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Why I'm allowed to dream in 2016... even when it comes to our leaders


Centre stage: Arlene Foster faces big challenges in 2016

Centre stage: Arlene Foster faces big challenges in 2016

Centre stage: Arlene Foster faces big challenges in 2016

It feels odd to be writing a column in 2015 that will be published in 2016. Odd, and strangely powerful, like I'm some kind of miracle of quantum physics, breaking barriers in the space/time continuum. Probably in a cape. With my own theme tune.

I feel pumped up and confident that my vision for 2016, to be printed in the future, has a very good chance of crystallising into reality. So, here are my hopes for the New Year. Let's meet back here in 52 weeks to see how many came to fruition:

1. I hope the UK votes to stay in the EU. It may be a badly run, money-wasting, Kafkaesquely bureaucratic gravy train, mainly populated by grasping politicians who can't get a seat in their native governments, but it's our badly run, money-wasting, Kafkaesquely bureaucratic gravy train mainly populated by grasping politicians who can't get a seat in their native governments.

And it does have the odd good idea. Like the old human rights thing. Some say it's just a red tape dispenser, but it has held to account a few embarrassments of injustice, including Northern Ireland's brutal abortion law and knuckle-dragging objections to gay cakes.

The EU was born of hope, under the black shadow of pending nuclear war. It certainly has its fault lines, but its recent pulling together to rehouse refugees escaping other continents' atrocities is just one example of member states showing collective will to set standards of compassion and civilisation.

The notion of cutting the UK out of the beating heart of Europe, while we struggle under an increasingly right-wing, intolerant Westminster, makes my blood run cold.

2. While we're on the subject of compassion and being civilised, I hope 2016 is the year Donald Trump is blown off the roof of Trump Towers in a tremendous hurricane and carried to Mars. This will have two desirable outcomes; it is likely to rule the ludicrous, doddery old bigot out of the race for US President. And Trump's natural instinct to colonise and monetise every foreign land he comes into contact with is likely to lead to some interesting information about the terrain of this fascinating planet.

3. I hope 2016 continues the trend for smart, sensible, capable women to take centre stage in politics and entertainment. I'm buoyed by the number of female leaders of major political parties - the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon, the Green's Natalie Bennett and now the DUP's Arlene Foster - showing that group compromise and opinion-gathering are more effective than macho grandstanding and point-scoring. I'm even more chuffed that the party leader with the funniest one-liners on Twitter is a woman (Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Tories). In movies, some of the most memorable roles went to women, including Roonie Mara in Carol, Charlize Theron in Mad Max and the divine Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn.

And the biggest cheer to Star Wars' magnificent Rae when she told her male "saviour", "I know how to run without you holding my hand!"

4. I hope the Northern Ireland football team win Euro 2016, with a last-gasp goal flicked off the back heel of a pirouetting Steven Davis sailing above the head of a disbelieving Joe Hart.

5. Finally, I hope Stormont politicians are prosecuted whenever corruption is exposed; that they're made to repay every penny of party funding gained through illegal means; that the house rises above ancient sectarian grudges to address crucial and urgent issues regarding the shrinking of public services, the slow destruction of the arts sector, and catastrophic cuts to social care. Yes, I know this one is a crazy fantasy, but with my new cape and theme tune, who dares tell me I'm not allowed to dream?

Ringing in feast of top entertainment

The New Year brings mouth-watering radio/TV prospects, not least the lavish War and Peace, whose sublimely-lit trailers are worth the licence fee, such dreamy revelries they inspire.

The X-Files is rebooting; a thrilling, if potentially hazardous, idea. Vinyl is a HBO drama about the 1970s music industry, exec-produced by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Sopranos’ writer Terence Winter. Yum.

Radio 4’s The Archers has us on the edge of our seats waiting for Evil Rob to get an appropriately momentous comeuppance (hopefully tonight). And then there’s Sherlock and the question on everyone’s lips; will we still fancy Benedict Cumberbatch with his hair slicked back?

Awards system in need of overhaul

Nice to see Tony McCoy, Carl Frampton and Jimmy Nesbitt all recognised in the honours list, especially Nesbitt, who looked so chuffed after his excellent work with the Wave Trauma Centre was noted.

All in all, though, it’s a pretty shameful list, full of Tory-aiding civil servants and donors and the odd knighthood for Australian blokes who worked on the Tory election campaign.

Nearly half of 2015’s top awards recipients went to private school, which is a lovely fact for British nostalgists, as it reflects the situation around 60 years ago.

The system definitely needs a massive overhaul if it is to survive with even a smidgen of credibility.

Belfast Telegraph