It’s a year since I was instructed by my bosses to stay at home. It was a Friday. I had just finished a week presenting Liveline on RTÉ Radio 1. It’s a pleasure being asked to sit in for Joe Duffy who is one of the most caring people you could ever meet by the way, a true gentleman. When I’m asked to sit in on other shows, it feels like I’m being asked to babysit other people’s children; I happily do it but I’m not going to inflict my own parenting rules on somebody else’s child! It is their show, not mine.
Anyway, I was not being asked to stay at home because I had done anything wrong. I was being asked to stay at home because this virus had arrived in Ireland a few days earlier and companies were now making contingency plans.
I have to admit that it felt like a throwback to school, the teacher telling me I’d a day off. My colleagues tagged me the “Designated Survivor” as I left the building. It was a reference to the contemporary TV series starring Kiefer Sutherland.
The match had been called off but the fans were still coming to Dublin
Designated Survivor meant I needed to stay at home and mind myself in case I needed to be called into action, in case a fellow presenter got COVID-19. Remember, these were crazy times and we feared all sorts of things. It was the weekend that Ireland was due to play Italy in the Six Nations in Dublin. The match had been called off but the fans were still coming to Dublin. Incidentally, that had been a theme on Liveline that week.
After the programme, I remember walking from Donnybrook into the city centre after presenting the show. And there were Italian fans sitting outside bars because the weather was nice. And I remember being worried.
Taoisecah Leo Varadkar was in Washington. He had called a press conference to close things down immediately including schools
Yes, it was around this time last year we were worried and talking about the Italian fans coming into Dublin and the Cheltenham fans leaving Dublin.
I was walking into town to meet my children and their mammy for a family meal to celebrate their almost same-day birthdays. Deirbhile was born on 7 March and Patrick on 5 March. It was Deirbhile’s 18th birthday, a milestone. A few days later she rang me from school. Taoisecah Leo Varadkar was in Washington. He had called a press conference to close things down immediately including schools.
I went to collect Deirbhile and as she got into the car in her school uniform, I will never forget her exclaiming sadly: “Dad that is probably the last time I will set foot in that school.” And she was correct.
I think of how frustrating it is for businesspeople like my brother in the hospitality sector
Mercifully, she got the results she required to go on and study agriculture and environmental science in University College Dublin, albeit distance learning. But, indeed it was, sadly, the last time she set foot in her secondary school. This year has been tough on us all, but for teenagers it has been so difficult.
She had a part-time job working in my brother’s bar. She loved it. I think of how frustrating it is for businesspeople like my brother in the hospitality sector. But think about all the teenagers who worked in bars across the country, earning pocket money along with the experience of real life.
This week a year ago, when I presented Liveline, the first confirmed case of the virus was reported in Ireland. And all the callers along with the rest of us thought we had all the answers. Little did we think 12 months on, COVID-19 would still have people calling Liveline about it.
Am I the only one who thinks it will take some getting used to seeing packed stadiums and halls after all of this?