By Michael Marron

The beginning of 2021 has seen a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across Ireland, North and South. Both states have infection rates among the worst in the world, as the Stormont Executive and Irish government continue to fail working people with their mishandling of the pandemic. 

In the South, government ministers are attempting to avoid responsibility for this new spike. Instead, Taoiseach Michael Martin blamed the new UK Covid variant for the surge, while the World Health Organisation’s Dr. Mike Ryan has stated “new variant strains have not been the driver of new transmissions”. Likewise the Stormont Executive have attempted to pass the buck on Covid, consistently placing the blame on the shoulders of young people in particular. Yet there is no mention of employers who have been allowed to continue to operate without adequate health and safety measures, or inadequate social distancing in schools due to lack of resources.

In reality, both Stormont and the Dublin government have utterly failed to control and manage the Covid-19 pandemic. The source of their mishandling is their outlook that the needs of profit come before the health and well being of people. This has seen both administrations rush to re-open sectors of the economy at various points without the necessary safeguards, inevitably leading to spikes in infection.

Workers must lead fight for necessary measures

Capitalist governments cannot be trusted to oversee the handling of this pandemic. Instead, workers have to take matters into their own hands. We have seen important examples of how this can happen. The Tories and Stormont were intent on reopening education and were reluctant to introduce the necessary measures to contain the virus. What forced them back was the anger from working-class people and, in particular, the action of teachers refusing to work in unsafe workplaces. 

Both states have failed to put in place a proper test and tracing system, and implement a widespread vaccination programme that complies with scientific advice. Yet the wealth and resources exist in our society to fund the measures necessary to tackle this pandemic, while maintaining the jobs and incomes of workers during a shutdown. The problem is that this wealth is in the hands of a small, super-rich business elite, to which capitalist politicians – North, South, and internationally – bend the knee.