From darkness into light
We could look back on this as the year in which we finally put 10 years of anger, self-pity and blame behind us, writes Brendan O'Connor
Nine months ago, in a different time, in a different country, Simon Coveney told me in an interview about how he was walking across St Stephen's Green one day when a man came up to him and spat in his face and said something like, "I hate you and I hate what your government is doing to this country." It was one of the things that crystallised in Coveney's mind that there was something very corrosive about the divisions and the anger in Irish society and that made him decide he wanted to bring people together again. And this was a central part of the pitch he made to become leader of Fine Gael.
Of course Simon Coveney didn't become leader of Fine Gael, but you can't help thinking that even in that nine months, much of the corrosiveness has disappeared out of Irish life. After 10 years of bitterness, anger, blame, recrimination and a kind of senseless, scattergun resentment, 2017 could be remembered as the year we came out of the darkness and into the light somewhat. People are still angry, but they are angry about specific issues. It is not anger as a policy, it is an anger that is focused on trying to get certain things changed. And in fact it's working. Obviously it is not good enough that there are over 8,000 people homeless and the situation is not being fixed quickly enough. But it is being fixed. Compassion aside, there is huge political capital at stake here and the Government has been embarrassed enough by this to put huge energy into sorting it out. They acknowledge it's not happening quickly enough, but they are throwing resources at it and you'd have to think they intend to have it under control by the time an election comes. The anger of those who were fiddled out of tracker mortgages has been responded to also and the pressure is on the banks to deal with that quickly too.
What there isn't any more is an all-pervasive unfocused anger at the Government. It doesn't feel like a time for spitting in the faces of politicians or even trapping them in their cars. It feels like we have moved on finally, to a more normal anger at the Government.