A year of ups and downs (mainly ups)

29th December 2000

DID you, as I did, sit down by the fire on Christmas Day with a glass of red and contemplate the year that was? I would imagine that most people would judge the past year well, simply because most people are better off.

Of course, personal circumstances can intrude on any overview but my assessment of the ups and downs of the year is as follows.

UP – JOBS: No-one hardly mentions unemployment since around 1997 but for the twenty years before that we were blighted by one of the worst rates in the industrial world.

This year it was announced that we are going to have 200,000 jobs that we can’t fill.

It has been the dearest wish of Irish people over the centuries that we would be able to provide for ourselves and our children. We have achieved that and we should be damn proud of it.

DOWN – HOUSING: We have allowed a property gold rush to develop and now one of the most attractive things about our country, namely space, is beyond the reach of hundreds of thousands of working families.

Those that can afford the mortgages will be paying out an extortionate slice of their income for the next 25 years.

The Government has been outrageously slack on this issue.

UP – THE PEACE PROCESS: Well, it made it through the year. If a three way deal on Patton, demilitarisation and decommissioning can be cobbled together we’re out of the woods.

People in Dublin who might see themselves as distant from the problem should consider that Dublin’s canals are now under the control of an all-Ireland body – Waterways Ireland – and that unionists will have an input into what will happen to the Grand Canal basin in Ringsend.

(Lucky for Croke Park that they got planning permission for the Canal End before the agreement, eh?).

In any case, interdependence is good news and if the peace hopefully Dublin and Belfast will find more things to do together.

DOWN – REFUGEES: I mean the way the refugee issue has been handled is a downer. And, of course, the minority of Dubliners who disgrace themselves and the rest of us by their abuse of newcomers.

In the next few years Dublin will fill up with foreigners from Estonians to Bulgarians. We will be part of a free movement zone of over 400 million people and they can all come and live in Dublin if they like. Just like we can go there.

I think it’s great.

UP – THE TAXIS: I’ve said before that I’m not in favour of total deregulation but what has happened was pretty much inevitable.

Over the last few years reporting at City Hall I’ve seen the taxi drivers and their supporters on the council stonewall every effort to change the situation.

If they had allowed an additional 1,000 to 1,500 taxis on the streets their licence value would have been maintained.

The city needs more taxis and the business is there for them – it’s as simple as that. And now we’re going to get them.

DOWN – DRUGS: There has been some good news with the provision of more detox places and the opening of methadone clinics around the city.

But I heard that there are 5,000 heroin users still outside the system. And methadone is just a replacement drug not a cure.

On the wider issue the prohibition approach is still as entrenched as ever. The Americans are going to spend £1.5 billion on Plan Colombia to cut off the Coke supply. They might as well dump their money in the Pacific.

UP – TRIBUNALS: Mighty crack and retribution all round. I don’t know of any other country that does its business in this way. It’s a massive plus for democracy.

DOWN – THE OLYMPICS: I could have done better meself. And to make it worse we’re holding a sort of an inquest to apportion blame. So much for the ‘taking part…’

UP – NEW COLUMNIST: Fantastic new columnist writing in The People newspapers. Going to be even better next year. The Pulitzer Prize is next and then……

As well as that…

Never mind them, Celia

I’M always telling those who will listen that Ireland is a very tolerant place. (Too tolerant about a lot of things, but anyway).

The Bertie and Celia matter (I was going to say affair) is a case in point. Of the 29 prime ministers who showed up at the Nice Summit, only our lad brought his girlfriend. Isn’t it gas?

Despite the voluminous griping that went on after the Clinton visit, the vast majority of Irish people just don’t care what Bertie does.

And this isn’t new maturity – it’s old maturity. It’s the good old fashioned Irish ‘whatever you say, say nothing’ mentality that allows the odd to live among us so seamlessly. Long may it continue.

Hail the new millennium (again)

All those maths freaks that assured us that 2001 was the real new millennium can go on the razzle this weekend.

Of course, they missed the point. 2001 may be the first year of the new millennium (I still can’t figure how they make that out) but all people were interested in was watching the nines change to zeros.

If last year’s celebrations had been any good we’d have done it again. But the fact that no-one is in the slightest bit interested says a lot about that particular global damp squib.