The latest measures announced by both the 26-County administration and the British Government to combat COVID-19 amount to tokenism due to their ambiguity regarding what is defined as essential work. Rather than setting out in detail what businesses are essential and ordering others to close, both London and Dublin left it largely at the discretion of the majority of employers to decide on whether workers are required to go to work or not.
Instead of the clear decisive proactive leadership that the current crisis demands, both the London and Dublin governments are reacting to events. The measures announce fall far short of the type of stringent measures and lockdown that leading medical experts including the World Health Organisation (WHO) are saying are now required to avoid the catastrophic conditions experienced in Italy. The result of this will be to overwhelm already over stretched health services on both sides of the Border.
In the Six Counties the lives of the people are being jeopardised by a lack of political leadership from the Stormont Executive and its slavish adherence to the British government’s inadequate public health policy in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now is not a time for political point scoring but it is necessary to point out when human life is being needlessly put at risk. What this health crisis has exposed is the truly dysfunctional nature of the Six-County statelet.
While other European states reacted with decisive action in closing schools, pubs and restaurants, the British government adopted laissez-faire approach, with British Prime Minister talking of the possibility of developing a “herd immunity” by allowing the virus to pass through the population without interference, risking the lives of the old and those with underlying health problems. This approach was almost automatically adopted by the Stormont Executive.
This lack of leadership means that unscrupulous employers have been allowed to place the lives and well being of their employees at serious risk without fear of sanction by the state. The inaction and failure to proactively protect the people of the Six and 26 counties is a gross dereliction of duty by Stormont, Leinster House and Westminster.
This is a health crisis that is being met with an economic response by the British and 26-County states. It is time to set the economic ideology aside and face up to the real task of saving human life. The heroic work of the health workers, retail and transport workers and all others engaged in essential public service demands no less.
Sinn Féin Poblachtach
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