Thursday 8 December 2016

Fergal Keane's Diary: 'Haunted by anticipation of catastrophe, I'm more worried than I have ever been'

Fergal Keane

Published 27/12/2015 | 02:30

SHOCK: The body of Aylan Kurdi is taken from the beach after he, his siblings and his mother drowned trying to reach Europe. Photo: AP
SHOCK: The body of Aylan Kurdi is taken from the beach after he, his siblings and his mother drowned trying to reach Europe. Photo: AP

Above west London, the last planes of the year are leaving and arriving, and I thank the heavens I am not aboard any of them. I am still for the first time in months. "Unless it is really, really huge, please don't call me," I pleaded with my editors. But after a year in which so much big news happened, I realise the Christmas peace can all too quickly be disrupted.

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From the beginning of the year, the phone has flashed with alarming summonses. I was sitting in the British Library researching the origins of the Elizabethan conquest of Munster (for a future book) when news came of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris. Within hours, I was on a train to a city where gunmen were still on the loose, a city traumatised by sectarian murder on its streets and where publishing the 'wrong' thing was enough to warrant a death sentence. At the end of this same year I was back in Paris, standing outside the Bataclan among the grieving crowds, listening to the words of survivors of Europe's latest terrorist assault.

And in between? There were weeks spent reporting the story of a vast migration of people across the Aegean and the Mediterranean into Europe. Most that I met were fleeing the war in Syria, specifically the terror of Bashar al Assad's bombing campaign, and some the murderous reign of Isil. But I met plenty of Afghans and Iraqis fleeing war too, and many others from Africa and Asia who saw Europe as the only answer to lives of poverty. I saw pro-democracy protests flourish in Hong Kong and ultimately fade away, faced with the immense power of the Chinese government .

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