Can Irish people be ‘reigned in’ till Christmas?

If you told someone who dabbles in cocaine that their fun times are fuelling murder and bloodshed along the supply chain nexus, would they stop?

Probably not.

They know Paolo the busdriver might get sprayed with bullets somewhere in Honduras courtesy of the mercurial drug trade they partake in, but a line is a line.

So as we enter another six weeks of staying at home, mostly for the greater good of the elderly and predisposed, many will comply with tight restrictions, but some won’t.

People are being asked to lose their jobs, their social life, their travel plans and their friendships, on the off chance that someone they may not know gets really sick. Currently there exists a 99 percent chance of not getting Covid-19, so the social solidarity and the togetherness in apartheid, which worked the last time round, may be difficult to replicate.

This time we are armed with better information and a greater immunity to fear.

Hence it comes as no surprise that Gardaí will be given new powers to call to homes and break up house parties. The Government, which is dangling the Christmas craic carrot in the hope of getting us through the dark times, is clearly anticipating non compliance.

Are they right? Will our hedonistic tendencies be reigned in until Christmas or will there be anarchy?

“Back in March, the pendulum swung to the side of fear, anxiety, stress where we were following protocols and doing the Riverdance to avoid someone on the street, then the taste of freedom came and the pendulum swung really far to the other side,” Dublin based psychiatrist Gerry Hickey says. “Trying to get it back into the middle in the next few weeks will be hard.”

People like to interpret statistics to suit their world view, so if infection numbers are high, but the numbers of people on ventilators are relatively low, and there are only 30 people in ICU, then it’s OK to call over to the mates gaff with a bag of cans and shoulder of cheap vodka.

Under the banner of “I’m done with Covid,” the insidiousness of the disease can happily be ignored by those who might venture to a dwelling or field near you for a few quiet drinks or a big dirty rave.

“There’s no nightclub scene or no bar scene, so drinking and drug taking takes place at house parties and parks. As restrictions increase, the get-togethers will get smaller again, but people who want to party will continue to do so. If people want to drink and use drugs and socialise, they will find a way. There can be a return to adolescent drinking,” Dr Colin O’Gara, head of Addiction Services at Saint John of God Hospital in Dublin informed me, adding that alcohol consumption and problem drinking is expected to increase in the coming weeks.

Illicit drinking is something we used to pride ourselves on before it became unfashionable. We look back with fondness on the naggins of vodka and cans of Ritz consumed outside the Dart station.

We like to think we’ve moved on from the reputation of uncontrollable heathens, but will the next few weeks will offer an Icarus moment for Ireland?

“There’s an alliance of compliance- where people are removing themselves from blame,” Hickey says. “We’re fine, we just had a few people over- it’s the other people who are causing it, not us.”

I’m always torn between agreeing with people who want lockdown and agreeing with those who don’t, but ultimately, in the absence of a robust Governmental plan for the second wave, and a disturbing lack of ICU staff, we are left with little choice but to stay home, bored and alone.

I’m starting to feel like Terry Waite, who spent four years in captivity in Lebanon, but I’m 45 so I won’t be looking for late night shebeens. The idea of potentially 5000 cases per day, even if asymptomatic, takes the fun out of it.

The trick is that the usual suspects of loose house partiers, GAA dressing room revellers and pub crawlers who were directly responsible for the spread of the virus feel the same way.

Sometimes life hands you lemons, and sometimes those lemons will set you free, but can you wait for six weeks until they do – just for the promised Shangri La of Christmas 2020. Then when the virus returns as predicted in January and February, we can collectively declare anarchy.

If everyone manages not to go on the lash, before we officially go on the lash, then we will have achieved something we’ve never managed before.
The miracle of Christmas may still be possible.

I live in hope.