Micheál and Leo and the screeching hand-brake turn

There are so many conflicting messages being fired at us from our rulers, it’s hard to remember what they said today, let alone yesterday. But when an unpopular decision regarding lock-down was made, governments invariably said that they were simply following “the best medical advice.”  A couple of nights ago, that particular mantra was coated in cement and dropped into the Liffey.

First Micheál Martin made that ‘to the nation’ speech in which he reported that while the National Public Health Emergency Team [NPHET] had recommended that the south of Ireland move to Level 5 lockdown immediately, the government decision was to just go to Level 3.  Immediately after, on RTÉ, Leo Varadkar was blunt in his criticism of NPHET and particularly, by implication, its chairman Dr Tony Holohan. NPHET had landed this on the government at the last moment, Leo declared, and hadn’t explained what they’d recommend if Level 5 didn’t work.

His response and that of Martin were important because, instead of pleading as they have in the past about following the best medical advice, in this case they were saying the medical advice was for the birds. They had to protect 180,000 jobs, and that’s what would go if the south followed NPHET advice and moved to Level 5 as recommended.

You could argue that going to Level 3 was better, it saved jobs, it could be managed, Level 4 and 5 could be imposed if things weren’t improving. But what  Varadkar and Martin can never claim again is that they look to the science, they look to the best medical advice and follow that, and we should do the same.  In fact, by their actions, they have made it clear that the best thing is to ignore the best medical advice.

If a lot of people in the coming weeks contract the virus, if some of them die, that will be on the conscience of Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar. Assuming their consciences haven’t got sick and died.

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