Seanad debates

Monday, 29 March 2021

Living with Covid-19: Statements


10:30 am

Barry Ward (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I echo what many previious speakers said about the struggles and difficulties we have had. So many Senators have acknowledged the large number of people who have lost family members, friends and colleagues. There is no doubt about the enormity of the tragedy that is Covid. In the context of living with Covid, it is extremely important that the Government take cognisance not only of the advice of NPHET but also of its own role in governing this country, having regard to the strong feelings people have about where we are now and what the Cabinet can do at its meeting to decide how to relax measures. I recognise that it is an extremely difficult decision. It cannot be gainsaid how difficult it is and how delicate it is to balance the importance of keeping us all safe and allowing people to live to whatever extent is possible. In that regard, I agree with Senators who called for allowing outdoor, non-contact sports to resume. Golf is one of my parents' saving graces. They could play golf in a socially distant matter. The clubhouse would not be open but they could go out onto the course. Tennis is another example of the many sports in the context of which this could be achieved. It equally applies to other aspects of the economy.

I have been listening to the debate and I have been dismayed by the comments of some colleagues on what we should and should not have done, bearing in mind that hindsight is 20-20 vision. I was particularly dismayed by the comments of Senator Bacik, who compared this country to New Zealand. Simply to quote Ms Jacinda Ardern, who said New Zealand would try for zero Covid because it would at least save lives if it did not succeed, and to compare the populations of New Zealand and Ireland and the number of deaths fundamentally ignores the fact that New Zealand is one of the most isolated countries in the world. It is 4,000 km from its nearest neighbour. It does not share a land border with any other country. It does not have a similar economy to ours in terms of the distribution of goods. Just one example of that is the fact that when goods arrive in this country, they come on a trailer on a lorry with a driver, whereas in New Zealand much more container freight arrives and it is handled without the need for personnel. However, the elephant in the room that everybody is ignoring is that we have a land border with another country. We are on an island that is divided between two Governments, albeit with there being one nation. Therefore, we cannot shut down this country any more than we could shut down ourselves. New Zealand can, however. Anybody who compares Ireland to New Zealand, however convenient that analysis might be, is fundamentally misleading us because we are part of a political union that requires interaction with other countries. We have an economy that must be supplied by other countries, and we cannot close the country the way New Zealand does. Senators should please stop making the comparison. It is not just inaccurate, it is disingenuous.


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