The Irish Times – Thursday, December 31, 2009


The litany of abuse was horrifying, as was how far the church went to cover up crimes and protect perpetrators

BY ANY reckoning, 2009 has not been a good year, North or South.

In Northern Ireland, it seemed at times as though the bad old days were rising up again like a malign spectre to mock our optimism and complacency.

Dissident republicans murdered two soldiers and a police officer, actively targeted other security personnel, issued a range of death threats, and carried out numerous “punishment” shootings and beatings. Failed bomb attacks and hoax warnings periodically disrupted towns, villages and city centres, along with the everyday lives of hapless commuters and resident communities. There was a weary dawning that the dissidents are more than just a minor irritant; they pose a real and growing security threat.

Constant bickering and jockeying for supremacy signalled an end to the DUP and Sinn Féin honeymoon period – such as it ever was – and awakened us to still another harsh reality: we can’t take the political process for granted either.

Racist and sometimes murderous sectarian attacks; the recession and consequent job losses; general economic insecurity and necessary belt-tightening: it all made for a bleak year in the North.

Aside from security concerns, the Republic had it even worse. The naked greed and ineptitude of a once cosy cabal of bankers, property speculators and politicians finally killed off the Celtic Tiger and brought the Southern economy to its knees.

Resulting in hard recessionary times, with talk of youngsters having to emigrate to earn a living, reminiscent again of a dark dreary past thought to have been consigned forever to the dustbin of history. When the “Hand of Henry” ruined the Republic’s chance of a place at the World Cup finals, it seemed perversely fitting to an already demoralised and dispirited people.

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