Past year has given us cause to thank many for their efforts -- and volunteers deserve it most
This is the season of goodwill to all humankind. Christmas is a time when we should suppress our prejudices, bury old bitterness and grudges and move on.
Yet when I look back at the past year and forward to 2012, I find that my seasonal goodwill flows easier to some more than to others. This is more so at national level rather than locally. Domestic goodwill and harmony is a given, thankfully.
As ever, sport provided a lot of this year's highs which will live on in the memory. Stephen Cluxton's stoppage time winning point in the All-Ireland Football final drew the admiration of the neutrals and ecstasy from the Dubs. Even Kerry supporters would acknowledge Cluxton's merit.
This man could have earned millions as a soccer goalkeeper in the English Premier League. But he chose to dedicate his skills to the GAA family for free, bringing enormous pleasure to his own community.
Munster's Ronan O'Gara is a professional sportsman but when he lined up to take those drop goals against Northampton and Castres, he wasn't thinking of money. Rather, he was driven by the passions of those fantastic Munster supporters and their need for Heineken Cup success. When the US Seals were trying to catch Osama Bin Laden, and life or death depended on getting one split-second accurate shot at the terrorist, they could have done worse than bringing ROG along!
Poverty and homelessness is especially horrific at Christmas time but it is some consolation to consider the work in this area of two wonderful Irish people, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, who started Focus Ireland, and Fr Peter McVerry, who set up the Peter McVerry Trust.
Both of these organisations have a hands-on approach to homelessness and are also addressing the causes of this affliction. If you have any few euros to spare, both Sr Kennedy and Fr McVerry will use it efficiently. They are worthy of financial support as well as our goodwill.
A lady who generated much goodwill in Ireland was Queen Elizabeth. While she has not got the touchy-feelyness of our former president, Mary McAleese (another good lady, albeit overpaid in the Irish circumstances), Queen Elizabeth did not make a wrong move during her Irish visit last May. She stands for traditional virtues and has done her bit for Irish tourism and Irish horse racing.