Why Met Éireann is now the benevolent church we all can happily obey
As a people we have only recently released ourselves from obedience to the Catholic Church. For a long time, the church had the power to fill us with terror about many things.
Sometimes, it can appear that we have replace this great terror with many little terrors. Instead of condemnation from the pulpit, we have public health warnings that tell us of the dangers of unclean kitchen surfaces or of not washing our hands. Some might wonder if these necessary alerts also fill some spiritual hole in the Irish psyche.
The anxieties instilled by the church don’t necessarily disappear, they can take other forms. We don't go to confession anymore to release these concerns, but we can make sure that all surfaces where food is prepared is cleaned regularly to ensure that germs don’t spread.
Some hark for those times when the church provided us with guidance, the way some in Russia long for a return to the Soviet era. But there is no going back and happily we don’t have to.
This week, we found a benevolent church we can all follow. Our spiritual leaders are now Met Éireann and those who make up the National Emergency Co-ordination Group.
Where once politicians cowed from the Catholic Church and followed its orders, they now attempt to speak with the authority which only comes from close proximity to Evelyn Cusack.
The obedience with which the orders from Met Éireann were followed appeared to have been noted by government ministers. This week they were issuing weather reports on TV and radio themselves, perhaps conscious that it was the only way of getting people to listen to you.
The updates from the National Emergency Co-ordination Group became like a papal conclave. Many concerned government departments are there, but it's the meteorological services we were waiting to hear from.
This new church is helped by humankind’s endless capacity for wonder. Like early humans, we looked upon this week’s weather event with awe. We may no longer worship weather gods, but we retain the capacity to be overwhelmed by nature, to look upon snow with the same critical faculties as a dog.
There were also the ritualistic aspects of our devotion, the attendance at services, or weather bulletins and the desire for sacraments, like holy bread and wine or, in this instance, bread.
We absorbed the group's complex weather warnings effortlessly, taking on the subtleties in the differences between the red weather alert which involved staying indoors and the red weather alert which allowed us to leave the house, but not to use the roads with the ease you would expect from a people who absorbed the concept of the holy trinity through a shamrock.
These red warnings are the divine mysteries now and we accepted them like a people who have been searching for something to believe in. We understood they were for our own good and nothing else mattered.
This was a week for guidance and when our new spiritual leaders told us what to do, we did it obediently and it was for the best.
We were helped too by the evidence of how it can all go wrong.
In the UK, they had a red warning too, yet many found themselves trapped in their cars overnight on Thursday. Maybe nobody explicitly told them not to go out or maybe that's an example of where free thinking takes you.
Of course, there were those who were ready to take the “it’s health and safety gone mad” line, often referencing ex Hurricane Ophelia as an example of over-reaction.
For these people, prevention seems to be a concept more difficult to comprehend than any divine mystery. But as nurses, doctors and others in the essential services struggled to work, most of us could grasp what was required.
As the red warnings were lifted, the most profound truth of all revealed itself. In a world which sees conspiracies everywhere and reduced the merit of experts, their judgment needed to be acknowledged. What Met Éireann said would happen, happened. Obeying their warnings wasn't a leap of faith, it was trust in science.