Over a 30-year period, between 1968 and 1998, an estimated 3,600 people on the island of Ireland lost their lives in the murder and mayhem that took place. More than 30,000 people suffered injuries, many horrific.
Resolving the conflict was rightly a major priority throughout that period for all Irish governments. It was also the priority of democratically elected politicians across the political divide in Northern Ireland who opposed violence.
It was a greater priority for some UK Prime Ministers and governments than others, and the issue was more competently addressed by some Taoisigh and Prime Ministers than others.
Thirty years elapsed before the Good Friday Agreement was concluded, conflict ended and normality restored, in particular in Northern Ireland.
A resolution that recognised the complex background to the conflict, the concerns and fears of divided communities, the varied allegiances to flags and symbols, the disparate historical narratives and understandings, the religious and cultural divisions took more time than it should have.
Put simply, too many of those whose words, actions, incomprehension and neglect fuelled the conflict and too many of those engaged in violence were slow learners. The inability of some to learn and constructively act on that learning had serious and fatal consequences.
The first death from Covid-19 in the Republic occurred on March 14, 2020. The first death from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland was announced on the March 19, 2020.
As at the date of writing, based on official published statistics, in less than 11 months Covid-19 has prematurely ended the lives of 4,717 people on the island of Ireland; 2,970 Covid deaths have occurred in the Republic and 1,747 in the north.
So, 1,117 more people have died from Covid on our island in less than 11 months than died during the entire 30 years of the Troubles, a depiction I dislike as it minimises the level of conflict that blighted our island, the tragedy of lives lost and the life-changing injuries and scars inflicted on the conflict's survivors.
The Troubles over time resulted in Herculean efforts by many, including international political figures, some secretly, some publicly, to end the carnage and the loss of life. In the end an agreement was reached that did so.
There has not been a similar Herculean effort to stop the carnage of Covid-19.
I do not doubt that all of those in the Irish Government and in the Northern Ireland Executive and all elected politicians on our island want the Covid carnage to end and no more Covid fatalities.
I do not doubt that the two Irish governments in office during 2020 and the Executive have done what they perceive to be their best in difficult circumstances to address the Covid crisis. I know a great deal had to be learnt about Covid-19 and that we are still learning.
I know also it is easy to be a sideline critic and that it was inevitable that some mistakes would be made. Unfortunately, mistakes made in dealing with Covid have tragic fatal consequences.
Some mistakes made deserve forgiveness. Governments across the globe have made mistakes. Some deserve no forgiveness. I include within the latter group government and Executive decisions made to encourage or facilitate people, in the words of Taoiseach Micheal Martin, "to have a meaningful Christmas".
It was blindingly obvious by December 15/16 that to protect lives and prevent further contagion it was essential that people's movements be again curtailed, congregating be prohibited and that government make the tough decision that families not intermingle over the Christmas period.
It was also obvious much earlier that facilitating thousands travelling by boat and plane to arrive from elsewhere with no fully enforceable restrictions to visit family and friends was reckless.
The most unforgivable mistake is, however, the total failure to discuss, agree and implement an all-island strategy to prevent the spread of Covid.
The island of Ireland, separated from Britain and the European mainland by sea, was and is geographically as conveniently located as New Zealand to implement a zero-Covid strategy and protect the population of the island from its ravages.
To date, due to the exceptional precautionary action taken by its government, there have been only 2,290 Covid cases in New Zealand and 25 deaths out of a population of 5m.
Yet again, people on our island have died because of communal and political division, flags and symbols, lack of vision, negligence and cultural difference.
Tragically, lives have been lost due to a fundamental failure of governance. The first duty of government in a democratic society is to protect and safeguard citizens' lives. Both the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive in dealing with Covid have abysmally failed in their duty.
Devotion to political structures and constructs, nativism and nationalism, fear of political backlash, post-Brexit bickering, positioning and posturing have on both sides of the island resulted in politics being prioritised over people's health.
The Taoiseach's misconceived proposed two-island approach, with Covid rampant across Britain, starkly illustrates the extent of the Irish Government's inability to radically think outside the box.
The stark reality that viruses have no more respect for political constructs and borders than they have for Christmas has been ignored on both sides of the invisible border between north and south.
The reality is that when confronted by the greatest health emergency in 100 years real leadership would have agreed to throw aside convention and irrelevant division.
The Republic's Government and the Executive should, many months ago, have agreed a coordinated joint approach to restrict travel by non-residents on to the island, stopped all non-essential travel both on to and off the island, required every resident returning to anywhere in Ireland to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days in designated locations, agreed exceptions for those providing essential services and delivering supplies and enacted identical laws for the prosecution of those who violate agreed restrictions.
This could have all been temporarily implemented as legitimately required by the unprecedented pandemic emergency without any permanent damage done to the common travel area between Ireland and the UK, or to the status of Northern Ireland within the UK and without the Republic violating EU freedom of movement rules.
It can be done also without Northern Ireland's unionists fearing it as creeping unification.
Too many of our political leaders have proved yet again to be slow learners. It is still not too late for an all-island agreed zero-Covid strategy to save lives. It is the human factor and not political positioning that should be paramount.
An emergency meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council should be called with an all-island agreed strategy to tackling Covid as the sole agenda item.
This could then be followed by any necessary agreed engagement with the UK Government. Practical speedy action to save lives should be the priority.
Alan Shatter is the Republic's former Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence