Back in those innocent days of January 2020, I remember hearing about a mystery virus identified in a city I'd never heard of in China
There was talk of a bat being involved and maybe a pangolin. It all seemed so exotic and obscure. I never thought it had anything to do with me. How wrong I was! In November 2020.
I picked up the virus at the tail-end of reporting on the US elections for Prime Time. There followed 12 days of hell – but I'm thankful to say I survived with no lasting injuries.
Our lives have been upended by the Covid-19 virus in a way almost no one could have expected. Except, some were more alert than others.
As our correspondent in China Yvonne Murray explained, in a recent report for Prime Time, Chinese scientists were already sequencing the virus in January 2020.
As Yvonne detailed so well, the World Health Organisation was also anxious at that time. Yvonne revealed the recordings of WHO executive director Mike Ryan, as he expressed his frustration at the Chinese government and their slow pace of cooperation.
That all happened behind closed doors and the tapes only became public a year later. If only we had known about the virus earlier, we could have responded more quickly.
If only we had understood about its transmission, we could have taken measures to suppress it faster. But the early days of the pandemic were filled with cover up and missed steps.
With obfuscation and downright lies being told around the world, Irish viewers have flocked to trusted sources to find out the facts. Even when we weren’t sure of exactly what was happening, we turned to trusted, qualified professionals to help guide us through the quagmire.
The truth is that there is no one complete truth when it comes to Covid. We have learned about the process of how scientists come to conclusions and find their truth. They argue and present their evidence and their peers make up their minds on the basis of that evidence.
Over the last year or so, our viewers have listened to hundreds and hundreds of people we have interviewed on their behalf on Prime Time and they have made their own minds up about the evidence presented.
This is a profound and grown-up process. It involves audiences trusting the programme makers and the journalists working tirelessly to achieve the best.
If the truth is inconvenient or messy, it is our duty to present it to our audience and to pay them the respect they are due by allowing them to see the facts.
When some said Covid was only a bad flu, we challenged that with deep reporting and expert analysis. When counties in the west expressed dismay about the collapse of the tourism industry, we sent a reporter in a camper van up and down the coast to hear their stories and to highlight their plight.
We have put people on air who have challenged the established narrative from a variety of perspectives, but all with their root in solid evidence.
As we move to the next phase of the pandemic, our reporting will change again. We will bring a forensic approach to the rollout of the vaccines. We will look at the impact the pandemic has had on the young.
We will go back to find out how bad our housing situation has become. We will bring clarity to the challenges that the pandemic has exposed in our health system.
There is no easy answers to the situations we find ourselves in. Whether it is the trauma of the Troika bailout or the upending of society by Covid, we regularly find ourselves in troubled waters.
What we need is information and facts and an honest attempt at truth. That's what we strive for in Prime Time – to tirelessly overturn the stones, to see what's under them and to seek truth.
Watch the new-look Prime Time tonight at 9:35pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player.