Tumultuous, terrible year is finally behind us

Posted By: January 05, 2017

Allison Morris. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, January 5, 2017

It will be remembered as the year of Trump, Brexit and the seemingly, never-ending slaughter of innocents in Syria and Yemen. Closer to home it was a year of elections, opposition and a coalition of two former political enemies.

Arlene Foster’s presidential style of leadership seemed like a strength in the run-up to last May’s election, but as the year progressed that confidence turned to arrogance and in the wake of a £400m financial scandal on her watch, her position for the first time seems precarious.

With no obvious replacement – at least not one that her partners in government would relish working with – these are testing times for the First Minister.

Both the DUP and Sinn Féin misread the public mood around the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, a blunder that will see The North’s taxpayers forking out for the next 20 years.

While Sinn Féin had clean hands when it came to passing the flawed scheme, all eyes are now on the party to see just what they will do to satisfy the public demand for accountability.

If the party thinks they can sell a behind -closed -doors investigation, free from scrutiny in order to appease their DUP partners, then they are still misreading the mood of the people.

While Arlene Foster’s position as DUP leader is increasingly under pressure, 2017 looks set to be the year when Sinn Féin changes its aging top table.

Martin McGuinness is a man who leads from the front and has always put party first, even at the expense of making mortal enemies in his native Derry by being the appointed liaison between Republicans and British monarchy.

His departure would have always been on his terms. However, recent ill health may push that date forward.

Gerry Adams, on the other hand, would do well to reflect on Ian Paisley’s unceremonious departure from politics and consider his future, while it’s still his to consider.

Personally, 2016 has been a momentous year for journalism when the worth of investigative reporters has proved invaluable.

At a time when the doomsday merchants are telling us print media is dead, I’ve never been prouder to work for a newspaper that still allows its reporters time and space to investigate on our readers’ behalf.

Red Sky, Nama, the Social Investment Fund, RHI – what would you really know about any of these things were it not for the work of diligent journalists? No wonder politicians are fond of attacking us.

The First Minister and her Margaret Thatcher- impersonation aside, 2016 was a good year for women in politics.

Nicola Sturgeon has been a powerhouse defending the rights of the Scottish people in the face of Brexit, Michelle Obama and her ‘when they go low, we go high’ speech gave hope to an America facing four years of a Trump presidency.

Closer to home and Sinn Féin health minister Michelle O’Neill removing the nonsense blood ban on gay men in her first week in the post was a victory for common sense. She’s one to watch in the future.

The SDLP, a party previously in seemingly unstoppable decline, has had new life breathed into it by the move to the front of Claire Hanna and Nichola Mallon.

But my woman of the year has to go not to a politician but Buncrana Pier tragedy mum Louise James, who has astounded everyone with her strength, dignity and positivity having faced loss that would have finished most of us.

She is an example of good overcoming tragedy and the strength of the human spirit.

In 2016 I continued to be appalled at the use of social media to hound people – mainly it should be noted women – and the dereliction of responsibility by Twitter and Facebook to monitor their sites.

I like to always see the good in people but looking at the behavior of some when given the anonymity social media provides by allowing fake profiles and you have to face the fact there are people out there with no redeeming qualities.

It’s time both service providers and the PSNI got their houses in order to deal with cowards who thrive in the murky shadows.

And so it has been a turbulent 12 months full of ups and downs with a few notable highs, including new additions to the ever-expanding Morris clan.

New life brings new hope, and I enter 2017 with that as my driving force.

I hope you all, having survived the mad house that was 2016, be gifted with a good family, supportive friends and work colleagues and I wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.