Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill make televised address over COVID-19


The First and Deputy First Minister have made a televised address following Boris Johnson.

There was nothing new announced from yesterday, it was a restatement of the message they have been giving for the past 24 hours. The new thing was how the form of communication. Looking back through the records (Slugger readers will correct me if I am wrong) this is the first time in nearly 52 years that this has happened. A leader(s) of a devolved administration here giving a direct address to the public on BBC Northern Ireland. The last was then Prime Minister, Terence O’Neill speaking about the response to the growing civil rights movement and the protests.

They may not have wanted it, but Michelle and Arlene face choices and consequences are equal to those faced by O’Neill in December 1968. Forces that you don’t totally control and making a punt that you can appeal to the better nature of the public to follow you. We are a COVID weary society, but then again so are our politicians. Many of whom would be quite happy to get back to dealing with constituency queries and for the Executive the exciting pieces of work around investment and economic development. Now they face a recession, mounting pressure from a weary public and the respective  lobby groups who are asking for consideration for their members livelihoods.

It is a fine balancing act. When the two leaders come together, they do so effectively. This relationship will be hugely consequential for us all. You can either feel anxious after a statement or feel reassured. Oddly, despite feeling fed up and frustrated about aspects of this, I feel like this will end at some point and we will come through it. It just a question of when, not if.

None of this is easy. I don’t envy any political leader making hard decisions like this, particularly when you don’t control all of the factors that involves this virus. On Talkback today, William Crawley spoke about how he had just reset his expectations about this year and reconciled himself to what we can do in the present circumstances. We have all done this in many ways and one thing, I am mindful of is that the boat I am sitting in is much bigger than many in our society. There are many worried about their jobs, businesses, loved ones and futures, It is important to look after yourself during this pandemic and going back to todays Talkback there is an excellent segment on that very topic for how you can look after yourself. (49 mins in).

Watch the address, follow the guidance, do your best and look after yourself. This is going to end one day