- 10 Apr 20
The renowned Irish artist pays tribute to newly qualified doctors in the new Hot Press 'Stay Safe' Emergency Issue, out now.
For over 30 years, David Rooney has skilfully chronicled the major changes in Irish society through his fortnightly editorial illustrations in Hot Press. In the new ‘Stay Safe’ Emergency Issue, the award-winning Irish artist powerfully captures the inspiring heroes of these surreal times – with a comic book-style tribute to the doctors on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
“It started with a post on Facebook by an old friend of mine, whose son Conal was masked and caped up, ready for action,” says Rooney. “He looked like a kid about to play superhero.”
Rooney was inspired, and set to work on 'Caped Crusaders From a Cast of Thousands', which appears in the new Hot Press 'Stay Safe' issue.
One of the featured stars of the illustration is Dr. Conal Gallagher (24). Originally from Leitrim, he studied at Trinity College Dublin, and has been working at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross. However, a close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 has meant that Conal has been forced to self-isolate.
"I've been off work since last Friday," he tells Hot Press. "I'm just monitoring symptoms now. If I have no symptoms by Friday I'll be back on the roster, but if I have symptoms it will be another 14 days.
"I'm happy with the response from the country so far, in general," he continues. "We've reacted much quicker than some other countries. Things could change at any minute, but we're as well prepared as we can be."
Of course, a global pandemic is not something Conal thought he would be dealing with at this stage in his career: "I don't think anyone could have predicted it," he says.
"My family are probably more worried about me than I am! Obviously I can't see them, because I can't be driving from Dublin to Leitrim, so it's definitely having an impact – but it's having an impact on everyone. It will be over soon, hopefully."
The illustration also stars Dr Kate Devlin from Dublin – a 23-year-old graduate of NUI Galway who has been working in Tallaght University Hospital for the past year.
"People have really come together," she says of the current environment inside the hospital. "Everyone's working as a team, and keeping their heads as much as possible. The hospital has been so good to us, and all of our senior colleagues have been so supportive. I'm really lucky to be able to go to work everyday, and see all of the fabulous people there. We have a good laugh, and we cheer each other up when we can.
"It's a privilege to be able to do this," she continues. "We're young and healthy, and we've got plenty of support, so there's no reason not to. I never thought I'd learn so much or take on so much responsibility so quickly, but it's been cool."
Like Conal, Kate's work in the battle against COVID-19 has also taken its toll on her family life.
"It's definitely caused a bit of anxiety," she tells us. "I've had to move out of my family home, because I don't want to risk transmitting to my family. Whatever about me getting it myself, I'd be a lot more nervous about my parents getting it. We're all doing whatever we can to slow down transmissions."
In his illustration, Rooney salutes Kate and Conal, alongside the thousands of frontline workers, as heroes in the fight against the virus.
"Originally I thought it would have a more Marvel comic look, but in the end I felt it should be more delicately done, with the thin blue plastic layer of protection being a feature," he explains. "That thin blue transparent plastic skin is their suit of armour."
Having spent much of 2016 working on illustrations to commemorate Ireland's 1916 figures for the Royal Irish Academy, Rooney is no stranger to Irish heroes – and describes these coronavirus responders as "our new generation of heroes".
As the relentless fight against coronavirus continues, Dr Kate Devlin leaves us with an inspiring message from the front lines:
"Stay calm. Keep the chin up and keep the spirits up. Listen to what the government are saying, because that's how we're going to get through this. It's not about stopping it – it's about slowing it down, not overwhelming the health system, and getting through this as safely as we can. So far, we think it's working – but we're not over it yet. I know it's tempting to go out in the sun, but please – enjoy it in your garden!"
Order your copy of the historic Hot Press 'Stay Safe' Emergency Issue, featuring Rooney's 'Caped Crusaders' illustration, below:
Take a look at the animated illustration, featuring 'Fragile', the opening track from God Is An Astronaut's All is Violent, All is Bright, on Hot Press's social media...