So we start a new year and indeed a new decade. Some things start with great promise; we are now part of a sovereign European Union and have bidden a muted farewell to an independent Ireland. Fortunately the civil servants in Brussels are planning to go on strike because they were denied pay increases! Their selfishness will as a happy side effect keep us a little freer for a little longer. Some things have changed greatly; our economy being a case in point. It will rally at some point, I'm sure, not least because reality has a way of intruding itself. We Irish, for all our flaws, do sooner or later adjust ourselves to how things really are. And if we won't, Brian Lenihan is here to help with some tough love. And some real patriotism too, given that Budget 2009 will almost certainly lose Fianna Fáil the next election. At any rate, as the creation of the Celtic tiger showed, we're not afraid of hard work. So things will come right, even though it won't be easy.
Another massive change has been the long delayed but Deo gratias finally arrived sense of episcopal responsibility. Heads have, at last, rolled from among the Irish Bishops for their carelessness in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis. Of course, there is a long way to go yet. A whole culture of covering up unfaithfulness in the Church in Ireland needs to be named and unmasked. Of course the fact the clergy are not nearly the worst sexual abusers Irish society isn't even on the radar yet; when farmers, teachers & social workers have the same stringent level of scrutiny that Catholic clergy do, we'll have made a good start.
We must ask, though, for each bishop who protected the institution over the victim, and favoured the comfort of his priests over the salus of the little ones committed to his care, how many diocesan curialists stood behind him and urged him on? How many other priests, good priests, were ignored or sidelined because they tried to speak the truth or to obtain redress for the innocent? We may never get final justice in this life but the DPP will make his best efforts, and for everything else, the Recording Angel has a long memory.
On a personal level, it has been a very good year. Lowdenclear & I have a constant source of joy and wonder, who also teaches us a great deal, mostly about smiling through the explosive nappy changes and learning to love while being exhausted! The end of the year was particularly enjoyable, as it took in a visit to Zoë's great-grandmother and to John & Lindy (and Connor, Callum & Meghan) in Carrickfergus. The only sour note over New Year's was the new low to which Retire To bed Early have sunk. Being our public service broadcaster, one might expect them to carry the New Year's Day concert from the Musikverein in Vienna, as they have for many years. One might be wrong. In fact on RTE television, we have the delightful alternative of Winning Streak lottery games. Or more precisely, a repeat of an old Winning Streak game. Well at least Lyric FM were carrying the New Year's Day concert, after a fashion. It was the 2004 New Year's Day NSO concert from Earlsfort Terrace; better than nothing but not by much. I can only say, for all its faults, God bless the BBC!