Words of Reflection, Gerry O’Sullivan

“I see something incredible happening in Ireland during this pandemic…Traditionally, at the government level, government departments work mainly independently of each other. While they may have some links with each other, you do not usually see masses of deployment of personnel between various departments. What is going on in the country right now is the most incredible criss-cross between all of the sections. For example, personnel from the Department of Defence are now working with the Department of Health doing contact tracing, as are others who are redeployed from community groups that are funded by the Department of Health.

It is also great to see that retired doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel have been invited to come back and volunteer in the health service. Even our Prime Minister, who is a medical doctor, is volunteering to do one day’s shift a week, answering calls from members of the community who need to be assessed for Covid-19 testing. All in all, there is a huge amount of fluidity and flexibility among various government sectors, and nobody is saying ‘No, this is against our Union Policy or our employment guidelines. I am not saying this should continue forever, as people risk being abused and we have trade unions working on these issues, luckily, but what I do hope is that when this pandemic will pass, we will use the opportunity to build a structure around this flexibility, with both the words structure and flexibility being of importance.

I think I have positively noticed what is happening in my country, Ireland. But I also see what Germany has done: taking patients with Covid-19 from Italy and France to be treated in Germany, and, in the current climate where countries such as the UK have left the EU as they wish to be sovereign and block immigration, and Donald Trump blocking immigration to the U. S. this is just incredible! It is a strong demonstration by Germany of human solidarity.

At a micro level in Ireland, I see this huge human solidarity as well – hotels offering shelters for sick people, people bringing food to hospitals, people offering to drive, or do the shopping for older people.

However, I have one big reservation, which is about domestic abuse. Calls to helplines are on the rise. And I note that a new advertising campaign has started here and that other hotlines have been set up for people who are victims of domestic abuse. This is a huge issue that is coming to the surface even more than previously during this pandemic and lock-down period.”