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Ireland is fast becoming a joyless Saudi-by-the-sea

Are unelected advisers pushing anti-drink agenda?

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Dr Tony Holohan.

Dr Tony Holohan.

Dr Tony Holohan.

It was the week alarm bells rang their grim warning - truly, a song for Ireland - and a sleepwalking nation at last woke up to the rigid Republic of Nphet endgame.

Ireland reimagined as a prohibitionist, controlling, emerald Saudi-by-the-sea.

In entirely losing the run of themselves on Monday last, Nphet - to borrow from those two Shakespearean figures, Othello, and CJ Haughey - did the state some service.

They removed scales from Irish eyes that had been blindly complicit in the terrifying creep-creep of Orwellian authoritarianism under the cover of Covid darkness.

They shone an arc of light as illuminating as the one dancing on the seas off Hook Lighthouse, on inconsistency, hypocrisy, and double standard at the heart of a Government policy of relentless social and emotional austerity.

They showed the dangers to sanity inherent in the Piety variant, the Inflexible variant and the particularly virulent No-No-No variant.

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Euro 2020 fans.

Euro 2020 fans.

Euro 2020 fans.

In obediently dancing to a tune not being played anywhere else in the EU, Micheál Martin looked weak. Presenting timid conservatism as fearless authority, shrinking, where authentic leaders grow.

Meanwhile the silence of the opposition reveals a dearth of political vision: into the vacuum of frustration felt by an abandoned electorate, steps the Dark Lord Fury.

Is it any wonder? Every development seems to underline how Ireland stands alone in rejecting scientific data that persuaded their European cousins - every last one of them - to remove the suffocating pandemic jackboot from the throats of their people.

It may be remembered as the week Nphet went too far. And lost a great chunk of their audience. From preposterous projections to a shooting down of tomorrow's scheduled return of indoor dining and pubs shuttered for 475 days, the authorities confirmed a truth brilliantly highlighted by one columnist last weekend.

Larissa Nolan, a voice of sense in the wilderness of intelligent Covid commentary, distilled it down to its dysfunctional essence in the Irish Independent, "Ireland's pandemic policy in fewer than 10 words: Keep lockdown going until we need another lockdown."

Had she aimed a hammer at six-inches of metal, Nolan could not have more resoundingly hit the nail on the head. As the rest of the continent savours freedom, as the crowds throng to Euro 2020 venues - a beautiful, redemptive point of luminosity, people joyously coming together - Ireland continues to be shackled in Covid-chains.

Like latter-day Matt Talbots, we sanctimoniously self-flagellate, scapegoating bars and restaurants, even as the four millionth jab Nphet told us was the key to unlocking the door to freedom, enters Irish arms.

As full-on concerts rock across the continent, a few dozen folk pathetically incarcerated in little isolated chalk circles in Iveagh Gardens is presented as a triumph.

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While Wembley, Copenhagen and Budapest teem with Euro 2020 hope, Croke Park was more than 74,000 below capacity for yesterday's Leinster hurling double header.

And that smattering of 8,000 people across the old amphitheatre's vast acreage was the biggest gathering permitted in 16 months.

Hospitality is asked to police a discriminatory vaccine cert policy; unvaccinated youth are told they can work an eight-hour shift in a bar, it is but dangerous to spend half an hour enjoying a drink in the same premises.

The Irish people, with their implicit understanding of unfairness, rose up against such a grotesque scenario: the outrage compelled the government to buy more vaccines and fast-track pharmacy jabs for our youth.

Still, doors flung open in a cathartic gesture of welcoming across Europe are bolted here.

Ireland is the equivalent of some Age of Enlightenment flat earther, clinging to old certainties even as everyone else acknowledges the world is a round, spinning orb.

Are we not seeing the same data as the rest of Europe? If not, why not? And if we are, why are we interpreting it so differently?

Are Nphet really so arrogant to believe they are right - on antigen-testing, indoor-dining, size of crowds permitted in stadiums - and all the great scientific minds of the western world are wrong?

Yes, the Delta variant is here. But the figures indicate it is far less lethal than what went before.

Vaccines offer a strong and imposing firewall against infection, and against getting seriously ill if infected.

Covid isn't going away, yet it seems there are some who wish to forever cower in the corner.

How mad is it that a country acknowledged as the home of the pub, the place other nations mimic, is the one where it is impossible to enjoy an indoor pint (unless you book into a hotel, where you evidently secure immunity a vaccine cannot offer)?

Though officially denied, the growing sense out there is of the crisis presenting a smokescreen for unelected advisers to impose an anti-alcohol agenda.

Ireland has suffered enough; a craving for Lady Liberty to make this the final stop of her triumphant European tour grows.

It is time we remembered who we are: Something a universe away from a joyless Saudi-by-the-Sea.

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