Belfast Telegraph

Hitting the headlines in 2013

After a big year for sport, the economy and the world of music, Victoria O’Hara and Noel McAdam take a look at what could be making the news in the next 12 months

Retail

It has been a tough few years for the high street and unfortunately, according to the experts, the bad headlines are expected to continue into 2013.

Donald McFetridge, retail analyst with the University of Ulster, predicts it will be another tough year.

“Larger multinational chains have also had their problems and, after a disappointing year, coupled with poor Christmas trading results, some will be pulling down the shutters, switching off the lights and locking the doors of their outlets for the last time,” he said. “This will particularly affect ‘entertainment’ type store groups who have been really struggling with massive debts and the rising costs of operating on the high street.

“We will also see even more store rationalisation on the high street as store groups refuse to renew leases in order to reduce overall operating costs.”

During the boom years some store groups over-extended; 2013 will be the year where they will “pull in the reins” and trim their retail operations.

“The era of standalone physical stores is all but over and, as 2013 approaches, it is imperative that retailers take cognisance of this fact,” he added.

“Only the strongest and fittest will survive; the retail sector is no place for the weak or feeble in the hearts or minds of 21st century technology-enabled consumers who wield smartphones which will increasingly become de facto fingerprints as they evolve into wallets, purses, keys, health consultants and more.”



Golf

Northern Ireland’s golf stars are expected to continue to fill the column inches this year. Following the hugely successful Olympics in London it was a tough ask to expect Holywood golfer Rory McIlroy to win the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award.

The accolade went to Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins but our own young sports star looks destined to continue to hit the headlines during the next 12 months.

Ladbrokes are giving 2/1 odds the Major winner will get engaged to his tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, despite the couple having to issue an emphatic denial of an engagement over Christmas.

And the power couple have also been given 10/1 odds they will go one step further and say ‘I do’ this year.

On the golfing green, bookies predict further success for the sportsman with him being the 5/1 favourite to win the Masters and 8/1 favourite to win The Open.

It could also be another good year for fellow golfer and friend Graeme McDowell (right) who has 25/1 odds to win The Open. But it could be slightly tougher for the newly-engaged Coleraine man to scoop the Masters title with him being 50/1 to win.

And it will be harder for Darren Clarke to recreate a big win.

Jessica Bridge of Ladbrokes said: “Darren's not as prolific on the golf tour anymore and more behind-the-scenes, so he's 200/1 to win the Masters and 150/1 to win The Open.

“Although it's not in 2013, he is the odds-on 8/13 favourite to captain the European Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014.

“The announcement will probably be made some time in 2013, however.”





Music

As the spotlight turns to Londonderry today for the opening of its year as City of Culture, music expert Stuart Bailie believes it will be a huge 12 months for new talent emerging in Northern Ireland.

The chief executive of the Oh Yeah! Centre in Belfast said one to look out for is 16-year-old Soak, aka Bridie Monds-Watson from Derry.

The teenager was named BBC Radio 1’s ‘up and coming artist of the week’ in November.

As a result her track Fingers Crossed was played on a host of BBC Radio 1 shows.

“It is going to be a massive year for Soak,” Stuart said.

“She has just signed a publishing deal with a big company. She is already topping all sorts of polls in terms of bright opportunities.

“Bridie is just 16 years old, sharp as anything and already writing these incredibly powerful songs. She is going to have a great year.”

Another name to look for in the headlines is Rosie Carney from Downings in Co Donegal.

“She is just 15 years old and has got this incredible folk voice that sounds something like Joni Mitchell — she is magnificent,” Stuart added.

Meanwhile, it will also be a good year for the bigger acts.

Two Door Cinema club went into the album chart at No.2 with Beacon and it is predicted the Co Down band will continue to build on their fan base with tours this year.

Stuart added: “Snow Patrol are taking a year out but after Ciaran Gribbins (left) stepped away from INXS I think we will hear some great things from him in 2013.

“It has been the most buoyant couple of years and is getting bolder, but the focus will go to Derry, they’ll rightly have their moment and have massive international attention on them.” But it may not be such a good year for long-running show X-Factor.

With dropping viewer figures, could it be the end of the Saturday night entertainment show?

“It is time to blow the whistle on it,” said Stuart.

Politics

Time was it seemed Northern Ireland had an election every year. But barring Stormont’s daily drama turning into a crisis, or the equally unlikely collapse of the Westminster coalition (and not counting the coming Mid-Ulster by-election), 2013 will be our second election-free year in a row.

The Euro-poll and a race to set up the province’s 11 new councils in shadow form are due in 2014 — but at this point we don’t know for sure when the next Assembly election will be.

Stormont, meanwhile, starts 2013 facing the same challenge it did 12 months ago — an agreed strategy to begin to tackle the scourge of sectarianism.

And given the street disorder of recent weeks, this is either the worst possible context to release the long-awaited Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) document, or it has never been more necessary, depending on your point of view.

But in this slot last January it was earmarked as one of the main projects for last year — before both Alliance and Ulster Unionists pulled out — and though there are only 10 pages still to be agreed, they are the ones which take in emblems, including flags, and parading.

Relations between all the parties have been fairly fragmented and tetchy in recent months, souring the atmosphere, but almost out of public gaze a total of 26 pieces of legislation, including plastic bags, national parks, energy continue their passages, though some bills such as the now-also-delayed dissolution of the Department of Employment and Learning have yet to be seen.

One of the single most important pieces of legislation, also somewhat delayed, is that underlying the massive upheaval which will see 26 councils fused and re-emerge as 11.

Should next year turn out to be the halfway point of the current Assembly — the next elections will be either 2015 or 2016 — there should be a changing of the guard at Stormont. Jim Wells is due to replace Edwin Poots as Health Minister and Simon Hamilton takes over the reins of Finance from Sammy Wilson, who is likely to become a full-time MP.

But current Speaker William Hay would then also be due to hand on his role to the first nationalist to hold the office, who had been expected to be Francie Molloy until he was picked to replace Martin McGuinness on the Mid-Ulster by-election ticket.

But there is also growing gossip SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell will dare to dispatch his sole minister, Alex Attwood. There could also be a new dish-out of committee chairs and party spokespeople.

More speculatively, if there were to be a ministerial reshuffle, could the SDLP’s Alban Maginness replace David Ford at Justice?

Then if, as planned, DEL is scrapped, and its minister Stephen Farry deposed, would that leave Alliance without an Executive seat agai



Weather

Hang on to your winter woollies. According to long range forecaster James Madden from Exacta Weather, parts of Ireland, and in particular Northern Ireland, could see a return to the cold and snowy conditions that we experienced during the record-breaking harsh winter of 2010-11.

“Parts of Ireland and Northern Ireland may also experience the worst of their winter conditions in or around January,” he said. “But having said that, conditions here will be less severe than in other parts of the UK.”

“Exceptionally large areas of low pressure will also become problematic at times throughout this winter. This could bring many parts of the country to a standstill from some very heavy falls of snow.”

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