There is another way - but this unhelpful aggression towards our Executive must end

TESTING TIMES: While news of Covid vaccines brings so much hope, it isn’t enough to sustain the extraordinary commitment of many well in to 2021
Stephen Kelly

WE'RE told “we're all in this together”. But for many in business and those who work in much of the private sector, it certainly doesn't feel like that.

On Friday, our second ‘circuit breaker' started in an effort to suppress the spread of the Covid virus to protect an over-stretched health service and protect lives. We all would struggle to find anyone who would not support that purpose, but the sacrifices required to achieve that outcome are not evenly endured.

The burden is being borne by those people who wake on every Monday worried about being able to pay wages on that Friday, the self-employed or those in precarious employment concerned about winning and retaining customers and those working in sectors where this ‘golden quarter' is so critical to sustain them through to a Easter.

The stress these people endure is enough, so there is no need for some commentators, virtue signallers and even some in our medical professionals to attempt to shame them too. A closed pub, hairdresser or retailer cannot be blamed for the virus spreading. They are not “vandals” nor are they the enemy of the NHS.

They are worried, tired and poorer. Some own or work in businesses will have been forcibly closed for 36 of the 48 weeks this year already. The lucky ones have had some small grant support or only 80 per cent of their wages but their bills still keep coming and their debt keeps rising.

It would be great if those who ask people to continue the sacrifice recognised this and would be equally concerned about those less fortunate than themselves.

Despite the burden being unequal, businesses and workers have not, as yet, pushed back. They have complied and persevered despite their patience being tested to the limit whilst waiting on the promised financial support.

News of Covid vaccines brings so much hope, but it isn't enough to sustain the extraordinary commitment of many well in to 2021. They need to know that the only tool to be used to suppress the virus is only to rinse and repeat and old plan where every time it is rinsed, their capacity to endure it and the level of support available to them is diluted.

Equally, the aggression towards the Executive is unhelpful. There is no off-the-shelf resourced plan for navigating the combined nightmare of a public health and economic emergency whilst not having the financial armoury needed to safely protect lives and incomes and knowing that what follows is an economic crisis which will cause harm for years to come. Who would volunteer to have to make the horrendously difficult choices they have to make?

There is another way. Business, with our experience shaping customer behaviour, of leading and motivating teams and drawn from examples of creating controlled and safe environments, have offered their support and another plan. A plan which is built on compliance, compensation and effective communication which would protect lives and jobs. That offer to support the Executive remains.

No one is trying to make the wrong decisions and no one is trying to choose livelihoods over lives. But if people are being asked to continue to make sacrifices, we need to get back to the days when we were all in concert tackling our common enemy. If we are truly all in this together, then everyone needs to begin to act like that.

:: Stephen Kelly ( is chief executive of Manufacturing NI ( Twitter: @ManufacturingNI

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access