Just like the rest the world, the hospitality industry in Ireland has seen dramatic changes due to Coronavirus restrictions. Initial lockdowns has led to temporary – and in some cases permanent – closures for many businesses. Those that can reopen must stick to rules, which includes a stipulation for ordering food alongside a drink and a max seating time of 105 minutes. All part of the ‘new normal’, but a heartwarming image of an elderly man in McGinn’s Hop House, a pub in Galway city, timing his visit with an alarm clock has gone viral in Ireland and has sparked some outlash at the restrictions.
The photograph (which was shared with the permission of the man in the image) sums up how Ireland’s older generation is dealing with the impact of the new rules. The man is sipping on his pint of Guinness, carefully watching his alarm clock. He clearly is conscious of not running out of time under the 105 minutes rule.
We spoke with the owner of McGinn’s Hop House, Fergus McGinn
Fergus McGinn tells us that he’s amazed at the reaction to the photograph, which he shared on the pub’s Facebook page yesterday and has since gone viral on Twitter. He says that the man is a local customer. However, this is the first time that McGinn and staff have seen him in months since the outbreak COVID-19.
The man ordered his pint and some dinner, and was still eating when McGinn noticed the alarm clock. He asked the man was he in a rush, or did he perhaps have to catch a bus to somewhere. But no, the man replied that “I wanted to get a second pint”, and make sure there was time to do so. They chatted for a few minutes and when the man had finished his second pint, staff rang him a taxi and walked him out.
Since sharing the image, there’s been an outpouring of support for the elderly man. People have donated money to put behind the bar for his next pint!
The reaction to the image on social media is a mix of emotions.
People are offering to buy the man pints and give him company if he wants it.
Comments on Facebook portray how Irish people feel about the older generation being isolated through current rules. “My heart goes out to the older generation their living in fear on all levels ….let him enjoy his few pints”, one user said. Another comments “This poor man probably misses being able to sit at the bar and chat to whoever comes in, sad times.”
People are also expressing anger at how the older generation are being hit especially hard by restrictions. “We should ask every member of the Government to comment on this photograph, and to see what you are doing to elderly people all over the country. Hit the soft targets, ignore the real issues.”
Twitter comments have the same sentiment: “That is a hard picture to look at. What did he do all the months the pubs were closed? I hope whoever took the pic sat down and had a chat with him.”
Another Twitter user notes that “This has to be the picture of Covid19 in Ireland. The poor man, who probably never broke a rule in his life, he wasn’t going to do it now.”
So many lovely comments here…. I've just called in to McGinns and dropped a few quid in behind the bar for the man who's called Finbarr on behalf of all the lovely people here pic.twitter.com/yz0hI6uun1
— Kieran O Malley (@GalwayPlayer) September 7, 2020
McGinn explains how the situation in rural Ireland is even worse
Fergus McGinn went on to say how even though the situation is difficult for McGinn’s Hop House, they’re lucky to be in a city location. Even still, for people such as the elderly man in the photo, “it’s devastating”. “What’s he going to be doing”, McGinn adds, if the pub is closed and there’s no other social outlets?
McGinn’s Hop House says that they were one of the first pubs to shut in the country. Fergus McGinn’s brother – who works in a hospital – rang him on the 14th March mid-service (the day before the government ordered bars to close) to say “shut the front door, don’t let any other customers in.” Customer and employee safety has been top priority from the start.
In rural Ireland, the scenario is worse. Public transport from rural houses to local pubs is non-existent. The cost of a taxi, €9 for a ‘substantial meal’ and drinks is a lot to ask of pensioners. Many rural pubs do not have the facilities to serve food, and as such cannot open under current regulations.
If this really is the image that sums up Ireland of 2020, it’s one whose reaction also sums up the Ireland that people love and know.