Saturday 25 January 2020

Gaddafi killed, Knox set free and Michael D in the Aras

Edel O'Connell and Mark O'Regan

WITH so much happening at home in 2011, it would perhaps be easy to gloss over international events.

But the final third of the year was dominated by some news from overseas that many thought would never happen.

On October 20 graphic images of the lifeless and bloodied body of Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi were beamed around the world.

He was killed after being dragged from a drain begging for his life.

The Libyan dictator, armed with a golden gun, and his remaining henchmen had scrambled for the shelter of the filthy concrete pipe after their convoy was hit by a NATO airstrike.

He received no mercy. But then, he had shown little during his often-brutal regime.

With another tyrant, Osama bin Laden, having been killed earlier this year, the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks was a time for reflection.

Time stood still as the names of every person killed in the al-Qa'ida orchestrated plane attacks were read out during a five-hour ceremony held where the World Trade Centre twin towers once stood.

It is difficult to believe it is a decade since the world changed so irrevocably.


On a smaller scale, but big on drama, was the acquittal of 24-year-old American Amanda Knox of the murder of Meredith Kercher in late October, despite a last-ditch appeal from the British student's family to uphold the conviction.

A jury in Perugia, where the murder took place four years ago, overturned Ms Knox's 26-year jail sentence for the sexual assault and murder of the Leeds University student.

She walked free from Capanne prison, outside Perugia, after serving four years for a crime that the appeal court ruled she did not commit.

At home, the political world was dominated by one story: the race for the Aras.

'Dragons' Den' star Sean Gallagher was frontrunner for much of it but was effectively ambushed by Martin McGuinness on a memorable RTE 'Frontline' debate over an allegation that he had solicited €5,000 for a fundraising dinner.

The ensuing furore opened the door for Michael D Higgins, the poet, politician and campaigner to become Ireland's ninth president.

Another triumph that captured the nation's heart was that of Leitrim teenager Meadhbh McGivern -- who missed a liver transplant earlier this summer because of botched transport plans.

The 14-year-old was later in the year flown to King's Hospital London by the Air Corps after being offered a last-minute liver transplant. It was successful.

But while Meadhbh was celebrating her homecoming in October, more than 240 residents of a Dublin apartment block were being told they would have to leave their homes because of fire safety measures.

The 187-apartment Priory Hall complex, built by former hunger striker Tom McFeely, was evacuated on October 17 -- the majority of the owner/occupiers moved into NAMA or voluntary housing while around seven families remain in hotels around Dublin.

Other important domestic news included the tragic death of five-year-old Mari Connolly in a house fire in Roscommon, and the jailing of Galway woman Karen Walsh after she was found guilty of murdering her elderly neighbour, Maire Rankin, in Newry three years ago.

More than 1,000 properties in Dublin and Wicklow were damaged during October's monster floods which claimed the lives of two people including Garda Ciaran Jones and Filipina nurse Cecilia de Jesus.

The year also ended in tragedy for two families when Crossmaglen footballer James Hughes was shot and killed by Dundalk man Shane Rogers who later hung himself in prison.

December also brought little Christmas cheer for the wider community with a Scrooge-like Budget bringing a raft of cuts and charges for struggling families.

Amid public and backbench anger, the Government was forced to "pause" a Budget proposal to increase the eligibility age for the disability allowance from 16 to 18 and to reduce the rate for under 25s.

On a lighter note, it was an important few months on the sporting fields.

While Kilkenny once again reigned supreme in hurling, Dublin won the football championship for the first time in 16 years after goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton coolly slotted an injury-time free.

One opportunistic Dublin fan, Stephen Molloy (27), really felt part of the winning team when he managed to side step security and make his way on to the pitch for the post-match celebrations. He will forever be immortalised after been photographed with his heroes as they savoured their historic win over Kerry.

Meanwhile, there was mud, sweat and tears of a different kind Down Under for the Irish rugby fans living the World Cup dream in New Zealand.

The dream which began when Ireland smashed the US on September 11 ended when Wales crushed Ireland's dream of reaching the World Cup semi-finals on October 8 with an impressive display in Wellington.

A place in the final had beckoned.

And a place in the Euro 2012 finals now beckon for their soccer counterparts following an outstanding playoff performance against Estonia. Spain, Italy and Croatia await next June. A nation holds its breath.

There were tears from Westlife fans on October 20 when after 14 years, 14 number ones singles and 44 million album sales, chart-topping act Westlife announced they would split after two final farewell gigs in Dublin next year.

From break-ups to make-ups Stone Roses fans were ecstatic in late October when the now middle-aged Manchester band confirmed they were reuniting, with two gigs planned for next year, followed by a world tour which includes Dublin's Phoenix Park.

Irish Independent

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