Belfast Telegraph

And the winner of Brass Neck of the Year is... Barack Obama

By Eamonn McCann

The tightly contested tussle for Brass Neck of the Year has been won by Barack Obama for keeping a straight face when denouncing North Korea for invading the privacy of Americans by stealing their emails and personal and business-sensitive electronic data.

This is the guy who, just weeks earlier, had decided that there was no need for intrusive investigation of the unconstitutional theft of Americans' emails and personal and business-sensitive information by the National Security Agency on a scale which North Korea - against which no evidence of hacking has been produced - won't be able to match for a hundred years.

• Meanwhile, thousands of North Koreans have been shipped to Qatar by adolescent megalomaniac Kim Jong-un to work as slaves for local contractors preparing new stadia, fabulous hotels and air-conditioned open spaces for the 2022 World Cup.

That's if the event goes ahead after the guaranteed 2018 fiasco in Russia, which will be bankrupt and in turmoil by the time the tournament comes around. The end of Fifa? We can but hope.

Toxic Clown of the Year trophy divided between Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin and Sepp Blatter.

• Most Overrated Television Series of 2014 was The Fall. Mind you, the laughable end of the first season was exceeded in risibility by the ending of the second, which has to be counted an achievement of sorts.

Gillian Anderson is a splendid actress, as anyone who managed to blag a ticket for her passionate turn as Blanche duBois in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Old Vic in the summer will testify.

But what could she do, or any actor do, with stuff like The Fall?

• Hapless Bystander of the Year award goes to the SDLP for taking the lead in devising a mechanism for "dealing with the past".

The past is not going to be dealt with unless/until there's drastic change. Whatever meaning might be attached to "dealing", it cannot be achieved without the truth being told and that's not going to happen, irrespective of the number of new acronymic outfits dreamt up by southern and cross-channel civil servants.

The British security agencies don't tell their own Government what they've been up to here - setting up troublesome solicitors for assassination, running informer/paedophile rings, withholding information about imminent bombing of market towns, that sort of thing. The chances of them 'fessing up now are nil.

The UVF going to provide a frank account of the service record of their Mount Vernon battalion? You think?

Or the Provisional leadership, whose determination to control the narrative of their armed struggle is evident in the barrage of abuse directed at anyone, especially erstwhile comrades, who challenges their account of waging a clean war to win equality?

Will the DUP agree to revisit the years when some of its leaders routinely referred to Catholics as "vermin"? Or the Ulster Unionists admit that systematic sectarian discrimination during their long period of one-party rule created the context for the eruption of the Troubles in the first place?

All of which renders our fourth-largest party irrelevant to any examination of the past. If you are not hiding anything, how can you contribute to recovery of truth?

It might be recalled that, when Mark Durkan complained to Tony Blair about his party being marginalised in discussion of how to achieve an unarmed society, the swivel-eyed war-loon replied: "Your problem is you don't have guns."

If they'd got their hands on a few AKs and shot up a pub, they would be treated with more respect.

• It was a bad year for visual art, but Kelly Richardson's heart-swaying Haunted at the Void saved the day.

Three huge digital screens depicted, I think, the surface of Mars following its abandonment by all who had fled there after the destruction of Earth, endless fireballs falling into a lyrical lake and missiles slowly ascending with elegant malice from their launch-pads, one after another after another and so on infinitum.

A shot-in-the-darkness interpretation might involve the alienation of the human spirit from nature, the futility of pursuit of unfulfilling aspiration, just desserts for the desecration of beauty. Or maybe it's other things entirely.

At any rate, these were pieces of art to stand before for an hour and ponder whatever chanced into your mind and to come away feeling that there must be more.

Exhibition of the Year.

• And no doubt, either, about the Acting Performance of the Year - Maxine Peake as Hamlet in a modern-dress, cross-cast production at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

Polonius (Polonia) and Rosencrantz, too, were women. One heavyweight critic described it as "new-wave feminist theatre".

Whatever. The production, by Sarah Frankcom, has been filmed and will be on view at a cinema near you some time in 2015.

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