Dear Norma

I don’t believe that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. But rather than wasting time with the (inevitably) one way introductions, I’d like to bring a few matters to your attention.

People are scared

In the past few days the pandemic has escalated on a scale beyond anyone’s worst fears.

  • January 1st – 1,574
  • January 2nd – 3,394
  • January 3rd – 4,962
  • January 4th – 6,110
  • January 5th – 5,325
  • January 6th – 7,836
  • January so far? 29,201

The mortality rate for Covid 19 is approximately 1.9%. That’s based on 121,154 cases in Ireland with 2,299 people dead. (Info from

So based on that, of the 29,201 who have contracted Covid in the past 6 days, approximately 550 people will die.

It is in the face of this explosion of numbers that you keep insisting that schools are safe. That may have been the case when the national situation was of the order of 100 cases a day. We are now in a radically different situation. You have not recognised or accepted that fact. It is, however, a reality that is very stark for thousands of teachers and students across our country.

I know that you’ve worked as a teacher, but you may have forgotten the realities of classroom life.

  • Many of our schools are old and poorly insulated/ventilated/heated
  • Our class sizes are among the largest in Europe (ours is 25, average in Europe is 20 – Irish Examiner)

Wasted Opportunities

We are just a few days away from the 10 month point when Leo stood at a podium in the U.S, and announced the first lockdown.

One would have hoped that in the intervening period you, and your colleagues, would have taken the opportunities to plan for the worst.

Instead you decided to hope for the best. Government policy over the past few months seems to have involved a large degree of optimism that some form of Irish Exceptionalism would keep the virus at bay.

In the intervening period you and your colleagues

  • Allowed travel to continue into Ireland
  • Removed Summer lockdown restrictions faster than had been recommended by NEPHET
  • Ignored NEPHET advice at the start of December
  • Failed to implement a comprehensive Contact Tracing System so that in the Autumn those diagnosed positive had to inform their own close contacts
  • Failed to plan for an inevitable increase in cases. Specifically – there was no plan ‘B’ when it came to reopening schools, let alone a plan ‘C’.
  • Cut the PPE grant for schools by 40%.

Where does all this lead us?

We are now in a crisis that is the result of a Virus but is compounded by political ineptitude.

You, minister, and your colleagues have failed us. You have failed teachers, you have failed students, you have failed families.

When it became apparent that the national situation was rapidly deteriorating, you were absent.

The ‘Plan’

Even with the situation deteriorating rapidly, and with the CMO warning of the worst to come, it took days for the Cabinet to meet and decide what to do.

You ask students to return to school for 3 days a week but have not given any reassurance that this is approved by NEPHET. There has been no plan for child-minding for teachers of young children, there has been no plan or strategy for managing distance learning. There has been precious little investment in ICT.

You and your government are failing us.

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