AS the Covid-19 crisis deepened and Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and certain members of our newly-reconvened Executive decided that a policy of letting eight people out of ten contract the coronavirus was not a good idea after all, it was time for a rethink.
Cometh the hour, cometh the woman, and as people watched fearfully and hopefully, First Minister Arlene Foster stepped forward and hit exactly the right note. It’s time, she said, for the people to “embrace the spirit of Northern Ireland”.
Just what the “spirit of Northern Ireland” is Squinter’s not sure. So let’s see if, with the benefit of close-on 100 years of experience, we can see how the spirit of Are Wee Country might be redeployed in the time of coronavirus.
Troubles washing protocols for handling weapons and explosives should be resumed. A lengthy bath and hair wash are not necessary because while gunpowder residue in your hair was always a problem, coronavirus in your hair is not. Scrub the hands thoroughly with hot soap and water, but remember, it is no longer necessary to pay particular attention to your shooting arm and hand. Both require equal attention. If you’ve kept your balaclava it could be the best decision you’ve made since you said yes to the Northern Bank job. Since hand-to-face contamination is a principle spreader of the virus, your balaclava will go a long way to keep you safe. And as face masks are difficult to access, the thick wool of the balaclava makes an excellent makeshift virus filter.
It’s reported that the car parks at Tyrella beach, Helen’s Bay and Murlough Bay were packed to overflowing at the weekend, with some tourist attractions experiencing record footfall. Although the advice is that people should remain two metres apart, crowds have been assembling in the face of the growing Covid-19 threat. Retired senior RUC and British army figures with long experience of, ah, public order have been employed as consultants to advise the forces of law and order on how best to deploy the Spirit of Northern Ireland during times of public non-compliance. Water cannon deployed most recently at Woodvale during the Camp Twaddell national emergency are available and ready to go with a 95:5 water-bleach ratio. Baton charges are being rehearsed at the PSNI training centre at Garnerville with officers wearing hazmat suits instead of riot gear and with temperature gauges on the end of their batons. Plastic bullets are an option but will only be used as a final resort in order not to put to too much pressure on morgues and paediatric intensive care units.
STOP AND QUESTION
If you’re on your way to the shop, out for your one walk per day, or if you’re an essential worker en route to or from your job you may be stopped and questioned by the police – or even later by the British army, depending on how the crisis pans out. If you are under the age of 40 and you are in your car and you are asked ‘Is this your car, sir/madam?’ do not be surprised. Do not offer a humorous response (consult with your parents/grandparents for examples that may get you in trouble). Comply with all requests and be sure to keep your hands in sight at all time. If you are stopped on the street, please note that when asked your date of birth, Catholics are still legally entitled to say ‘Over 21’, although you should be aware that this is highly likely to significantly lengthen your stop period. Those out walking or driving while Irish should be aware that some names may lead to certain complications in your dealings with the RUC – sorry, PSNI – and the British army. Again, younger people should consult with parents/grandparents on how to address this tricky problem, but if they advise you to pretend you’re called Norman or Pamela, be aware that society has changed considerably in the quarter of a century-plus since the ceasefires and you are probably best placed to pick your own non-Irish name. Please note that if the crisis persists into the annual poppy period (official launch date mid-June) a poppy in your lapel or a sticky one on your windscreen will do wonders to smooth your journey.
And if you’re on your way to or from Derry when you’re stopped, remember – you work in Drumahoe.