PAT McART says this was the year when the Croppies stood up and told the DUP they were taking no more

I got this from the editor of this fine newspaper, Mr. Downey, just a couple of days before Christmas: "Are you doing a bit for next week? (Review/preview type thing and/or other?)"  Without thinking I replied in the affirmative.

What I should really have responded was, 'I'm in the pub, Garbhan, no can do..' but I was never smart like that. [A poor, innocent Donegal man up against those Derry slickers - Ed.]

Here's my diffs: what can I say about 2017 that hasn't been said before? What's new?

I was on Highland Radio the same day as I got Mr. Downey's text message, and I was asked to choose my two 'major events of the year' - they could, according to presenter, Greg Hughes, be either private or public.

The private one was easy - my youngest son and his wife had a baby boy, Noah, a couple of weeks before Christmas and that was just lovely. As for the other, the passing of Martin McGuinness was, for me, the seminal event of 2017 on the island of Ireland.  So I suppose that is one answer to the question originally posed...that's my review of the year in a couple of sentences.

But, if I'm honest, I suppose the more comprehensive answer is that we are going backwards rather than forwards here in the North. And, having given it due consideration, I, unequivocally, blame one party for this sorry state of affairs - the DUP. It's an open and shut case.

Everyone points to the RHI - the cash for ash- scandal, but it's a lot more than that. We had a DUP minister withdraw cash from a Gaeltacht scholarship programme in the week of Christmas 2016. We had another demand that the name of a fisheries protection vessel be changed from its Irish language version to it anglicised equivalent. Petty or what? We had a lot of arrogance too, talk from Arlene Foster of feeding crocodiles and them coming back for more. It was condescending and nasty, with more than a touch of bigotry.

And the hardman of the IRA Martin McGuinness took it until he could take no more. In early January 2017 he called the whole charade off. And there were few dissenting voices in the Bogside or West Belfast saying this was the wrong thing. Far, far from it.

Every nationalist and republican knew Martin had bent over backwards to keep the show on the road at Stormont and that is why the non unionist community came out in droves and gave the Shinners their biggest ever electoral mandate. Amongst them too, I would suggest, were many SDLP types who might not love SF but, by Jesus, they were making a point to Arlene and Co. in voting for them. The Croppies ain't for lying down and taking crap like this no more.

And now the new realities are there for all to ponder - the unionist vote has fallen below 50% for the first time; four of the six counties have nationalist majorities; Belfast City Council is in the hands of nationalists; even that old bastion of unionist elitism, Queen's University, is now a mainly Catholic institution.

As 2017 comes to an end it is clear the writing is on the wall for unionism. The days of majority and minority communities are gone. Unless it is willing to show generosity, to embrace change by reaching out beyond the narrow confines of the unionist community that inexorable decline will gather pace.

So far there is no sign of anyone in the DUP  actually seeing what is written on the wall much less taking notes; it's still the arrogance as usual approach, as Theresa May experienced first hand in early December.

It'll be interesting to see if this changes in 2018.

Confused - again!

The Spanish are having a bit of an Irish problem, aren't they? And my problem is I'm not sure if the Catalans are the prods or the fenians in this particular political drama.

Here's the question: Are they like the Unionists not wanting to be Irish, or are they like the Irish not wanting to be British?

As I said before, I get confused easily.

Shocking suicide rate

It's been claimed that up to three times more people die in the Republic by suicide than on the roads. What's even more worrying is that the point was made in a number of programmes I listened to over the Christmas period that sometimes there just is no warning. A lot of people think there are huge big behavioural signs - 'I'm in a dark place' type thing - to indicate a person's state of mind; in reality you might not notice anything. That's frightening.

A one man disaster

We Irish used to idolise America. Remember those days?  Guys spending a week in New York spending the rest of their lives speaking with a Bronx accent. And let's not forget Elvis Presley, JFK, Hollywood was a real love affair, cultural imperialism at it's finest.

And then came Donald Trump.

Not a welcome tradition

 I recall as a wee lad quite literally hundreds of cards arriving at our house from about the start of December.  There were so many my mother used to put up a criss-cross cord line on the kitchen ceiling to put them on display. And I remember too she would put in a nightly shift of a couple of hours for the best part of a week writing  cards to all our friend, relatives and neighbours. She didn't half fret if we then got a card from someone she hadn't sent one to. That, to her, was the ultimate faux pas.

Now I note we get relatively few cards, a couple of dozen at most. It's become much more depersonalised. What most folks do these days is send a generalised text or Facebook message wishing 'all our friends' a good Christmas. How crappy is that?  Not a good tradition at all, in my opinion. Bring back Christmas cards!!!!

Bin that

As I was strolling around Inch Island on a crisp, pre Christmas morning I tuned into the BBC's Talkback and there was one hell of a row going on about the draft budget drawn up by civil servants where it's suggested to balance the books some departments will have 12% cuts imposed while the regional rates will be increased by 10%. Folks in Ballymena and Ballyclare were going bananas.

One guy, 'Joe' if I recall, came on in rip roaring mode demanding to know if these people were for real. He had, he said, a small enterprise where all he got for his £2,200 annual rates was the bin lifted once a week. He was incandescent with rage.

When I got to thinking if all I got for paying that kind of money for someone to dump a bin - what does it take? ten seconds? - I would have been incandescent with rage too. 'Joe' really did have a point. That is a rip off.

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