Farewell to 2016 – and welcome 2017

I hope you have survived Christmas. As I write this, it is December 28, so life is beginning to come back to normal, trains and buses are running, shops are open, people are reading newspapers, and the madness is over. Except, of course, for children, who are having an absolutely wonderful time.

Wasn’t the weather great over Christmas? It was lovely to see because of course it meant people travelling on the roads were sure of the weather and of arriving safely to their home place. We had one day of storms where the ferries were delayed but, I think, they caught up very quickly on that the next day.

I had a grand time, but I am glad it’s over, and as we move into the new year in 2017 it will do us all good to reflect on some of the events that happened in our own country during 2016.

Let’s look at the political scene first. We had a general election last February and the result of it left Fine Gael the losers with the loss of 26 seats, Fianna Fáil clearly the winners with a gain from 20 to 44, the birth of the Independent Alliance, and slight gains for some of the other parties. So where did that leave us? Well, three months later it left Enda Kenny as Taoiseach of a government of Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance of five, with Fianna Fáil as their partners in government from opposition. So, you are left with the puzzle that Fine Gael lost and yet Fine Gael gained because they are in government.

Of course, the media said that it couldn’t last and it wouldn’t last, and they said the Independent Alliance would never stick it, and they have so far. Of course, there have been tremors and there have been mishaps and upsets, but, by and large, it has worked out better than anyone would have thought.

The budget has been passed and the housing plan, in all its aspects, is already underway. My summing up of that is “so far, so good”. We will await what 2017 will bring on the political front.

Enda Kenny has declared that he has got his mojo back (whatever that was, or wherever it went to ) and he says he is set to govern and to go forward in the next election. Meanwhile, of course, the plotters are busy at work, and again, we will have to wait ‘til 2017 to see the outcome of that.

Homelessness and water proved to be the two big topics of 2016. It seems that homelessness has begun to be tackled, while the whole water issue remains until the Oireachteas Committee gives its decision in March/April and then the matter goes to the Dáil. And finally, I hope, that will be the end of it.

Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil have had a good year. Sticking with the Government where necessary, striking out on their own with legislation and having success in that field too. It remains to be seen what 2017 will bring this tripod alliance of Fine Gael and Shane Ross etc in Government, and outside Government, Fianna Fáil in opposition.

Uneasy? Perhaps, but the new politics is working and it doesn’t matter how many times the so-called political writers say it is not working, it seems to get over the next hill and around the next corner and still be in government, so let’s hope that’s what 2017 will bring us also.

Sinn Féin have a lot of new, eager, ambitious TDs, both men and women. They were willing to sit with Gerry Adams as he went through his political difficulties at the end of the year. 2017 will be an interesting year for the leadership of Sinn Féin.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance, with Boyd Barrett at its head, make very good speeches in the Dáil and, in general, are providing a good opposition. Likewise, the many different kinds of Independents who people the benches of Leinster House.

Referendums proved fatal for two countries. In the UK, David Cameron resigned immediately after Brexit, leaving everyone in the dark as to what will happen when Teresa May, the Prime Minister, presses the button next March. In Italy, the Prime Minister there resigned when his referendum was defeated also. I would advise the political parties here in Ireland to steer clear of referendums in 2017.

France and Germany face elections in 2017, and in each country the outcome is very uncertain. Of course, the pundits are already declaring what that outcome will be but I say let’s wait and see what will happen. When people go to the polls, the outcome is often completely different to what had been forecast.

We have had great sporting successes in 2016 at the Rio Games. Annalise Murphy with her sailing medal stunned us all. Likewise, the O’Donovan brothers, Paul and Gary, whose battle cry of “pull like a dog” proved to gain them a silver medal. They are real heroes, not just in Skibbereen and West Cork, but all over Ireland. We will hear more of both Annalise and the O’Donovan brothers in the years to come.

Rugby powered ahead and we await, with great interest, the Six Nations Cup early in 2017. Likewise, the Ireland soccer team did really well and, I have no doubt, will repeat their success next year.

All over Ireland the GAA flowered and flourished with all the voluntary help given steadily each week for the underage players, leading these players, in time, to be the heroes of the future.

To me the crowning achievement of 2016 was the commemoration of the Rising of 1916, and the event that really caught my imagination was where members of the Defence Forces went to all the schools in Ireland and presented them with the Irish Flag and the Proclamation which in April 1916 was read by Padraig Pearse in front of the GPO.

Every child in Ireland will remember that wonderful, dynamic and creative deed carried out in every schoolhouse in Ireland. Well done to Heather Humphries and her Department of Arts for their fine work in that regard.

So here we all are at the end of 2016 and on the cusp of 2017. I hope that the new year will be fine and fruitful for each one of the Advertiser readers. I hope you will have peace in your heart and we will have peace in our land, and peace in Europe as well. Above all, I would like to thank the readers for reading my column. So many of you come up to me in Dunnes or SuperValu, or wherever I am in Athlone, and say you enjoy reading it. Equally I have got telephone calls and cards saying the same. I am appreciative of your comments and of course I enjoy getting them.

Happy 2017. I hope to talk with you all again next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill

Mary O’Rourke

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