My 2011 was as good as I could hope it to be.
The people in my life are well and in good spirits.
Everything else is detail.
These look backs over the year area always difficult for me because I’m at my lowest ebb in mid-winter.
My outlook, like the Donegal December landscape out of my window, is often bleak.
My recollections, like those of everyone, are a mixture of the personal, the local and the global.
The only constant in life is change and I now have a big son out in the world on his own.
The infant handed to me in a hospital 19 years ago is now a cool Trinity College undergrad and the capital city is his stomping ground. His two kid sisters are now young ladies.
The Ireland they have been raised in is a very different one from the country that was always a central part of my childhood and defined how I saw myself.
That was the Ireland that my grandmother taught me about.
What would herself in Mayo have made of the British Monarch standing, head bowed, in the garden of remembrance honouring the fallen of Óglaigh na hÉireann?
It felt like closure and I stated that on here at the time.
My fears at the start of this year for the future of my little corner of the planet have been fully realised.
When this year started the IMF hadn’t been in town for long.
Now it is clear the extent to which this state has lost its economic sovereignty.
The Irish people waited in the long grass for Fianna Fail.
It still induces a double take in me to type that Fianna Fail has only nineteen TD’s in Dail Eireann.
The year concluded with another Troika imposed austerity budget.
From Free State Protectorate to EU Province within a lifetime…
Were we ever really a Republic?
We do have the trappings of a republic and we have just elected a very fine man as Uachtarán na hÉireann.
Michael D Higgins has a job to do as 2012 will usher in a decade of important centenaries.
Maybe it is my bleak midwinter outlook, but I cannot argue against the proposition that the Irish independence project is now on life support. That partition appears to be set in stone and that the 26 county state has been swallowed into a new euro federation.
I wish it were otherwise.
On Planet Fitba it was the year like no other,
In 2011 the abuse and victimisation of Neil Lennon went viral.
Now the world knows about it.
Since he had signed for Celtic from Leicester City in 2000 his life had changed.
Images of the attack on him by John Wilson went around the planet.
This was after he had been sent parcel bombs in the post along with Trish Godman MSP and Paul McBride QC.
I broke the press embargo on these attacks.
The world first read of the full facts on this site.
I believed at the time it was the correct ethical decision and my NUJ colleagues congratulated me.
I have not changed my mind about the correctness of that call.
Embarrassed by their inaction and startled by the global scrutiny the SNP government in Edinburgh brought forward a hastily drafted, ill-conceived bit of legislation (which is now law) to deal with a problem they can’t even accurately name.
Despite the core issue being anti-Irish racism this very term is ever uttered by the Scottish political class.
The sectarian framework continues to cloud the issue.
I am not hopeful that 2012 will be any better on this front.
Globally the world continues to deal with the overnight collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and some people still think that history is something that is over and done with…
With a desperate act of self-immolation twelve months ago, a 26-year-old Sidi Bouzid fruit-seller unwittingly unleashed a year of turmoil that toppled at least three autocrats in a region once thought to be immune to democracy.
Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the Sidi Bouzid town hall after he was publicly slapped and humiliated by a policewoman reprimanding him for selling his vegetables without a license. He suffered full-body burns, and died soon afterward.
His story spread via Social Media and it sparked demonstrations across the country.
This was the Facebook Intifada.
It was not a good year for my trade.
The News of the World left the stage amid the “Hackgate” scandal.
This was journalism in the gutter.
Of course most people forget it was the relentless digging of Nick Davies at the Guardian that uncovered the truth.
On my own patch the year opened with the closure of the Sunday Tribune.
Affectionately known among Irish journalists as “the Turbine” it provided training and gave work to many fine reporters.
I am proud to say that my own by-line appeared there on a few occasions.
I know from my activism in the NUJ that “new media” continues to grow and spread and turn the certainties of my trade upside down.
You, dear reader, are part of this new wave, as am I.
There are few with any certitude where this amazing technology will take journalism.
This website ran into some problems towards the end of the summer when the hosting company was threatened with litigation by a chap claiming to represent “a stakeholder group” of Rangers FC shareholders.
They claimed that my reporting was damaging Rangers.
I was offline for little more than 24 hours.
In that time I broke two stories of interest to Planet Fitba via the good guys on The Celtic Network (TCN) and Andy Muirhead of Scotzine.
I was then up and running thanks to being given squatter’s right in the Celticminded server for a couple of days.
This site is now hosted on its own sturdy server.
The site went down again, but this time it was a DOS attack.
My new web hosting guy said it was multiple IP addresses based in Russia.
His best guess was that someone had paid for this, err, service.
I had to upgrade the abilities of the server at significant cost.
People rallied round and hit the PayPal button.
A huge go raibh mile agaibh to all of you who kept this show on the road.
At the start of the football season I went after those in the Celtic support who atavistically chant pro-IRA slogans at matches.
I suspected at the time that the main motive force in this “political chanting” was weapons grade stupidity.
The banner at the Udinese match (where Celtic played wonderfully well, but that fact was forgotten in the furore) convinced me of the accurateness of my initial assessment.
Anyone who thinks that banner was a smart move are not very smart.
In fact they’re stupid.
These in-your-face, self-indulgent, historically illiterate chants have to go or the club will suffer.
They cannot be justified on any level.
There are many wonderful ways for Celtic fans and the club itself to celebrate Celtic’s Irish heritage.
Provo chants are not one of them and this, dear reader, from a journalist who worked for An Phoblacht!
I had hoped people would listen to me on this issue, but I was wrong and a few stupid people are capable of causing great problems for the many.
My hope for 2012 is that the banner in Udinese was a turning point for the Celtic support.
Across the city UEFA banned Rangers fans from their first away match in the Champion’s league.
It turned out to be their ONLY away match in that competition.
Early exit proved to be a crippling financial blow to the Ibrox club.
Did the absence of the fans contribute to their calamitous defeat by Malmo?
The same fate could, of course, befall Celtic next season if the small minority of “political” fans continue with their inane chanting.
I continued to write this year about the soap opera that is Scotland’s establishment club.
At the start of the year I broke the story that Rangers had offered to settle with HMRC for £10million and this had been refused.
In May Rangers were purchased for £1 by Craig Whyte.
The soap opera had a brand new character and storyline!
The journalistic high point for me on the Rangers story being the scoop, with pics, of the Sheriff Officers entering Ibrox apropos an unpaid tax bill.
It was the “Kodak moment” for those in denial about the fiscal iceberg heading towards Govan.
2012 will be very interesting on this front.
Globally I viewed a world increasingly in chaos. Of course others, consuming the same images, see an awful Machiavellian plan at work.
In North Africa a series dictators, some of them pro-western, were toppled by uprisings.
The steel and determination in many of these rebellions was provided by Islamists they may prove to be the ultimate victors of this line of falling dominoes and not the nice fluffy English speakers that the Anglophone media always seemed to be able to find.
They say all the correct things about democracy and secular rule.
Someone on a news desk coined the term “Arab spring” I find the analogy with Dubček and the Czechoslovakia of 1968 to be risible. However it has proven to be a hardy meme with it now being parroted across the English speaking world.
The canary down this particular mine will be the right of women to run their own lives and make their own choices in these newly liberated countries.
The next year will see, I fear, more and more assertion of an Islamist reality on these societies where before women could make autonomous choices for themselves.
This probably won’t become apparent until some winter sun worshippers from Dublin or Durham realise that their bikini beach wear is judged to be haram in Sharm el-Sheikh.
It will not happen overnight, but organisations like the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt, already successful at the polls, will slowly start to bend civil society to conform to their god given world view.
Europe could have its own Cuban Missile Crisis if one of these North African states receives the gift of Iranian ballistic missiles. The Tehran regime has already been given access to the Suez Canal, one of the first decisions by the Post Mubarak regime.
Should this come to pass then the events of 2011 will figure largely in any historian’s treatment of that event.
Of course the architect of the modern Wahabist Jihad Osama Bin laden will not live to see the ensuing chaos.
There is a basic justice in that the last thing he saw in this life was the barrel of an American rifle.
The operation that killed him was the antithesis of what was pursed by George W Bush in the aftermath of 911.
Historians would also be correct to look at the original de-stabilising event in recent history in the Middle East-the illegal invasion of Iraq.
The end of this year saw the formal withdrawal of US troops form that country.
Of course there remains a US garrison of trainers huge military bases that could be re-occupied very quickly if need be, and the biggest US embassy in the world.
Please file the following under “the law of unintended consequences.”
A war that was backed a British Prime Minister who, err, rather exaggerated the threat of WMD from a middle eastern country may have helped to set in train the events that put European cities (including London) within ballistic missile range from islamist regimes in North Africa within a decade if not sooner.
In assisting the deposing of Gadhafi they have assisted in the crescent of chaos in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The UK warplanes helped to depose a friendly (if odious) regime actually assisted Islamist fighters from the Derna region which supplies many of the foreign fighters in Helmand.
So in Libya UK and French warplanes are in action against them, but in Afghanistan they are trying to kill them as the Islamic Vietnam in the Hindu Kush continues as the latest chapter in the Great Game.
The USA is desperate to leave, as is their junior partner Britain.
When the “Crusaders” return home there will be victory parades in Washington and London, but the men they have been fighting will still be in their valleys, and they will still be armed.
A strange victory for sure.
While the British were fighting in the North West Frontier London burned as a Blackberry connected mob decided to collapse the civil order in one of the great cities of the world.
This allowed them to go shopping unhindered by people unreasonably asking them for money.
How all of this mayhem from Helmand to Hackney can be accommodated into anyone’s conspiracy theory about a malevolent world order is simply beyond me.
All of this just convinces me that I don’t understand anything about the world.
Perhaps I need someone from the Illuminati to shine a light on this chaos for me and tell me that there’s a plan.
A year from now all I can hope to have for one year from now is what I have now.
That the people I care about are well and that I have my health to be able to care for them.
Everything else is detail.
I wish the same for the thousands of you who decided to make this site part of your daily online experience.
So many of you keep coming back day after day.
I hope that a year from now you and yours are well.
That’s all we can hope for and in truth it’s all we really need.