IT seems likely that when the British government finally gets round to counting people who have died at home or in care homes from Covid-19, the United Kingdom will be the second-hardest-hit country on the planet.

If we haven’t already had enough evidence of the jawdropping ineptitude of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government, we now have it written in 100-foot neon letters over the ‘Mother of Parliaments’.

For those at Stormont who continue to cleave to the  Jackanory version of events being churned out by No.10 Downing Street and who continue to take their lead from the other island, this must surely be the wake-up call they’ve been waiting for. If not, then they are surely destined to sleep through anything.

There has always been a pressing need to come up with bespoke and imaginative solutions to the continuing peril of Covid-19 that exploit the singular advantage of our island status, but they have generally not been forthcoming, although there is some evidence that the penny is beginning to drop about the inestimable value of being an island during a global pandemic. But that need has never been more pronounced now that we are beginning to make tentative steps towards even beginning to think about what the mechanics of an economic start-up might look like.

The shocking details of Mr Johnson’s behaviour during the key early weeks of the outbreak were laid out in some detail at the weekend: the failure to attend five Cobra meetings, the weekends in the country. Those unforgivable failures will be judged upon when the inevitable public inquiry takes place. But  for now, armed as we are with the grim knowledge of this British government’s endless ineptitude, what criminal folly would it be if Stormont in the future aligned itself to a restart policy drawn up by the very same people who have rocketed the UK to the dizzy heights of the Covid-19 league table?

Sadly, it seems likely that if and when restart templates are drawn up and presented by Downing Street, the Executive will once again divide along traditional unionist and nationalist lines. And in this instance the former means somebody else’s solution for our unique circumstances, while the latter means using our own deep pool of local knowledge and experience to decide how best we protect our health and prosperity.



WITH concerns growing about how people are dealing personally with the lockdown, attention has turned to the decision to close cemeteries.

Countless people find a deep well of spiritual comfort and wellbeing in visiting the graves of loved ones, and never has there been a time when that comfort and wellbeing are at such a premium. There is, of course, an imperative to dissuade people from making non-essential journeys (and the vast majority of people drive to cemeteries). But can it be right that our parks are open to all and sundry – with varying degrees of distancing compliance – while our cemeteries, which in the absence of funerals would be exemplars of natural distancing, are closed? A way must be found to put that anomaly to right.

Our photo on homepage was taken this week on the train from Finaghy to the city centre. Pic by Thomas McMullan