Friday 20 September 2019

After a grim year what does 2017 have in store for a weary nation?

Editorial Comment

BACK IN 1992, in a speech marking her 40 years on the throne, Britain's Queen Elizabeth famously described the previous 12 months as "an annus horribilis".

One imagines, looking back on 2016, millions of people the world over will understand how the monarch felt.

The last 12 months - while far from the darkest period in history - have been grim and most will be glad to see the back of 2016.

It was the year that brought us Brexit and the election of Trump; an escalation of the terrible, ongoing war in Syria and the resultant refugee crisis; yet more terror across the globe and a slide towards fascism and the far right across the democratic west.

In Ireland, we have seen a growing housing crisis finally spiral out of control; a wave of economic unrest and strikes; a surge in gang violence in the capital; scandals at the Olympics; enormous and ongoing political uncertainty and more revelations about our dubious corporate tax regime.

Certainly events like the 1916 commemorations, the European Championships and the triumph of the O'Donovan brothers and Annalise Murphy in Rio helped brighten the mood but, unfortunately, occasions like these seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.

Given the surprises 2016 threw up, it is hard to predict how next year will pan out with any great confidence. What does seem certain is that it will be another challenging year.

One group that's definitely facing into a very difficult 12 months is Enda Kenny and his cabinet colleagues.

Since he managed to cobble together a Government, Enda Kenny has been walking a tightrope with Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil, the real power players in the Dáil, pulling most of the strings. Kenny and his Government have just about managed to survive the year but there are many pitfalls and potential political land mines ahead.

Rather than solving any significant problems the Government has, in most cases, simply kicked them down the road in the apparent hope that they will either go away themselves or that someone - anyone - else will deal with them.

In the coming months, thanks to the developments at Apollo House, we can expect to see the Government forced to deal with the housing and homeless crisis.

Meanwhile, the findings of the Citizens' Assembly will make the abortion issue almost impossible to avoid and the Dáil water charges committee's eventual report will place that hot button issue right back at the centre of the political agenda.

Further strikes are also looming and, having effectively bought off the teachers and gardaí, the Government will not find it easy facing down an emboldened trade union movement.

Just eight years on from the crash, extreme care must also be taken to ensure we're not plunged back into a deep recession

Kenny and Fine Gael must manage all this while keeping a wary eye in Micheál Martin who can bring down the Government's house of cards on a whim.

Whatever happens it promises to be an interesting year.

Wexford People

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