Essays and discussions

Review of 1999

Well, at the tail end of 1999, it's time for another annual review. 1999 has been a year full of many ups and many more downs. As we go into the final year of the 20th century (yep, I'm one of those smiley), there are between thirty and forty wars going on in the world at this moment. But sixty years ago, there was only one. Are we better or worse off? The majority of the wars going on now are civil rather than (inter)national in nature, not that this matters one whit to the civilians suffering in Chechnya, Afghanistan and so much of Africa, to mention but a few.

Still, in at least one corner of our globe the people have dared to look up and hope for the first time in over twenty five years. As we go into the year 2000, Northern Ireland seems to be well on the road to peace. For Ulster, this year has been an emotional one. The year started hopefully, with the momentum for peace following the Omagh bombing still fresh, there was an optimism that this time we could finally do it. By the summer, hope was virtually gone, with mistrust between the parties and petty arguing about decommissioning having virtually destroyed the peace process. Our hopes lay, once more, with former US senator George Mitchell. How he did it, I don't know, but he pulled off a miracle. Within weeks of the conclusion of his review of the Agreement, the Republic (of Ireland) had removed Articles 2 & 3 from it's constitution and the UK parliament had passed the necessary legislation to set up the Northern Ireland assembly. This man deserves a Nobel Peace prize as much as David Trimble and John Hume. By the end of November, Northern Ireland had it's own power-sharing assembly, and the unthinkable had happened, members of Sinn Fein were in the Executive, particularly Martin McGuiness being made education minister. There was something almost funny about it. Now I look to the future with a lighter heart than I have done for many a year. There are still active paramilitary and political groups opposed to peace in Northern Ireland, but I believe that we can overcome all the problems that these groups present to us.
Similarly, there seems to be new impetus to the peace process in the Middle East, with Syria apparently making noises signifying that they want to make peace with Israel; Pakistan and India seem to have calmed down again and there even seems to be order in East Timor after the terrible events of the summer. Maybe there's hope for us yet...

On a more personal note, 1999 has proved to be another (mainly) good year for me. I spent four weeks in India this summer, for the first time in half a decade, and, terrible as it may seem, half a decade really isn't enough. India is the homeland of my parents and their generation, my home is Northern Ireland. I couldn't wait for the 'holiday' to end!
My university grades have continued to be good and uni life has continued to extend and expand my social interaction. My friends and flatmates have been a second family to me, helping me to expand my horizons, both socially and culturally. Third year at uni is a challenge like no other that I've ever encountered and although the stress is unbelievable, it's also strangely liberating. I'm enjoying every minute of it (well, apart from the deadlines, perhaps smiley).

As we come to the end of a century, let's send up a little prayer: let there be peace. You never know, if enough of us do it, maybe somebody will hear, maybe even the political leaders of the world.

– 1 January 2000

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