For those of us who write, the tradition at this time of the year is to
write about the old year that has passed. Analyse it; dissect it; and generally focus on the events and issues that captured the public or the writer’s attention.
2010 had lots of those in Ireland. The agreement between Sinn Féin and the
DUP on the transfer of powers on policing and justice; the Saville report into the Bloody Sunday massacre; the Orange marching season; the Westminster election and the count in Fermanagh South Tyrone that became a recount, that became another recount, until Michelle triumphed by four votes! Never was there a better example of how every vote counts!
And there were the international stories too. The Israeli attack on the Freedom flotilla and the ongoing siege of Gaza were brutal reminders of the unrelenting conflict in that region.
But for many the big story was the deteriorating state of the economy in
the south and the mess the Fianna Fáil/Green Party coalition is making of
trying to right the economic wrongs they are largely responsible for.
This included inviting in the European Union and the International
Monetary Fund to take over the running of the state’s economy.
The Irish government’s December budget was a missed opportunity by a government which seeks to protect its wealthy banking and developer friends at the expense of those less well off and disadvantaged.
This week, over a million people, or a quarter of the state’s population, will lose significant income as the government’s social welfare cuts take effect.
Almost 900,000 carers, people with disabilities, including those who
receive a blind allowance, lone parents, widows, women who are pregnant and the unemployed will suffer cuts in their benefits.
In other words those less well organised, the vulnerable and the needy are
being forced to pay for the corrupt practices of big bankers and the failure of
government to police and regulate the banking sector.
It didn’t need to be like this. There are alternative policies which can
effectively tackle the economic deficit and the billions owed by the bankers. But the Fianna Fáil/Green Party government wasn’t and isn’t for listening.
So, while looking back at the year that has just passed is important, it is more important now to focus on the new year ahead. 2011 is shaping up to be one of those pivotal political years which can reshape the life of a people for many years to come.
On May 5th the 30th anniversary of Bobby Sands death there will be elections in the north to the power sharing institutions and to local councils. The Assembly and Executive will be completing their first ever full term. This is evidence of the political advances made since 1981 in the north.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. How could it be given the history of conflict, inequality and division, and the diversity of parties in the Executive. But progress has been and is being made. Local politicians are now responsible and accountable where once fly-in Brit direct rule Ministers made exclusive decisions with no notice given to or concern for the rights and welfare of communities and citizens.
There will also be a general election in the south. The Green Party said
they wanted it for January but they have now u turned on that in the hope that they and their government partners can buy some time to minimise what is likely to be a damaging election result. The election date therefore could be back to late March or maybe April.
Just before Christmas this blog was formally selected to be Sinn Féin’s General Election candidate in Louth and East Meath.
So 2011 is an important year for me also but the general election, when it comes, will be the most important in recent decades. It is clear that people want change. And change is possible. Look at the peace process, imperfect though it is, and the positive change that it has brought about.
So, making change in both parts of this island in 2011 is both desirable and achievable. It is also necessary.