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Senator Michael McDowell calls on coalition to reject NPHET Level 5 advice

I am appealing to the three coalition party leaders to reject the NPHET advice that the country should go to Level 5 in its entirety. 

I am also appealing to the three leaders to refuse to be manipulated into a cynical (and perhaps intended) “compromise” with NPHET that we should move to Level 4.


Moving to either level will create untold misery, additional deaths, huge psychiatric and psychological damage, irreparable economic and social harm, and will be futile.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that the situation in three or four weeks’ time will be significantly different if we now go into a lockdown or quasi-lockdown. None whatever.

There is no reason to believe that infection rates or community transmission rates would not resume at or climb almost immediately to current rates if Level 5 or Level 4 restrictions were imposed nationally and if they were relaxed in coming weeks and months.

The reported NPHET advice will, if accepted, turn out to be semi-permanent lasting for many months.

Lockdown’s Consequences

Accepting NPHET advice will have entirely predictable consequences:

  • Increased mortality from cancer, heart disease and other conditions due to continued dislocation of the health services
  • Untold suffering for those continuing to be deprived of vital social services for the mentally and physically disabled and their families
  • Severe psychiatric and psychological damage to vulnerable people
  • Greatly increased domestic abuse
  • Loneliness and isolation for the elderly
  • Catastrophic consequences for economic life hitting especially the indigenous SME sectors
  • Collapse of many enterprises due to insolvency and foreclosures
  • Massively increased unemployment and resultant poverty and misery.

These consequences, among others, are not to be chosen by default out of weakness now.



We simply cannot go back into lockdown.  We have got to learn to live with Covid infection and with significant risk of community transmission. Epidemiology and mathematical modelling is only one part of the story.

We know that further lockdown will have inevitable mortality and health consequences that lie outside simple epidemiology. The reported NPHET advice is replete with existential threats to the “common good” more widely understood.

Hospitalisation rates, intensive care admission rates and genuine Covid mortality rates are certainly significant issues for government.

Recent evidence concerning the categorisation of Covid related deaths suggests that the figure of approximately 1800 may be inflated. Likewise the evidence given to the Dáil Covid committee’s final meeting that the median age of Covid related death was “in the high eighties” requires us to put purely epidemiological advice into a real perspective when confronted with the clearly known and inevitable consequences of accepting NPHET’s reported advice.

Living With Community Transmission

The younger cohorts of the population (including nearly everyone of working age) are entitled to live their lives as normally as circumstances can permit. It is not a question of pitching their interests into a conflict with those of the older or more vulnerable cohorts in our population. Keeping schools and creches open goes nowhere near what is now demanded.

Entire swathes of our society and of social and economic activity simply cannot be put into suspended animation in pursuit of unattainable epidemiological goals or entirely temporary effects.

The cohesion that we have witnessed up to this point was based on a number of suppositions.

These include the supposition that our health authorities would address as a matter of extreme emergency shortfalls in ICU capacity. Little or nothing was done.

The supposition also was that we would establish a really effective test, track and trace system as a matter of extreme emergency. This does not appear to have happened either.

I am appealing to the leaders of the coalition and to their parties to reject the NPHET advice and to articulate with conviction, courage and honesty a different course for Irish society over the next number of weeks and months. The NPHET path is neither necessary nor sustainable - politically, socially, or economically.

You were elected to lead – not to be led.

- Senator Michael McDowell, 5th October 2020


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