05 Apr The Year in Review: 1995
Well. We’ve had an interesting year of it, and no mistake. The Divorce Referendum has seen the country show signs of a maturation from the old ways of the local priest dominating his flock mind and spirit to the reality of individuals making informed decisions, while still maintaining a place in their lives for their faith.
Perhaps a margin of one percent or thereabouts may not be as much of an improvement as could be wished for, but it is certainly more than happened last time out when the referendum was a landslide for the anti-divorce lobby. Of course, the No campaign has shown it’s true colours after it’s defeat at the polls, by mounting a Constitutional challenge to the outcome.
Despite the fact that the majority of the country – no matter how slim the margin – voted to make the Divorce Bill law at the referendum, the anti-divorce lobby seem unwilling to accept democracy. How unfortunate for them that they cannot control how others think, and how fortunate for those of us who understand that though divorce exists, we are under no obligation to utilise it.
Enough triumphalism, quite a lot else has happened this year which is worth looking back over. Ecological issues have been to the forefront of public attention in a major way, and many of the causes for concern have had a potentially very immediate impact upon us in this country.
Of course there was Sellafield, formerly known as Windscale, which thanks to it’s top-notch construction values has been a constant threat to continued life on this isle. In a low-grade way it may already be affecting our quality of life, and our expectations of continuing that life to a ripe old age. The Magnox plant in Wales has also had rather more bad days than good, though any parallels which may be drawn with Homer Simpson’s place of employment are completely unfounded.
The French, oh the French, they attracted international outcry when they recommenced nuclear testing in the South Pacific, but anything more forceful, or economically effective than that – of course not. I mean, from a strictly technical viewpoint, the French government has never signed anything which could ever be construed as an agreement to ban nuclear testing. They have always taken their military independence seriously, preferring to be independent and self-sufficient, which must be very comforting in the face of the worst labour unrest and civil disobedience in almost thirty years. How reassuring it must be for the authorities in France to know that this policy means that a very large percentage of those rioters and protesters will have served their mandatory term in the armed forces. It’s good to have a mob who can handle themselves in a tough situation, and I’m sure the Police who have to deal with the situation will really appreciate that. Assuming they don’t go on strike themselves that is.
Good news! The French government have announced that they will be bringing their nuclear testing to a premature halt in February, a full three months before the planned cessation. Aren’t we the lucky little chickens then! Ah well, I’m just going to have to rig up that special over-ride circuit on my microwave oven, to set the microwaves free even when the door’s closed. How else am I going to get that three months of radiation the French have cheated me out of?
How could I forget Bill, and his wonderful speech-writer. A genius that man, such stirring prose and rousing rhetoric, enough to make any full-blooded Irishman bemoan the fact they weren’t born American. Anyone who feels stricken by such emotion should consider emigrating, or an even more drastic step, McDonalds.
Though really, aren’t we a wonderful people all the same, letting the leader of a foreign power into our hearts in such an enthusiastic way, and showing all those who have visited Ireland so many times, in their hearts and through CNN, what a truly splendid race we are.. To all those potential tourists out there in tv land, Céad Míle Fáilte, and I’m converting my house to a traditional Irish farmhouse B & B right away!
Though of course we can’t forget the reason behind Bill’s historic visit, the much vaunted Peace Process. He was here in his role as catalyst, in that he causes things to happen without actually becoming involved in them himself. His coming visit embarrassed John Bruton and John Major into giving the process a much needed shot in the arm, and they came up with the Twin Track approach. We always had the utmost faith in them, didn’t we?
Despite the cease-fire in the North, the mechanics of the self -styled freedom fighters’ real business have continued unabated, the punishment beatings and intimidation have continued, as the strong-armed men are reluctant to let the everyday business of crime go unattended to. In the beginning these were young disillusioned men who felt that the only way they could attain the freedom they so aspired to was through paramilitary organisations. In order to arm these militia, funds were needed, and so the equivalent of a fund-raising campaign began, in tandem with the armed struggle. Today, the business end of things -the fund-raising – if you will, dominates, and the various paramilitaries are Organised Crime in the North, and to a certain extent all over the country.
What the IRA or ULA term the ‘moral policing’ of their neighbourhoods, must truly be seen as the protection of their business interests, and punishment beatings for alleged drug dealing are invariably carried out because of the victims drug dealing on what is – in effect – paramilitary turf.
We can but hope that not only does the Peace Process come to a successful conclusion, but that the Northern people gain a lot more faith in their Police force, because I have a feeling they will not become redundant with the cessation of the recognised hostilities.
That brings my look back at the previous year to a close, and I hope it has given you some food for thought. Have a happy Christmas, and may you live in interesting times!