2020: Was it all bad?

 So – the final day of 2020 has arrived. To say it’s been an event-packed year would be a serious understatement. So many images, so much turmoil, so much fear and so much sorrow, at a personal level there were times when it all seemed too much to cope with.  And at national levels?

Well, let’s start out with a positive one: Donald Trump’s reign of unhinged right-wingery is just about over. Yes, he’ll still be lurking in the background, as he did that time he debated Hillary Clinton on TV. But there is a considerable difference between having a malign influence pacing in the wings and a malign influence being in the job of the world’s most powerful leader. For Trumpexit, much thanks. Things, as the song once declared, can only get better.

In the UK, in contrast, things can only get worse. First, the people of the UK are visited with a plague of viruses which has killed over 70,000 people so far, and they look very much like they’re going to kill thousands more. Yes, there is a vaccine being rolled out, but the pace of inoculation delivery seems maddeningly slow. Meanwhile a new strain of virus has emerged that is doubling the number of people infected, the British economy is losing businesses and jobs at warp speed, the people of the UK are more divided than they ever were before. And so, of course, the British prime minister has led his people out of the EU into a tempestuous sea of uncertainty, reassuring people that this is a glorious moment. Health, wealth and the economy: all of these are suffering terribly in today’s UK.

The upside of all this is that even the most slow-witted people learn from painful experience. The scalded cat avoids the stove, even when it’s cold, and humans will suffer only so much without looking for a way out. In the past 17 opinion polls, a majority of Scots have declared support for an independent Scotland.  The painful consequences of Brexit will deepen that determination over time, so the odds of Scotland having an independence referendum and winning it seem only a matter of time, and fairly short time at that.

If Scotland becomes independent, the prospects of a reunited Ireland immediately become clearer and more likely. Sinn Féin looks certain to be the lead party in government in the south at some point over the next few years; likewise Sinn Féin in the north looks likely to become the largest party, with a republican First Minister. The pressure to hold a border poll, under those circumstances, will become unstoppable. Where Scotland goes, Ireland will most certainly follow. Already, we are seeing concrete proposals and timetables as to how and when Irish reunification will occur.

So yes, 2020 really has been a massive stinker. But it’s also brought us the prospect of an end to what effectively is English dominance in these islands, and has shown us clear paths of travel which will end that dominance once and for all.

Maybe, besides being a stinker, 2020 was a very good year.

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