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DEAR TAOISEACH The continued shuttering of the doors of the village pub might just be the last lacerating thrust for forgotten Ireland

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Dear Micheál, it is not always a pyrotechnic Big Bang, the kind of breathtaking detonation that deformed, incinerated and vaporised downtown Beirut, that sends a place to the grave.

More often, death is by a thousand misguided, if, sometimes, well-intentioned cuts.

Like the repeated and brutal Government dagger thrusts that have left so many abandoned Irish communities bleeding out on the side of the road.

The continued shuttering of the doors of the village pub might be the last lacerating thrust for Forgotten Ireland.

Friday's Midlands lockdown - entirely avoidable had NPHET/political class unhealthy obsession with bars extended to the infinitely more vulnerable direct provision model - merely emphasises the misplaced priority and damage done.

Taoiseach, the murder weapon, the cutlass that forensic testing will show skewered and did for so many villages and towns, has your fingerprints on its cold, bloodstained grip.

It doesn't require twisted metal or the kind of terrible mushroom cloud that enveloped the stricken Lebanese capital on Tuesday to torment and break a locality, as small town Ireland, caught in a suffocating headlock of hopelessness, pummelled for decades by ruling class disdain and detachment, is coming to painfully understand.

Your Government, along with the great medical minds of NPHET, seem blinded, whether by indifference or dogma, to a terrible tragedy unspooling before the nation's eyes.

CLOGGING

The villages and marketplaces of Ireland, the byways and hamlets, the boondocks and hinterland can't breathe.

And it is not Covid-19 that is clogging their airwaves: It is Government-imposed despair.

Melancholy, an absence of sunlight, is washing the colour out of so many lives.

What the zealots who are imposing a kind of 21st century prohibition on great swathes of the land fail utterly to understand is the primary role of the village pub.

It is a defibrillator, offering the jolt of companionship which might be the last guardrail against the mental health of so many flat-lining into a life-stealing darkness of the soul.

A safehouse for an increasingly endangered species: Those solitary, isolated, often older, frequently forgotten, citizens of a left-behind Ireland.

It is at the "local" that they taste not just a drop of stout, but the vitamin shot of human companionship.

They talk about the GAA matches they are not permitted to attend because of your Government's irrational imposition of a 200-person limit on outdoor gatherings in wide-open spaces.

Theirs is not a sweaty, claustrophobic nightclub or an anarchic house party.

They play a hand or two of gin-rummy or poker, catch-up on who is unwell or has passed.

Their pub is a palace of gossip, a community centre, a mental-health clinic where the demons of isolation can, for an hour or two at least, be shackled and quietened and kept at bay.

The regulars reminisce: About their years in London or New York; about the once thriving, now largely shuttered main street; about a town that has lost its youth, jobs and hope.

And, about the days before Big Brother came to frown on their one merciful evening release, their lives of little enriched by a glass of stout, maybe a cigarette, and, the gold-dust that is a few precious hours of convivial company.

For some, it is all they have, before they return to stare at those four walls closing in like a junkyard car crusher.

None of this is to belittle the very real and brutal menace presented by coronavirus.

As the families of those who have lost a loved one can affirm, it is a merciless, rapacious killer.

But, on Tuesday, as the Government opted to keep every non-food-serving pub in the land closed, placing family-run businesses that have survived war and pestilence in grave danger, some 20 counties did not register a single Covid-19 case.

As demonic clusters were identified in meat factories and the ill-ventilated, disease-riddled direct provision centres where their immigrant workers reside, you continued, inexplicably, to identify pubs as the source of all evil.

The conflating of pub and school openings, the binary presentation of only one or the other being possible, is nonsensical, cynical spin.

It is one designed to camouflage the shameful absence of a remotely coherent plan to get children back at their desks.

And to deflect from the scandal of inaction on those direct provision centres, hubs of infection, into which you sardine the unwanted.

ISOLATED

Though Covid-19 is a grotesque pathogen, it is not the only killer in our midst.

Depression, the endless November of the soul facilitated by the absence of human company, is a butcher of lives.

No less than Michelle Obama revealed that coronavirus restrictions contribute to the low-grade depression that has enveloped her like a dark cloud.

If this vibrant former First Lady, surrounded by family and opportunity and love, is afflicted, imagine how it must be for those who are alone.

In so many parts of Ireland, there has long been a ready-made antidote to this terrible killer: The local pub.

But you have opted to cut off the supply of this life-saving serum.

To deny these isolated groups the nugget of companionship, even though their risk of spreading infection is tiny compared to unsupervised house parties, is inhuman, irrational and heartless.

And so a powder keg of despair and anger is piled high in the desolate fields of Forgotten Ireland.

The contempt of the political class is the lighted match that may soon trigger another terrible conflagration.