A year for us to rise to challenges
The start of a new year is always an opportunity to look forward in anticipation of the good things to come, and this applies particularly to Northern Ireland, with several events likely to make major headlines in 2012.
Among the most significant will be the commemorations to mark the centenary of the Titanic. These will cover a wide range, from the opening of the new Titanic Project in Belfast Harbour estate, to drama and other events, including the MTV's music presentation at the Titanic slipways.
The Titanic Project is an ambitious undertaking, and it will be the central focus for the entire range of commemorations. The organisers have been assuring the public that the project is well underway, and it is imperative the superstructure and all the exhibitions inside it are completed well in time for the opening.
It is also most important all the ancillary services will be in place to deal with the expected flow of visitors to the site. This will include transport and all the other facilities which people have a right to expect on their visit to commemorate the Titanic as one of the greatest technological achievements of its era, and also the promised excellence of the new Titanic Project itself.
Detailed preparations will also be the key to the progress of the 2013 UK City of Culture year in Londonderry-Derry. No doubt all the people of this historic, hospitable and cultured city will do their utmost to make it a success, and 2012 will be crucial in ensuring that everything remains on schedule for this prestigious year of celebration.
This coming year will also bring the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant, and the way in which this is handled will determine the outcome of other significant centenaries, including the Battle of the Somme and the Dublin Easter Rising in 2016. All of these could be divisive, and the commemoration of the Ulster Covenant will be the first major test of our collective political maturity in finding ways of honouring all traditions.
There are also likely to be more significant visits here this year, including that of the Queen who will be marking her Diamond Jubilee, following her highly significant visit to the Irish Republic last year. She, and hopefully the Duke of Edinburgh, will be very welcome here again.
On the political front there will be important matters to consider, including a final decision on corporation tax. The economy will continue to pose severe challenges, and our politicians will need to display a strong common purpose and urgency in protecting all our interests.
As with every new year, so much is unknown. However it is important for everyone to keep a positive mindset and to celebrate collectively the good developments and events, without becoming overwhelmed or divided by the challenges which lie ahead.