The Covid-19 pandemic and the preventative measures taken to stop its spread have had colossal effects on all aspects of our society. To many, it can feel like the world has come to a standstill. People are locked up in their home and businesses have shut down, many with no guarantee of ever reopening. Nonetheless, even in such conditions, politics never comes to a standstill. As news headlines and the national focus switched entirely to the virus, other issues fall away, and politicians are thrust into the spotlight reassuring fearful citizens.
The coronavirus outbreak has caused many of us to reassess what is important in life. Brexit dominated the news headlines for months and the public grew tired of it, now Brexit seems so insignificant in comparison to the crisis we face today. The issue has not gone away but we see national media interest simply vanish into thin air. Closer to home, the recent plans to increase rent on the UCD campus prompted a fierce backlash. The story was not just followed closely by students but captured by the national media. The plans to increase rent on campus was seen as indicative of the extortionate cost of living for students at UCD. In early March, UCD Students’ Union President Joanna Siewierska said, ‘The Students’ Union will continue escalating our actions until Management engage with us appropriately and meet our demands.’ At that time the thought of the country being in lockdown was unimaginable but now those words ring hollow. Whether the campaign against the rent increases, spearheaded by the Students’ Union, can be resurrected remains to be seen, but the recent outbreak has made the reversal of the decision extremely unlikely.
While the public is consumed with the latest news relating to the virus, government formation talks have slipped under the radar. Currently, negotiation teams have been appointed by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in the hopes of forming a government. In order to gain a majority in the 33rd Dáil, both parties will need the support of other TD’s. At this stage, independent TD’s are the most likely to fill that role should talks between the two parties come to some sort of agreement. The Covid-19 outbreak means a stable government is absolutely imperative. The current caretaker government, led by Leo Varadkar, has drawn praise from all sections of the political spectrum for its handling of the crisis so far, but tougher times lay ahead. It remains to be seen whether the diverted media attention can help progress the government formation talks or whether the Covid-19 pandemic will dramatically shift the political landscape.
Conor Paterson – Politics Editor