independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

1997: The year that was

IT was the year Ireland rejoiced in having 'Friends in Low Places'. A staggering one in 20 of us tried to get tickets to see Garth Brooks play Croke Park in 1997.

These were very different times.

Young 'go-getter' Bertie Ahern had just become Taoiseach for the first time, swept in on an unstoppable wave of Fianna Fail victory. "A young leader for a young country," proclaimed his election posters.

The real youth were busy listening to Britpop - the battle between Blur and Oasis was fresh in the mind.

Even younger were Spice Girls devotees, in giant platform shoes and pigtails obsessing with the health of their digital pet Tamagotchis.

And it was the first year that we began to think about ourselves not just as a nation of emigrants going out to embrace the opportunities of the world - but as host to asylum-seekers flocking to our shores.

In 1992, Ireland had 39 asylum applications. By 1997, we had 3,883.

It was a summer that saw Ireland host the Eurovision, with the UK romping home with Katrina and the Waves singing 'Love Shine a Light'. They haven't won a Eurovision since.

'Titanic' was the massive movie hit of the year, the Spire of Dublin was not even a twinkle in the eye of street planners, and we watched Hong Kong governor Chris Patten wipe away a tear and sail away from the iconic shoreline marking the end of 156 years of British rule.

The world was plunged into mourning at the death of the "People's Princess" Diana in a mysterious car crash in Paris.

Elton John's tribute 'Candle in the Wind', or 'Goodbye England's Rose', became the biggest-selling single of all time.

Croke Park was still in construction and Garth Brooks vowed to come back to try and fill it when it was finished.

It's taken him a while. But has Ireland still got the same appetite for line-dancing?

Irish Independent

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