To Hell or to Connaught no more – Time to open up Animal Farm – with only 1,100 cases.

“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”


― George Orwell, Animal Farm

The Irish lockdown is scheduled to end in just over one week. And yet where are the plans to re-open our Animal Farm in stages?

I don’t think anyone expects life to resume to the tunes of the old normal but it would be nice to know what the steering committee of Animal Farm have in mind. Detailed plans might be nice. An indication of what the various stages,to the ease in restrictions, might look like – throughout the summer and beyond.

There are worrying calls from various stern faced committee members that we need to be able to test, test, test before we lift restrictions. By all means, my porky little friends – get cracking.

Lockdown remember, was to give you time to put all these things in place, along with protecting our hospitals and nursing homes. That’s just an observation now mind, from an old, cantkerous donkey.

Despite the current lecture series threatening the opposite, let me assure the farm committee – continuation of the current scenario is not an option. Even setting aside the economic and financial realities, a lot of us would need convincing on the health grounds now too. This is as good as it will get outside the pale.

The five counties of Connaught have had roughly 1,100 cases total since the starting gun was fired, out of nearly 20,000 cases in Ireland. The Cromwellian term ” To Hell or To Connaught “ is historical phraselogy in need of a little modern, positive farmyard spin.

When the nursing home debacle is taken out of the equation I would question if we’ve had a real imminent threat here for over 10 days. The curve in the general population hasn’t been flattened in Connaught it’s been pummelled into the ground. Of course if you have evidence to the contrary – the cows, sheep and work horses would be delighted to hear it. Some nuance in re-opening the regions of Ireland might be of benefit in the initial stages. As far as I’m concerned Connaught is good to go. Just give us a framework.

And most other farm animals sense this too. This weekend past is the first one where I felt a degree or two of relaxation in those snatched moments out-doors in the fields. More machinery in operation and activity in the laneways. This isn’t an act of defiance but a recognition that the measures have worked. Maybe to a point the danger of being over-worked. If committee members do not have a plan – extending current restrictions indefinietly isn’t really one either.

The farm, lest we forget, sensed before the committee, when we were not engaged in enough toil at the beginning, in the early days of March. When committee members allowed horses to travel to and fro from Cheltenham. There was most definitely a murmuring of unease and disquiet amongst the other animals out West when this was entertained. Believe it or not, we don’t need a committee think-tank to take our health seriously in these pandemic times. We understand not all animals are created equal especially those of us who are not wrapped in bacon.

So there is absolutely no chance of extending past May 5th on the current strict guidelines. So stop with these gobbledy gook lectures on the Six-one news. Unless it’s backed up with evidence rather than vague Stalinist addresses about further flattening the curve. Especially when committee members are responsible for keeping it fattened in our nursing homes.

“I do not understand it. I would not have believed that such things could happen on our farm. It must be due to some fault in ourselves. The solution, as I see it, is to work harder. From now onwards I shall get up a full hour earlier in the mornings.”


― George Orwell, Animal Farm

The clearest evidence we have at the moment seems to indicate nursing home patients were sacrificed to protect hospital ICU beds. I mean by your own admission most nursing home COVID -19 patients didn’t end up in a hospital bed. A decision somebody, somewhere must have made in the upper rooms of the farm-house. Or worse they didn’t and it just happened.

Except, except….. it couldn’t have really….just happened could it. Someone made the call. I can understand the rationale for it, to a degree, especially back in March when we all thought the hospital system was likely to get torn asunder. But let me ask this – Is it still farm policy today?

Back in the present, by all means DO start informing us how you plan to gradually re-open on May 5th, with the guidelines you intend to ask us to implement in the fields. In detail.

“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
― George Orwell, Animal Farm

What worries me most about the recent Keelings affair, that bubbled to the surface like molten lava, is it’s an indicator that the farm committee were not prepared for something like this. In a pandemic response, that requires chess moves – the steering group are struggling to play checkers. Passions were raised about Keelings and these migrant farm labourers that were brought in from foreign fields. A lot of auld irrelevant, slightly racist guff mixed in with treating the business like it was the biggest threat in the land to the health of our farm. I must confess I was slightly perplexed.

At the end of the day, Keelings or any other business in the food production or food supply delivery chain, are essential businesses. They bring food, yes even strawberries, to your feeding pen. Committee planning, obviously didn’t extend, to helping these businesses keep workers working in this sector during the proposed lock down. Perhaps, a touch of co-ordination with the 500,000 farm animals that were temporaily unemployed at the time? And maybe direct a few dozen of them to this business and others like it.

No, the committee steering group only kicked into action, as they always do, when a finger wagging, social media mob showed up at the gates of the farm. In these moments our pork population emerges in all their finery and soundbites.

Soundbites don’t till the fields and the farm that only starts planning for strawberries when the strawberries disappear from the fruit and veg section of the supermarket floor – will soon go hungry for strawberries. And more important foods besides.

Now, with most of the farm unemployed or working from their barns, It is even more blatantly obvious how important it is that the farm stores that are open – remain so. There is a whole supply chain of Irish producers and importers that keep the Irish food operation running smoothly. Hundreds and hundreds of them.

These links in the chain require committee support to remain trading and responsive and I don’t necessarily mean monetary support.

The farm-hands might wait a week for a coronavirus test but they cannot wait a week for food and water. The Keelings flash fire is a warning. Not a Bukowskian indication of the genius of social media crowds but of how fragile our food supplies are at the moment. Problems like this and the nursing home debacle will remain with us through the summer and possibly through the rest of the year. What is the plan comrades?

These issues require senior committee level responsibility. Hell nursing homes and residential care may even require their own committee.

We are facing into a world where the supply of essential goods is going to remain problematic with bottle necks and breaks in the chain. Former foreign suppliers may no longer be in business or worse restricted by their own farms from exporting to Ireland.

Couple this to the fact the western world is facing a recession that will be of a magnitutde larger than the one faced in 2008. How long it will last is anyone’s guess but I think it is safe to assume the rest of 2020 is a write off economically at the very, very least.

In the present we need to keep it simple. Those with no jobs and no money will still need affordable food. The extent of this problem will only reveal itself as we move out of lockdown. Once we open the double doors of the underground basement, now that the first tornado of coronavirus has swept through the land.

So ask yourself another question. If there isn’t a coherent strategy for what are deemed as “essential businesses” what kind of a plan do you think the committee have for a hair salon, pub, clothes shop or dental surgery?

Answers on a postcard.

I assume retailers will be enforced to employ social distancing measures rigorously. In effect this means ” Please reduce the number of customers that you allow into your business ” – So the chances of many of you trading your way out of trouble are immediately handicapped. A few pie-charts on how Irish entrepreneurs are expected to employ social distancing and stay alive would be most welcome.

The clearest signal that the FG and FF livestock do not have a plan is revealed in what they are arguing about in the new commitee formation talks.

Eh….The pension age. Is this really important at this exact moment?

They are clearly not engaged in nuanced debate about the single biggest social measure that has been introduced to the world since the dawn of mankind.

Social distancing.

The psychology of most animals and humans is to interact within touching distance. Intimate grazing distance. To stop is not a flick of a light switch in our collective make-ups. But on May 5th we are expected to walk out into the world armed only with the knowledge we will need to stay 2 metres apart for the foreseeable future and wash our paws of course. Until a vaccine arrives.

And who knows, by that stage maybe the inhabitants of all the farm-houses around the world will have become mightily comfortable with controlling the world that way.

“These people don’t see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you.”


― George Orwell, Animal Farm

Concerts, sporting events, theatres, churches, pubs, discos or even the basic humanity of a hug or shaking a persons hand are all off the table for the foreseeable future. The art of life can only be sacrificed for the science of survival for a very short period methinks.

These activities are the connectors of animal-kind and if you don’t have a detailed plan as to how you are going to re-introduce them to the hills and valleys and under what circumstances….well you don’t have much business being in the next committee of pigs.

I mean we’d be better off with humans running things… some might say.

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