Ireland in 2021
On the surface we in this country are a united people. Everyone from the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) to an ordinary Joe Soap like me shares a belief that Ireland currently faces an unprecedented and dangerous threat.
But what is the nature of that threat?
Here is where a chasm opens up, dividing families, friends, neighbours, and colleagues from each other.
One group of citizens, led by government and media, believes the danger lies in:
the immediate, exceptional and manifest risk posed to human life and public health by the spread of Covid-19
This phrase appears in the preamble to a plethora of Statutory Instruments issued by the Minister of Health over the course of the last year. These orders specify in fine detail the formerly routine activities now restricted or forbidden to the Irish people.
Another section of the population perceives the threat very differently. For them it is an assault on the rights and liberties they once enjoyed as free citizens of a sovereign republic.
Whether they believe Covid-19 to be a potentially harmful virus or not, people in this category object to what they see as the disproportionate and unprecedented measures imposed by government to counteract it.
I am in the second group.
My stance is based on numerous anomalies and contradictions that make little or no sense to me. Here are a few that come to mind.
During the first few months of the government’s response to Covid-19, face coverings or masks were not deemed to be an essential means of combating infection. In fact some media pundits, such as Dr Luke O’Neill, implied that they could do more harm than good.
Then in July 2020 - months after deaths attributed to Covid-19 had peaked - the wearing of a face covering was made compulsory on public transport and in certain indoor settings, like shops. No new scientific evidence was advanced in support of this measure. Nor were any regulations put in place to govern what constituted a face covering or how it should be worn. As the order issued by the minister put it,
“face covering” means a covering of any type which when worn by a person covers the person’s nose and mouth.
During the winter of 2020/21 the range of settings where face masks are required was expanded and the deadline for expiry of the mandate extended to June 2021. Again, no scientific evidence was presented vindicating the original order, or justifying the extensions.
It seems that the Irish government is determined to make citizens wear face masks.
On that basis alone the campaign has been a huge success. Compliance with the face mask mandate is practically universal. Many now wear some kind of face covering even when they are not legally obliged to do so. A few even wear more than one outdoors.
Is it because they are genuinely scared of infection and believe a mask will protect them? Or have they become so befuddled by the ever-changing regulations that they opt for what they think is the safest course, i.e. wear a mask all the time – just in case?
In early July 2020, The Irish Times covered the publication of a report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa). The tenor of the report was reflected in the headline:
Ireland’s official coronavirus death toll likely to have been overstated, report finds.
In a tweet sent just after the Times article was published, former Taoiseach, now-Tánaiste (Deputy PM), Leo Varadkar, confirmed this key message:
Interesting but not a surprise. In Ireland we counted all deaths, in all settings, suspected cases even when no lab test was done, and included people with underlying terminal illnesses who died with Covid but not of it.
Why would the impact of Covid-19 need to be exaggerated? And why was Varadkar’s admission not made the subject of parliamentary or media scrutiny?
Although final numbers of registered fatalities for 2020 are not yet available, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has published data for the first two quarters of the year. When compared with equivalent figures for each of the previous five years an interesting picture emerges.
While the absolute number of deaths has risen during the period, so too has the overall population - in both cases by about 7%. The resulting death rate, therefore, has stayed pretty much the same at about 0.35%.
The CSO has yet to publish data on registered deaths for the second half of the year. So it remains to be seen whether or not the fatality rate for 2020 as a whole is consistent with that of previous years.
Other evidence suggests that it is.
In an attempt to provide up-to-date mortality data, the CSO have turned to a new data source, www.RIP.ie. The CSO found that historical figures from the death notices web site show a “strong correlation” with the official data. This is evident from the following chart:
The CSO analysis demonstrates that the www.RIP.ie figures, on their own, provide a reliable proxy until official statistics become available. According to the CSO
The number of death notices decreased in May and June (to 2,639 and 2,205 respectively) and has begun to rise slowly between July and September 2020 in line with the trends seen in previous years.
So if no excess deaths are evident in the third quarter of 2020, could there have been a spike in quarter 4 that might bump up the overall fatality rate for the year?
Just before Christmas, in an interview on RTE Television, Leo Varadkar stated:
Let's bear in mind that this winter in Ireland has seen no excess deaths. Yes, sadly, there have been people who have died from Covid. But no more people have died this winter than any comparable winter for the past 5 years...
While we await official data for 2020 as a whole, these “straws in the wind” suggest that the overall fatality rate for the year was not unusual.
Does this evidence suggest we are dealing with a virus that poses an ‘exceptional and manifest risk…to human life and public health’?
Indeed is it possible that the pandemic is not actually real?
At the beginning of March 2020 astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson appeared on CBS’ The Late Show, hosted by Stephen Colbert. Tyson has gained considerable fame in the United States as a populariser of science on radio and TV – an American version of the UK’s Brian Cox. Colbert asked Tyson about the “coronavirus”, news of which was then entering the public sphere. His guest’s reply was telling.
I think we’re in the middle of a massive experiment worldwide…The experiment is: will people listen to scientists?
Tyson’s comment may relate to a document published in 2019 by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board of the United Nations. Entitled A World at Risk: Annual report on global preparedness for health emergencies, it sets out the tasks to be undertaken by governments and other agencies “to prepare for and mitigate the effects of global health emergencies”.
A number of “progress indicators” are listed with deadlines for their completion. Among the targets is this one on page 10:
The United Nations (including WHO) conducts at least two system-wide training and simulation exercises, including one for covering the deliberate release of a lethal respiratory pathogen.
The deadline to achieve this was September 2020.
Of course neither of these examples amounts to a “smoking gun”. Anyway, the idea that the world is going through an elaborate “simulation exercise” is outlandish, right?
Until you consider why it is that governments around the globe have simultaneously turned their countries into open prisons in an unprecedented clampdown on society.
The evidence I have presented here indicates that the threat of Covid-19 has been hyped up, or worse. Consequently there is no doubt in my mind that we are being deceived.
So if the restrictions on personal freedom are not aimed at curbing the spread of a deadly pathogen, what is their purpose?
Ireland: past, present and future
In the past Ireland has been riven by religious and political division. In the early-1920s, a civil war pitted former comrades against each other in a conflict over the terms of Irish independence. Before and after that independence was gained, differences between Catholics and Protestants sometimes erupted into violent conflict. But mostly they simmered below the surface when the two religious groups kept their distance from each other.
These historic divisions had one thing in common. A true or false position could never be determined between them. No one could prove that being Protestant, or Republican, was “correct”. It was a matter of conviction.
That is not the case here. The societal division resulting from the pandemic, and the official response, is not amenable to a compromise like the Good Friday agreement or the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition.
Either we are being deceived or we’re not. There is no middle ground. Only one side of this division can be the correct one.
So how can Ireland recover whatever sense of national community we once enjoyed? Irrespective of how the current crisis ends, can anyone imagine a painless resumption of our old way of life?
I am reminded of something James Fintan Lalor wrote in 1847 during the Great Famine:
To the past we can never return, even if we would.
Perhaps we should focus on the future instead.
‘Statutory Instruments related to the COVID-19 pandemic’, (https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/) 10 Mar 2021.
In SI 571 issued on 4 Dec. 2020, this definition was altered to ‘“face covering” means a covering of any type which when worn by a person covers, without leaving a visible gap, the person’s nose and mouth.’ The additional clause was presumably inserted in order to ban the wearing of visors.
Irish Times, 3 Jul 2020.
Varadkar, Leo (2020), ‘Interesting but not a surprise.’ Twitter. 3 Jul. 2020.
‘Measuring Mortality Using Public Data Sources 2019-2020’, CSO (https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/fb/b-mpds/measuringmortalityusingpublicdatasources2019-2020/) 10 Mar 2021. (emphasis added.) Those with keen eyes will have spotted the spike in deaths for Apr 2020. This is similar to the pattern seen during previous flu seasons earlier in the year, e.g. Jan 2017 and Jan 2018. The Hiqa report suggested that this unusual spike reflects an acceleration in the deaths of particularly vulnerable people, due to either Covid-19 or other ailments left untreated because of the focus on the pandemic. (Irish Times, 3 Jul 2020)
Interview with Leo Varadkar, Prime Time, 17 Dec 2020.
‘Neil deGrasse Tyson On Coronavirus: Will People Listen To Science?’, YouTube, 7 Mar 2020.
The report can be downloaded here. (https://apps.who.int/gpmb/assets/annual_report/GPMB_annualreport_2019.pdf), 10 Mar 2021.
James Fintan Lalor, “The Faith of a Felon” and other writings, ed. Marta Ramón (Dublin, 2012), p. 64.
That's a fair point, I would consider myself in the second camp too. Unfortunately the fear media still has a hold on most of the population. Hard to know where it is all going??