A historic year

This year, as I look back on 2012, in the first instance I count my good fortune.

My clan are all well, the people I care about doing good.

After that everything else is detail.

My trio grow and prosper and soon enough this nest will be empty, but we made a good one for them here in the shade of Errigal.

The world has another three Gaeilgoiri.

Decisions that are taken for children must be thought through, because little powerless people will have to live with the consequences that were not of their making.

Big guy flourishes among his peers at Trinity and the caíliní seem to need new and more outrageously fashionable shoes with increasing regularity.

They are babies no more; all is changed, changed utterly.

If the next 12 months yield up the same for the people I care about then I’ll have no complaints.

Outside of my Tir Conaill bubble, it has been a momentous year.

Thankfully, the people of the USA made the correct decision.

A Commander-in-Chief with magic underwear just doesn’t seem right.

In my opinion, Romney would have been a disastrously dangerous occupant of the Oval Office.

I hope that President Obama’s second term is a successful one and that he becomes the leader I know he can be.

In 2008 I read his book, The Audacity of Hope, and now I am hoping for some audacity.

He could start with looking at why it is possible for people in the United States to legally purchase an arsenal of military-style weapons.

The US federal government was able to ban the private possession of machine guns back in the roaring twenties.

Gun control legislation will not threaten the liberties of the American people. That is the role of the Patriot Act.

In the statelet down the road from me here in Donegal, we found out that the sectarian headcount of 1922 that excluded this county from Sammy’s wee “Ulstur” had changed, and probably for all time.

The numbers of people claiming to be, or were brought up as, Catholics and Protestants are closer now than at any time in the life of the Northern polity.

Protestants are still in the majority, but you could fit them all into the AVIVA stadium in Dublin.

The boundaries of the Northern statelet were drawn on the basis of a sectarian headcount.

The midwife of the new creation in the north east of this island was a pogrom against Catholics in Belfast.

The two to one tribal majority ushered in 50 years of unionist misrule.

A police state existed 12 nautical miles from the coast of Scotland for half a century and it incubated an uprising.

First peaceful a la Alabama, then when it was beaten off the streets the children of ’69 got rather good at guerrilla warfare.

Now they are in government and they aren’t going away you know.

Unionist majoritarianism is dead and only a shared future is possible.

Suddenly, the champions of democracy and majority rule in Northern Ireland decided that they were only in favour of this voting stuff if they could always be guaranteed to win.

The “flegs” protest showed the loyalist underclass in all of its uneducated nastiness.

In the summer, some of these fine fellows were filmed walking in a tight circle outside a Catholic church in North Belfast, playing the tune from the “Famine Song”. The mob added the racist lyrics.

The Parades Commission said that the Loyal Orders could march past the same church during the Ulster Covenant centenary celebrations, but that they were instructed not to play any sectarian tunes.

The deliberation was largely ignored, and one defender of Ulstur appeared on YouTube urinating on the steps of the church.

An anthropologist might have said he was marking his territory, but this isn’t a confident culture.

Partly they feel the pain of abandonment by their masters.

Tragically, they cling to a sense of ethnic superiority over northern Nationalists, which is at compete variance with the material circumstances of their lives.

I can’t see this ending well for them.

It rarely does for Out Post peoples.

Their usefulness to British statecraft in Ireland has long since passed.

Meanwhile, most of the people on this island barely register their existence.

While the Unionists in the north east were the dominant players 100 years ago, they are now largely irrelevant.

As part of the Belfast agreement talks, David Trimble et al had insisted upon the consent principle and they got what they wished for.

Now the Unionists need the agreement of the Nationalist community in the north for just about anything.

If the institutions persist, a Sinn Féin First Minister is now almost a psephological certainty within the next 15 years.

That isn’t what the partition state was built for; it was designed to have the Unionists in power of the “taigs” in perpetuity.

Their day has gone.

A United Ireland?

I doubt that very much, but the old triumphalist Norn Iron is dead, confident Fenians are at the front of the bus and that hurts the Shankill underclass.

The source of their pain is equality.

In Glasgow, the debate has moved from “Famine song” to Famine memorial.

Feargal Dalton of the SNP gained cross party support in the city council to establish a working party on a fitting permanent memorial to An Gorta Mór in Glasgow.

The Dubliner, an ex-Royal Navy submariner, is made of the right stuff.

Glasgow must face down the racist underclass who are socialised in a hatred that was incubated during the Edwardian period.

In the city of my birth, anti-Irish racism remains the gorilla in the corner of the room.

As with year-end reviews, there are some people that passed away in the last 12 months that I will mourn, or must mark their passing.

A literary hero of my youth, Ray Bradbury, will write no more.

His Fahrenheit 451 is up there with Orwell’s 1984 as a cautionary tale of the perils of totalitarianism.

From science fiction to science fact, a real life superhero from my boyhood who made one small step for all of us was Neil Armstrong.

When he hopped down from Apollo 11 on 21 July 1969, our species had progressed far from our earliest days in the Riff Valley, but in other ways not at all.

His footprints are still in the Sea of Tranquillity.

On my little island, there are people who will not see 2013 and we are all the poorer for it.

Páidí Ó Sé, the quintessential man of Kerry and a giant of the GAA.

Gone from us at 57, it just seems so unfair.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Barney McKenna’s banjo and the ballads of the Dubliners filled the home that I grew up in. Now he has also gone to his rest.

From my own trade, we lost some giants this year in Ireland.

Mary Raftery’s ground breaking “States of Fear” documentary on RTE laid bare the appalling reality of clerical child abuse in Ireland.

The irrepressible Maeve Binchy, author, journalist, and NUJ stalwart, succumbed after a short illness.

Con Houlihan was, in my opinion, the finest sports journalist ever to lift a pen in these islands.

Arthur Quinlan was a giant of journalism in Limerick.

Shannon airport was his beat and the world came to him on the stopover.

Not everyone could drop Che Guevara’s name into conversation as someone they had met, but “Mr Limerick” could.

He was the man that told the Argentinian Irishman where the best spot was to be had in Limerick for fine Guinness, friendly ladies and the craic!

A stalwart of the Irish Times, anyone who taught Fidel Castro how to make Irish Coffee deserves to be immortal.

He was a “member of honour” of the National Union of Journalists.

The death in 2012 that probably impacted more on the collective psyche of this Republic wasn’t a real person at all.

The death of “Darren” – played brilliantly by Robert Sheehan from Portlaoise – in the “Love/Hate” gangland drama was watched by almost a million viewers.

Directed flawlessly by David Caffrey, it proved that we can do great TV drama here in Ireland.

Writer Stuart Carolan has shown us the lasting legacy of the crazy Celtic Tiger years and he’s a moral vacuum called “Nidge”.

It isn’t pleasant.

The main storyline of the third series of this everyday tale of Dublin drug dealing folk involved Dissident Republicans.

Carolan’s storyline was incredibly prescient, being created before the murder of Real IRA leader Alan Ryan by Dublin criminals in the city.

This year, Dissident Republicans killed for real.

The death of Prison Officer David Black in November advances no cause and has no justification.

The organisation that carried out this killing does not have anything positive to offer the people of this island and they should simply desist, disarm and disband.

The strong suspicion among experienced republicans is that these micro groups are being heavily influenced and perhaps directed by British securocrats for their own murky agendas.

This year we were reminded on this island of the depths that the British state can stoop to when the da Silva report was published on the murder of lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989.

The republican slogan that “collusion was no illusion” was never more apt.

I am confident that the Finucane family will not back down in their quest for justice.

However, further use of physical force will not advance any progressive agenda in the North.

The gun has been removed from Irish politics and we are all the better for it.

That these dissidents persist in what they do tells me that they are more wedded to the means rather than concerned with the end.

The Irish state lost its sovereignty when the IMF came into town in November 2010 and we remain an EU protectorate.

Our politicians are no more in charge than the functionaries in Dublin Castle were that hunted my grandfather and his comrades in 1920.

Where the Irish government did have some licence to act this year, they showed themselves to be beneath contempt.

Cutting Child Benefit and Respite Carers Grant while shovelling billions to the banks tells you all you need to know about them.

The authors of those cuts simply hate the poor and we cannot blame the IMF and Angela Merkel for that.

When the Sinn Féin deputies speak in Dáil Éireann about the real impact of yet another austerity budget on people who are desperate to make ends meet they are met with blank stares, if there is any eye contact at all.

However, the central issue is that the Irish state is no longer in charge of economic and fiscal policy.

Subsequently, our political independence is currently a chimera.

Without the ability to control the economy and natural resources of our island, all we have are the trappings of statehood.

I think an Irishman from Edinburgh once warned that this might happen and that was back when Celtic was only a nipper:

 “If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.

Shan Van Vocht January, 1897”

Thank you, Mr Connolly.

Some days I think that the sons of Róisín needn’t have bothered.

Yet the blood is still strong.

Irish ways and Irish laws remains a deep instinct among us.

Despite it all, I know we are not finished as a people.

We can be better than this.

Beidh ár lá linn.

On Planet Fitba there has never been a year like it.

2012 can only be known as the year that Rangers crashed and burned.

On St Valentine’s Day, they got their first taste of the tsunami of excrement that I had predicted was coming their way.

The deluge duly arrived and it was a wonderful spectacle. It was my privilege as a journalist to chronicle their downfall.

Once in administration, given the colossal liabilities, liquidation was the only possible result.

The mainstream media said this wasn’t so.

The mainstream media was wrong.

In June, the CVA was rejected and Rangers (est. 1872) was sent to death row.

That should have been the end of the matter, but the people entrusted to act in the upmost good faith for the national game decided that their real job description was to find a way out for A Rangers, ANY Rangers.

When the powers that be moved to cut a deal for the establishment club, the clans rose up in rebellion.

The Viceroy on the 6th Floor at Hampden sensed Armageddon, but it didn’t happen.

Instead, his credibility suffered a slow lingering death.

The natives used social media instead of swords.

No need for am claidheamh mòr when you have Twitter.

This uprising viralled across social media and, one by one, the SPL clubs caved in to the righteous anger of their fans.

A term was coined: “sporting integrity”.

It proved that the people who pay at the gate actually believe in the game in a much more profound and genuine way than those who are paid handsomely to administer it.

The establishment had a fall-back position and plan B was New Rangers in SFL Division One.

To the untrained eye, it looked like Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster were making it up as they went along.

Well, they were, and they would have got away with it if it wasn’t for that pesky Turnbull Hutton.

So the new club started in Division Three.

The details of the discussions that produced the “Five-Way Agreement” remain something of a mystery.

If it ever becomes public, we will know if Turnbull Hutton was correct when he said that the game in Scotland was “corrupt”.

From what I have been able to piece together, I am fairly satisfied that Sevco should not have been allowed to take to the field of play against Brechin City in the Ramsdens Challenge Cup last August.

The new club was allowed into Scottish football on a temporary membership.

What would Paul McBride QC have made of it all?

Sadly, the mercurial lawyer did not live to see this quasi legal omnishambles being concocted at Hampden.

In so many ways, Scottish football is a poorer place without Paul McBride QC.

His sudden death is a genuine tragedy, not just for his parents and his partner, but for his country.

The Scotland that Paul McBride envisaged was a better, fairer place.

His laser like forensic intelligence would have nailed the “holding company” fiction around the new Ibrox outfit.

Sevco’s Rangers IS a new club, but any journalist that wants to work in Scottish sport can’t state that inconvenient truth.

UEFA will not allow Sevco into their competitions for three years.

There was much rubbish spouted about “holding companies”, but the truth is that Sevco 5088 bought the assets of the liquidated club.

Craig Whyte bought Rangers, Charles Green bought assets.

The new Ibrox club has the media onside, so no change there.

The man who coined the term “succulent lamb”, Jim Traynor, is now on the Ibrox payroll.

The Fitba Fourth Estate was badly found out this year.

Some of them simply didn’t have the mental capacity to grasp what was happening.

Others, shamefully, knew what was happening but didn’t have the minerals to report the debacle clearly.

Mark Daly and his team at the BBC showed what can be done when succulent lamb isn’t on the menu.

However, outside help was required.

Come the hour, come the man and Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News, a veteran of over 20 wars, arrived in Scotland.

He was quickly across the story that had been there on a plate for the Glasgow hacks for two years.

The term “succulent lamb” is now well known in the UK media and not in a good way.

2012 saw the reputation of the Glasgow press pack in the gutter.

Yet still they have not learned from Voltaire’s wisdom:

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.”

Journalists should never serve power, but hold it to account.

There is a veritable cottage industry in Sevco stories, but you won’t read them in the mainstream.

Some of this is simply down to fear.

The NUJ’s Paul Holleran stated on Channel 4 news this year that over thirty journalists had sought the help of the union after being threatened by Rangers supporters.

Gary Allan QC, who had been on an SFA judicial panel which found Rangers guilty on a disrepute charge, had to receive police protection.

The decision of the first-tier tax tribunal came too late to save Rangers.

The Murray regime had played for time from back in 2004.

Vital documents were “actively concealed” from HMRC investigators.

The final report painted a shabby scene of “aggressive tax avoidance”.

By spinning the investigation out for years, they put a planning blight on their own club and effectively chased away genuine bidders.

It was the epitome of self-destruction.

HMRC will appeal the decision of the FTT and I am informed that this one could run for years and years.

Coming up on the inside rail are the BDO chaps and they’re just starting.

The Sevco share issue was trumpeted as a huge success, but the devil will be found residing in the detail.

For those of you interested in matters financial down Ibrox way, all I can say at this juncture is that is this is just the beginning.

The tsunami still has some life left in it so don’t be surprised by the odd aftershock in 2013 and beyond.

In 2012, the green half of Glasgow watched the hoops become the SPL champions again and once more be a side that has earned kudos and respect among Europe’s football elite.

The Lennox town cantera continues to find and grow fine young footballers.

In 2012, Celtic brought in the man who made the Donegal football team believe in themselves.

Jim McGuinness, a sports psychologist by training, will work with the Next Gen squad.

It may prove a shrewd acquisition for an already highly professional backroom set-up.

This year saw the passing of the man that scored the first ever Celtic goal that I can recall witnessing at Celtic Park, as I was being held tightly and safely on a crush barrier by my grandfather.

It was a daisy cutter of a shot from the edge of the box, Joe McBride was a goal machine, and the flashbulb memory is still vivid in my brain.

As usual with Joe, the ‘keeper hadn’t a hope.

Only cruel chance and a serious knee injury prevented him from being a Lisbon Lion.

He certainly would have added to Sarti’s problems that day in May.

In 2012 it wasn’t just Rangers that died, but also the term “Old Firm”.

It now appears hopelessly dated and quaint.

Even the hacks don’t seem to use it that much anymore.

The contrast now could not be more striking.

One side of the city, with their club liquidated, now follow a tribute act in the bottom tier of the professional game.

While they concern themselves with Division Three opponents, the Celtic family look forward to locking horns with Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League.

To contemplate such a disparate reality 12 months ago would have been dismissed as madness.

Well, it has been a rather mad year on Planet Fitba, and it is worth savouring for a moment, for it is one of those rare points in the human story where the good guys won.

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