All of us look back on the last year, drawing comparisons with previous years and hoping that the disappointments that came our way are sorted out in the future.
As the last embers died away in our fire on Christmas Day I thought of the 40% of homes that are experiencing fuel poverty not to mention the increasing number of people who have no home at all and are spending the day in shelters, if they are lucky.
Then I thought of the Cash for Ashes Scandal and the millions of pounds that future generations will pay for heating empty barns and I wondered if it is true that the acclaimed leader of the UDA is really the chief executive of a community group in East Belfast where that community has suffered more than most people appreciate at the hands of paramilitary thugs.
My mind flickered back to some of the most wonderful people I ever had the privilege of knowing and for some reason I recalled the late Eddie McGrady, former MP for South Down and I wondered if he was alive today how would he evaluate the going on in Stormont in the last year.
As someone who fought hard for the fishermen I am sure he would be appalled that the first priority for the DUP minister now responsible for fisheries was to spend thousands of pounds taking the Irish name off a fishery protection vessel. I am also sure that he would find it incredulous that any minister would have the gall to remove a paltry grant of £50,000 from children going to the Gaeltacht to develop their Irish language skills and to do it in a week then the Cash for Ashes scandal is getting bigger by the day.
Eddie was meticulous about detail, always dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. How would he score the ‘Fresh Start’ Agreement and what would be make of the progress in achieving peace and reconciliation. As an accountant what would he think of the bookkeeping on the hill and the endeavours to deliver, for example, health services which he so valiantly fought for in South Down? As a man who led peace and reconciliation by example how would he assess progress in bringing two communities together after a senseless war of sectarianism and futility?
By this stage the fire was out, the family had gone to bed and I wondered if 2017 will bring something different. Will people like Colum Eastwood, Nicola Mallon, Claire Hanna, Patsy McGlone and others be listened to or will we have more ships renamed, more Cash for Ashes, longer hospital waiting lists and will be DUP and Sinn Fein continue to gall the people as they have done in the past?
Please God, in the memory of great people like Eddie let there be change.
John Dallat, Kilrea