2020 has been a year unlike any in living memory.
It began with a General Election which almost certainly changed the course of Irish politics for the next several decades. The two-party domination of the Dáil, which had endured for over ninety years, was swept away by voters in the midst of a housing and homelessness crisis.
The new Government – a historic settlement between the two formerly dominant parties – took months to negotiate. And in that time, the Coronavirus turned Irish life, and many things we have all been brough up to take for granted, heel over head.
A year ago, the idea of somebody being sent to prison for refusing to wear a facemask on a bus would have seemed an inconceivable fantasy. It happened, in Ireland, just last week. The story of lockdowns, and travel restrictions, and empty sports stadiums, and pubs and restaurants shutting their doors, had we told them to you a year ago, would have seemed to have been ripped from the pages of a dystopian novel. But in 2020, they all happened.
That is not to say, however, that all of this was inflicted on the Irish people against their will. For the most part, these changes in our daily lives were accepted with good grace, and even eagerness, by a population keen to do its part in saving the lives of vulnerable people, and helping to stop the spread of this unknown, and scary, new illness.
Together, we watched daily case numbers rise, and fall. Together, we anxiously waited to see what todays case numbers would mean for plans we had made, and nurtured, often for years. Many Irish couples saw weddings, long in the planning, fall by the wayside. For others, 2020 meant saying goodbye to a loved one, without the traditional support offered by the community in times of mourning. For many of us, it simply meant not seeing our families, and our friends, and not knowing when we could meet again.
This Christmas, then, we hope that for as many of you as possible, a chance to meet again has been provided.
Today is not a day to worry about Covid, or what tomorrow might bring, or whether the new year will be better than the old.
It is a day to reflect on the things that really matter to us – our relationships with the people we love, and the human connections that make life worth living.
This year, at Gript, has been our first full year in operation. We have tried, at all times, to bring you the news, and also to be a voice for your concerns.
It is tempting, during a crisis, to always swim with the tide. There is a certain safety, and comfort, in consensus. But it is essential, always, that the awkward questions be asked, and that the case for the defence be made. We have been unapologetically sceptical of restrictions on people’s civil liberties, and the changes – however transient – that have been enforced. We have always sought to highlight alternatives – like the approach to the virus taken in Sweden – and highlight the human cost of the decisions that our politicians have taken.
We are a diverse group of people, at Gript – and we do not always agree. At times, our internal debates about lockdown and restrictions and civil rights have been as passionate as any discussion that might happen around a Christmas table. But when we err, we try to err on the side of defending your right to a normal life, and to do normal things, in normal ways.
Christmas, though, is also a time for reconciliation. Many of our readers are people with strong opinions.
In the cut and thrust of the daily news, and heated debates, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of people, whatever their views, are basically good.
Alongside the hard moments, this year has also seen thousands of Irish people make incredible sacrifices, and take risks, to help others. Our nurses and doctors, especially early in the pandemic, did their best to help the sick and the dying, even knowing that they risked bringing a death sentence home to elderly parents, or vulnerable family members. Priests and religious ministered to the sick, even as their own churches were closed. Teachers did their best to give an entire class of Irish young people the most normal leaving certificate possible. And across the country, there were outbreaks of incredible kindness, and decency, from neighbours to other neighbours.
Politics, current affairs, and the news, are very important. We take our job here seriously, and do our best to serve you, as we will, again, in 2021.
Today, though, is a day to give thanks for what we have, and to put aside our worries, and concerns, at least until tomorrow.
From all of us here at Gript, we wish all of our readers, contributors, financial supporters, friends, and critics, a very happy, contented, and peaceful Christmas.