be cut to ONE SQUARE OF CHOCOLATE PER WEEK.

This is not a Gift Grub sketch, not a social media meme, not a Zoom comedy club offering: This is the actual Health Minster issuing official government guidelines.

One square of chocolate per week.

Donnelly's every inarticulate flourish during the Covid crisis seemed to contradict his standing as a Harvard alumnus. But, in his endeavours to stop the chocolate factory wheels turning, it is as if his mind has gone completely Willy Wonkey.

You could almost imagine him, practicing his concerned pout before a full-length mirror, power surging through his veins like the glucose from a dozen Mars bars, flexing his abs as he demanded of his reflection: "Who's your (sugar) Daddy?"


Welcome to Ireland in 2020, the new puritanical age where the fun-police prowl the streets like 21st century Lugs Brannigans intent on hunting down every fugitive Snickers.

Where a po-faced government had made its mission to shutter the pubs to adults, the sweet shops on kids and the sports arenas to everybody.

Where Big Brother will erase the charm from life, impose one misery upon another while sanctimoniously telling us it is all for our own good.

A government that cannot comprehend the difference between living and merely existing, that seems intent on filling every day with despair just so we can stick around longer, each waking hour an exercise in wretchedness.

Perhaps Donnelly was imagining a life after politics, one where he takes over the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest role of the delusional Martini from Danny Vito.

Because his chocolate chip spooky was only the beginning of his sermon from the sugar-free mount.

Not to be seen as prescriptive, Donnelly graciously offered parents an alternate to a Dairy Milk portion as puny as the part of a government minister's brain were sensible ideas are seeded.

To trumpet blasts and 21-gun salutes across Tayto Park, he announced that it was okay to give young Johnny three crisps a week. Not, three packets, mind you. Three single crisps from a packet. As their entirety of seven-day happiness.

Did we really elect these people to high office?

There were more delicious options packed high in the Donnelly Selection Box.

On party night, just before uniforming the wee ones in their favourite sackcloth hair-shirt and sending them barefoot across hot coals, you could offer them half a plain biscuit.

At this stage, most sensible people would have wondered if Donnelly had taken a concussive blow from several tonnes of Custard Creams.


Half a Marietta or Rich Tea or Digestive! Even the Taliban are not as averse to pleasures of the flesh.

Childhood obesity is clearly an issue and one for which sensible solutions would be welcome.

A good starting point might be a government campaign for less PlayStation and more participatory sport. But then Nphet, while happy to squeeze 30 kids into a tiny classroom, have banned all underage competitive football or hurling matches in the vast open spaces of the local field. And so, illogic is piled on illogic.

Young people - from infant child to college-going youth - have already been thieved of so much in the Covid era.

All the rite-of-passage events older generations took for granted - from Communion to debs to teenage crushes at the local dance - are frowned upon.

These are once-in-a-lifetime events, the clock cannot be turned back. The potentially devastating damage to mental health can hardly be overstated.

Yet, the Health Minister's priority is to terrify and scaremonger, to warn that a single stick of Kit-Kat every week is a direct route to a diabetic coma.

The more of this nonsense you struggle to digest, the greater the temptation to take out a syringe, fill it will bleach and search for a vein.