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slow coach Instead of taking the vaccine bullet train - Ireland chugs along in a battered, directionless and lame iron horse

Now it's the people's turn to hold power to account, to chastise and demand that they change...


A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19"

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19"

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19"

In this bleak midwinter of the soul, with hope frostbitten and blistered, every frantic appeal from a bruised Ireland spells out the same urgent, one-word petition.

Each map charting a way back to our old carefree lives has the same seven-letter town ringed as a final destination, a Shangri-La.

Vaccinate Around Clock, Constant Injecting, No Excuses (Vaccine).

Verifiable, Accountable, Countrywide Circulation Immediately, Not Evasion (Vaccine).

Vital Action Crucial, Conserve Ireland's Nosediving Economy (Vaccine).

Vaporise Antibody, Crush Covid, Incinerate Nefarious Enemy (Vaccine).

Victory Against Cruel Coronavirus Involves Nonstop Execution (Vaccine).

Desperation stalks the land: Ireland's gut is poisoned by a bleak and toxic cocktail of death, hopelessness, anxiety, isolation, frustration, heartbreak, loneliness, anger and restlessness.

Anti-depressant sales have rocketed as if from a Nasa launchpad, businesses are teetering on the brink, fresh plots are being dug in every graveyard.

People are snappy, irritable: frightened, caged animals at the very last fibres of their tether.

Yet seeking out a vaccine - or any kind of certainty about when that life-changing dart might enter our shoulders - is, quite literally, like searching for a needle in a bureaucratic haystack.

Instead of the bullet train countries such as Israel are riding to a post-Covid world, Ireland chugs along in a battered, directionless, ancient and lame iron horse, changing at Mallow, then at Limerick Junction, going nowhere fast.

Politicians appear clueless, devoid of inspiration, terrified of transparency, unwilling to treat the population as adults, unable to summon the wisdom of natural born leaders.

Our Health Minister thrashes about like a novice swimmer in choppy and perilous waters - out of his depth, panicked, sinking before our eyes, in urgent need of rescue.

Stephen Donnelly trampolines across every month in every calendar when asked a simple question about when people might be inoculated.

Maybe it will be July; no, September; or is it Octember, Novuary, months that only exist in a make-believe diary?

The Taoiseach obfuscates on live TV, then lobs the vaccination grenade right back to the hospital groups when quizzed on why furious frontline nurses at Nenagh General Hospital have not been prioritised for vaccination.

It is the very opposite of leadership. Yes, there are aggravating supply-chain issues, and, in the torrent of admissions, Covid wards are coming to resemble field hospitals in a time of war.

This is not easy, but Nphet, the HSE and Government have been happy to hold the people to account, constantly chastising our behaviour and demanding immediate change. Well, now it is people's turn to hold power to account, to chastise their behaviour, to demand they change.

At the very least, Ireland demands daily vaccination figures, along with a clear and defined pathway as to when each strata of society can expect that liberating jab.

In the killing absence of clarity, without a buck-stops-with-me rollout commissar, confusion floods the vacuum. And the nation is deafened by grievance and counter-grievance.

How often, as another official speaks in riddles, have you found yourself screaming despairingly at the TV or radio: "Please stop spinning and tell us the f**ing truth."

Our Taoiseach and Chief Medical Officer lecture and scold about alcohol with stern-faced, prohibitionist zeal, oblivious to the reality that a calming can of beer or glass of wine might be alone in holding back a national insurrection.

Media merchants of gloom scaremonger and terrify, taking every Nphet and HSE proclamation as gospel rather than drilling down, interpreting data and asking the hard questions on behalf of a tormented citizenry.

Why is our vaccination programme advancing with the slow-motion momentum of an obese and wheezing sloth?

Why are we not getting precise figures of who, where and how many are being vaccinated every day?

Why, when they knew for weeks that the precious serum was on the way, was there not a coherent distribution plan in place?

How in the name of Ned Ludd are we staggering around like a 19th century banana republic, recording inoculations by pen and paper, a fit-for-purpose IT system apparently beyond the capability of Official Ireland.

The national soundtrack is a grinding, accusatory, bewailing.

We exist in suspended animation, the pause button that was hit 300 days ago incarcerating the nation in hellish limbo.

And so, we hunger for the seven-letter feast that alone can feed our malnourished souls.

Virus Action Crucial, Conclude Ireland's National Emergency (Vaccine).

Otherwise, an appalling vista looms, one that sees fear morphing to fury and, for so many businesses, loss-making to liquidation.

If the journey takes that unhappy turn, our magical serum could become an acronym for the affirmative action politicians most fear.

Vote Against Cock-up Clumsiness In Next Election (Vaccine).

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