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SUPPORT GROUP 'Let's fight this virus, not each other. Those fighting spread of Covid deserve our respect and support'

"No one in living memory has had to carry responsibility for so many lives during a pandemic. It is unprecedented. No one knows the outcome. Try to remember they are only human," writes Fr Brian D'Arcy.

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Stand-off at the top of Grafton Street.

Stand-off at the top of Grafton Street.

Stand-off at the top of Grafton Street.

It's not often I defend politicians and I'm not taking on the role of defender today either.

I do admit, however, that most of them, here and across the world, are working under unbelievable pressure.

No one in living memory has had to carry responsibility for so many lives during a pandemic. It is unprecedented. No one knows the outcome. Try to remember they are only human; they will make mistakes; they are working without a blueprint. They should not be subjected to personal abuse, mainly in a cowardly way on social media. It's unfair and is way over the top.

I think it's time to pull back and examine this ongoing crisis sensibly.

After a year spent being buffeted by an invisible virus, all of us are exhausted.

That's understandable because we have been laid low in a way we never thought possible. Every plan we had ended up in a broken heap.

We thought it would pass in a couple of months. But it didn't; it went from bad to worse so we are rightly finding it hard to cope. We feel justified blaming the usual suspects. Think about it; if we are confused then so are they; everyone is struggling.

We accepted the first lockdown - in fact we were screaming for a lockdown weeks before there was one. We even enjoyed the first few weeks. Imagine not having to travel to work. Imagine getting paid to do nothing. Imagine no school. Imagine long sleeps and long walks every day. Imagine going to church in your kitchen with a mug of coffee to sip.

The hurlers on the ditch - many of them fellow journalists - assured us we'd have a vaccine in no time and everything would return to normal. Just enjoy the break, they advised. Others became instant experts in medicine.

Like Trump, they told us not to worry. It was only a mild flu. This is the era of science, they assured us; we now know how to handle these things. Forget those masks. No need to panic.

Even the World Health Organisation refused to call it a pandemic in the beginning.

Our arrogance was soon deflated though.

As soon as lockdown began to work we campaigned for it to end. Businesses pleaded to have 'the country' opened up immediately. We doubted the wisdom and the motives of scientists and politicians. We compared ourselves to other countries and concluded we should adopt their policies - tried or untried.

The virus took full advantage of our disagreements and spread like wildfire causing death and suffering all over the island. It robbed us of our confidence; our ability to impartially weigh up the evidence became blurred. It stole a future full of promise from our young people.

Eventually, because we relaxed long before we should have, it took the lives of mainly the old and the vulnerable.

Schools, exams, colleges, churches and commerce went online.

We proudly Zoomed our way through life. For a time it too was a novelty. We soon learned that nothing beats human communication. Nothing compares to a hug. We are meant to be together. Technology is a poor substitute.

But the virus was still winning so we plummeted into a second lockdown as a kind of preparation for a blow out at Christmas - though Christ was never mentioned much.

Once again medical experts and politicians were doubted, contradicted and eventually rubbished.

Never mind the churches, the pubs have to open for Christmas, we heard repeatedly from publicans, hospitality, and every expert on radio, television and newspapers. It is easy to be an expert without responsibility.

That was an utter disaster. There are many hundreds of good people in graveyards who would not be there if we had listened to the medical experts and acted as sensible people should.

The inevitable third lockdown was hastily imposed. The effect was disappointing because if you cry wolf too often nobody listens. It is working, but painfully and slowly.

That's why I have sympathy for the politicians.

They are expected to do everything and do nothing at the same time. No matter what they do a poll will tell them they are the most incompetent politicians ever.

Here's what I think. We need to be reminded that we each have the answer within our own grasp.

We need to go on doing the simple things right if we are to kill this damned virus.

Wash your hands; keep your distance; stay at home when you can; wear a mask to protect your neighbour; get the vaccine and proceed with caution.

I don't need any expert or any politician to help me do those simple things. If we scrupulously kept those rules, schools could open and sooner rather than later life would be worth living again.

Thank God we have a vaccine now. That's a mighty leap forward compared to where we were a year ago.

Vaccination is not a cure-all magic bullet but it will prevent suffering, sickness and death if we continue to do what we are supposed to do. We and the vaccine can work together to create our own miracle.

When we're exhausted our judgement becomes skewed. We get angry too quickly. Anger is a normal emotion but we must use it positively to re-asses how we got to this point. Lashing out indiscriminately is not a healthy reaction.

I fear too many of us are using exhaustion to blame everyone but ourselves. If enough of us do the simple things right, all of us will live joyfully together as we once did.

Those fighting the virus deserve our respect and support. Let's fight the virus, not each other.

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