2018 was the year I began to recover from an operation to remove most of a brain tumour, accommodate the changes that has meant for me and begin to re-find my courage. 

While not easy there was reward in remembering what is most important. Love, health, patience and generosity. Luckily for me I was on the receiving end of lots of that, for which I am very grateful. A tough year I would not want to repeat, but am not sorry I have walked, for on that journey I have been supported beyond measure.

Our country had a year of tumult too, much of which feels like it was the end of the beginning of a new era.

What kind of Brexit Britain will decide it wants is still to be found out. Whatever it will be our lives will change in our north eastern part of Ireland. The money we pay for food and services will be impacted, even what type of food and services will be available to us might change too. And how we live our lives as Irish citizens will become particularly stark. And nothing is certain, except that it will be different.

Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin President for just about as long ad I can remember, stood aside from that role and announced he will be leaving electoral politics. Coming so quickly after the loss of Martin McGuinness, it felt painful for many republicans. And I think they are missed politically.

But the transition to a new Sinn Féin President with Mary Lou McDonald was seamless and their party managed it impeccably. The resounding welcome both Mary Lou and Michelle O’Neill got, on the year’s most momentous day, when they walked onto the stage after the results of the referendum on the 8th Amendment, marked the beginning of a new era for the republican party.

The referendum result marked the beginning of the end of the South’s heinous treatment of women. But there is so much work to do on this partitioned island. The plight that faces women in the North goes unresolved and despite calls that “the North is next”, no progress has been made. The historic treatment of women and children by the Catholic Church,with power given to them by both statelets on this island, remains a gaping wound. The announcement of £7,500 for survivors of institutional abuse was utterly sickening.

Universal Credit was rolled out spelling devastation and untold hardship for thousands. The last Labour government had many faults but its tackling of child poverty made a real difference. That work has not only been undone, we need to go back to before WWII to find a time when so much poverty was so endemic.

The self-satisfied smugness of the DUP was not tempered by jaw dropping revelations during the RHI inquiry or by Ian Paisley’s sun-seeking, violations denying, antics.

There was a deal that was not a deal because the Orange Order weren’t buying. And maybe that turned out for the best.

Most of all 2018 was the year when a United Ireland began to be spoken about in real terms. It is no longer an abstract aspiration. My only prediction for 2019 is that Unity and Self Determination will be watchwords that gain more definition and traction. But care needs taken. Unity of the people on the island is as important as unity of the counties of the island.

Happy New Year a Dhuine Uaisle


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