Owen Polley: Nationalists for political ends tried to overturn measured advice to schools on coronavirus

Even in the bloody history of Irish nationalism, trying to exploit the coronavirus to further an all-Ireland agenda is as low as it gets.

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 1:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 2:08 pm
Michelle O’Neill, after whose u-turn on closing schools on Friday there was escalating criticism of the UK approach, and John O’Dowd, who tweeted about a ‘shire of bastards’ conducting a medical experiment

Extreme republicans have murdered, covered up child rape, stolen millions of pounds of money in their efforts to destroy Northern Ireland: but exploiting the biggest public health crisis in living memory — that deserves a mention in the roll call of ignominy.

Be under no doubt.

That is what is happening.

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The campaign to incite schools to disregard measured advice from the executive and follow instead the southern Irish model is nothing less than a coup.

These people cloak their agenda in apparent concern for lives and health, but nationalists scent blood and it is not the blood of Covid-19 victims.

Rather it is the end of the United Kingdom that John O’Dowd, for example, surely thinks he smells when he tweets about the ‘shire’ of bastards in the British government.

This crusade is likely to succeed because unionists too are worried about the disease and it is a very natural instinct to shout for something to be done, more to be done, now, when a serious problem is current.

The Irish government is taking that view, but the Northern Ireland executive is following professional advice closely and taking an approach that can seem counterintuitive.

It doesn’t much matter whether one is right and one is not.

Nationalist Ireland has made up its mind without even listening to the arguments.

Every time Northern Ireland’s status as part of the UK takes a concrete form, whether it’s the fact that people born here are British citizens, or that we will leave the EU with the rest of the country, or our inclusion in the UK’s medical advice, there is a fearful tantrum.

I’ll be very clear, I don’t know how best to counter the coronavirus.

My wife is a doctor at the frontline of this crisis, and we talk about it every day, but this situation is unprecedented.

Those who claim that they know better than public health experts should shut up.

Public opinion is irrelevant in this crisis. All the tweeters and twitterers are irrelevant.

The experts who are plotting a course through coronavirus are not infallible. But they know incomparably more than John O’Dowd, Martina Anderson, and their ilk.

Amid the atmosphere of anglophobia, on Twitter, an economist, David McWilliams, described Britain as a ‘rogue state’.

If Boris Johnson’s decisions applied only to the mainland this type of language would not be employed.

After the Netherlands decided to follow a strategy close to that of the UK, the Irish Times published an article including scathing quotes dismissing that position but not one from any of the scientists supporting it.

Joe Brolly, the barrister and former GAA participant, similarly on BBC Radio Ulster Talkback cited a host of sources, without acknowledging that Britain’s experts know incomparable more than him.

Nationalist Ireland is closing ranks.

The Catholic church has called for schools to close, while the UK government and the health minister say that would be counterproductive.

This overall response began to take-off on Friday morning, when Sinn Fein changed its stance on possible school closures in response to a demand from nationalists for an all-Ireland approach.

Here is the lesson for unionists.

Determined nationalists will try to erode Northern Ireland’s Britishness at any opportunity and forever and they will never be appeased.

It’s psychological.

They don’t care about science or facts — they will bend the evidence to their desired outcome.

If we have any reason for optimism, it is the reaction of the ‘middle ground’, Alliance included.

They have clearly been appalled by the tribal reaction of Sinn Fein et al to this crisis.

Northern Ireland is behind both the rest of Ireland and the rest of the UK when it comes to coronavirus.

We have grounds for optimism.

But the insatiable, unrelenting demands of nationalism will continue whatever the crisis.