OK, January 1. Time to look back at what was lost and what was won.
On second thoughts, the hell with that. Read back issues of the papers if you want that. I’ll give you what I see as the most significant event in the year: the census figures.
Last time - 2001 - we had a census up here, there was much breath-holding. It was figured the Catholic population would make a seismic leap ( and you know the size of leap a seism can make). I consulted a number of experts in advance of the figures coming out. Oh yes, definitely, this will be a game-changer. If memory serves (and it’s getting lazier all the time), my old chum Brian Feeney from the VO bet a bottle of champagne (they’re a classy lot at the VO - always were) that the figures would be, um, seismic or something. He lost. When the figures were announced, Catholics had increased in number but nowhere near what the experts had confidently predicted.
This year, the figures were down-played in advance, probably because no one likes looking like an arse twice in a row. And this time they were seismic. Protestant population down by 5%, Catholic population up by 1%. Which leaves Protestants a minority in the state founded as a Protestant state for a Protestant people. If this last census’s figures were replicated in seven years time, Catholics would have a 3% majority.
“So what?” you say. “It’s clear that old-fashioned ideas like Catholics voting for nationalist candidates and Protestants voting for unionist candidates is completely out-of-date. Things are more complex, fluid now. Get with the programme”.
Funny, I never heard much about this many-Catholics-love-being-in-the-UK until a short while before figures were released, and the claims for same were led by Peter Robinson, not until now known as a reader of nationalist sentiment or intentions. Of course Peter had previous - a few months earlier, he had appealed for a single education system. This of course had nothing to do with the firm majority of Catholics now attending schools in the north.
“Northern Irish” - that’s the flag around which somewhat nervous unionists have rallied. It’s all change now, because 21% of people described themselves as ‘Northern Irish’ and only a quarter described themselves as ‘Irish’. Oh, and an awful lot of Catholics/nationalists carry a British passport. Sorry, guys. You can skip the passport one. The British model is much cheaper and more easily available here in the north; and ticking the ‘Northern Irish’ box means just that - it doesn’t mean “I’m really glad I live in the UK”. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’ll vote NO in a referendum for a re-united Ireland.
So that’s my significant event over the past year. Sectarian head-counting? Attempting to out-breed rather than out-bomb? Call it what you will: it could well be that the 100th anniversary of the creation of this state will also mark the date of its funeral.
Happy New Year, all.