Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review of 2011

2011 was the year that the Irish Blog Awards came to Belfast and shut up shop, TEDxBelfast was run locally, and the RISE sculpture (better known as the Balls on the Falls, or the Westicles) finally appeared on the Broadway roundabout. NI newspaper consumption continued to fall and former editor Steve Dyson reviewed the local papers.

Children of the Revolution (Bill Rolston), Turas (Colin Neill) and Evangelical Journeys - choice and change in a Northern Ireland religious subculture (Claire Mitchell and Gladys Ganiel) were good reads. In March, I helped give away 48 copies of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time as part of World Book Night. Philip Orr’s play After Dresden had a public reading in Fitzroy Presbyterian church and remains a thought-provoking piece of theatre.

Talking to Rob about the Eleventh Night bonfire in King George V Playing Fields in East Belfast (mp3)

After a night of bonfires, walking around Short Strand with the Lord Mayor and a morning of following District Lodge Number 6 around Belfast, I spent a fascinating afternoon with friends at President McAleese’s 12 July garden party in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, her Phoenix Park Dublin residence. Visiting the set of children’s puppet show Pajanimals was fun too.

Increasingly I got wound up about education in Northern Ireland.

Both the outgoing Presbyterian moderator (Norman Hamilton) and the incoming one (Ivan Patterson) agreed to interviews in early June and spoke about their experiences and hopes. And I got Occupy Belfast to explain why they had set up camp opposite Stan's St Anne's Cathedral.

In the run up to the May 2011 elections, I posted interviews with representatives from smaller partieséirígí, Green Party, IRSP, PUP, Socialist Party and Workers Party – as well as independents Dawn Purvis and Stephen Stewart.

There was much charting of the make up of the Assembly election candidates, and analysis of the cost of getting elected and the price of postal votes.

Technically, the BNP are running the highest proportion of female candidates (1 out of their total of 3 candidates = 33.3%). Alliance are next with 31.8% female candidates, then Sinn Fein (27.5%).

A post about Martin McGuinness' matter-of-fact claim at a town hall event that the murdered PSNI Constable Ronan Kerr had been a Sinn Fein voter ended up on the front of the lunchtime edition of the Belfast Telegraph a couple of hours later.

Through sheer bloody-mindedness – and sugar intake – I was one of only eight people to witness the NI result of the AV referendum, and filmed it for posterity!

A lot of party conferences were attended and covered in posts on Slugger O’Toole. I suggested that Sammy Wilson's conference jokes were contrary to the DUP leader's speech and spent a day up at the Assembly just before Christmas (asking MLAs to give their end of term report for the work of the Assembly). Can you name all sixteen?

End of term report: how do MLAs assess @niassembly performance? (mp3)

Our electric blanket must have come fairly close to setting the bed (and the house?) on fire.

Four weeks on and the Ulster Bank website is still encouraging Mac users to Dowload [sic] security software.

Over the year, it’s been good to see The Dock taking steps forward in the Titanic Quarter as it puts in place a community hub and a space for faith possibly on an actual boat moored behind the Odyssey. I’ll finish this post with the words handed around by one of the The Dock’s chaplains – Chris Bennett – this time last year at the end of a Dock Walk. His prayer for 2011 still rings true for 2012.

Dear Lord, please give me

A few friends who understand me and remain my friends;

A work to do which has real value,
without which the world would be the poorer;

A mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed;

An understanding heart;

A sense of humour;

Time for quiet, silent meditation;

A feeling of the presence of God;

The patience to wait for the coming of these things,

With the wisdom to recognize them when they come.


Happy New Year.

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