It was a year that the world had been looking forward to. A year of hope, tempered with caution, after a 2020 that had seen death, devastation and despair accelerating around the globe due to a rampaging coronavirus pandemic.
Optimists said that nothing could be as dire again. But they were wrong.
Not even the international roll-out of much-heralded Covid-19 vaccines which were designed to stop the virus in its tracks could work that particular miracle — though the jabs were credited with lessening the deadly impact of coronavirus.
It was a year when controversies and scandals engulfed Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Here in Northern Ireland the DUP had more leaders in a month than some parties have in a decade and loyalist protesters rioted over their claims that the NI Protocol and an Irish sea border that Johnson said would never come were weakening their British identity.
It was a year of more lows than highs and IVAN LITTLE has been trawling through his back pages to hand out his notional Big Little awards to the nation.
The Heroes and Villains award
The first accolade goes to NHS staff who fought relentlessly to save lives in the pandemic and administered millions of vaccines to (hopefully) curb its spread in all its mutations. The villains part goes to the anti-vaxxers who endlessly protested at the removal of their ‘freedoms’ and who some say should turn down any offers of medical help if they fall foul of the virus.
The Peppa Pig award for Porkies, Prevarications, Pandemic Partying, and Pie in the Sky Proposals (like bridges)
To Boris Johnson. He stood accused of taking deceit and double standards to whole new levels but somehow has survived so far as PM.
The SuperSpreader of the Year award
The daddy of them all, Boris Johnson, for adding another child to the prolific issuing of his seed down the years. The pity is that his brain isn’t as fertile as his nether regions which, of course, has the slang name Johnson in the States.
The Ghost of Maggie Thatcher Lives On award
To Matt Hancock who as Johnson’s health minister gave NHS workers a Tony Hancock style miserable 1% pay rise before the offer was later increased to 3%.
The Lights, Camera and Insurrection award
To Mark Davey my old UTV tea-boy who matured into an award-winning ITN camera operator and managed to serve up a worldwide scoop as the only person to get moving pictures of Donald Trump’s supporters running amok in the Capitol Building in Washington.
The Thick as the Brick he was Throwing award
To the Belfast rioter who admitted his protest was against the protocol even though he didn’t know what it was and fumed he was angry that Bobby Storey wasn’t being prosecuted over THAT funeral in 2020 — Storey’s own.
The Tobler-Own Goal award
To referee Slavko Vincic who in Geneva helped send Northern Ireland Swiss-rolling out of the World Cup qualifiers by ordering off Jamal Lewis for taking too long over a throw-in.
The Fans Hit the Sh*ts award
To the football supporters who kicked off big time with a furious protest campaign that stopped 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs forming a breakaway Super League.
The Climb Every Mountain award
To the former RTE journalist Charlie Bird who talked on TV about having been diagnosed with terminal Motor Neurone Disease but vowed to climb Croagh Patrick in Mayo for charity. And anyone who knows him knows he’ll do it.
The Edwin Putsch award
To the DUP who forced their leader Arlene Foster out of office. It was said that 29 MLAs and four MPs signed a ‘no confidence’ letter but Mrs Foster said she never saw it. Or saw it coming.
The Brian Clough award for the Quickest Ever Order of the Boot
To Edwin Poots who resigned after only half the number of days in the DUP leader’s role that Clough had served in his 44-day reign as manager at Leeds United.
The Dive, Dive, Diver award
To former submarine commander Steve Aiken whose leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party sank without trace after he was torpedoed by Stephen Nolan in a radio interview that made many think he was out of his depth.
The Pot Calling the Kettle
To Van Morrison for his Europa Hotel attack on Stormont’s health minister over perceived Covid-19 wrongdoings. Before his ‘Robin Swann is very dangerous’ rant, Morrison had earlier released a clutch of anti-lockdown songs including a broadside against people who used Facebook. Van promoted the album on… Facebook.
The Get Off the Stage award
To Ian Paisley who joined Morrison in his anti-Swann chant at the Europa. After jumping on the Vanwagon the MP quickly jumped off it again with an apology to Mr Swann. He and a number of other unionist politicians later said sorry again for their tributes to paedophile loyalist David Tweed who died in a road accident.
The Never Stop Fighting till the Fight is Done award
To the resolute campaigners from Ballymurphy who refused to give up in their quest for justice for the 10 people who died after the 1971 massacre by the Parachute Regiment and were rewarded with an inquest verdict that ruled all the victims were innocent.
The Big Little award for the Star of the Big Little Lies TV series
To Nicole Kidman who kidded on that after filming in Belfast she was thinking of moving here. There’s still no sign of the new Kid in town but singer Taylor Swift was seen paying a flying visit to The Tipsy Bird.
The Donna Kebab-ed award
To BBC Northern Ireland for skewering their Newsline presenter Donna Traynor who’s taking legal action against her former employers, apparently claiming they’re guilty of the age-old practice of ageism.
The Shame on Us All award
To the people smugglers from north and south of the border who were paid a fortune to transport 39 Vietnamese migrants to the UK but drove them to their deaths in the back of an airless lorry.
The Shooting Yourself in the Foot award
To non-IRA man Gerry Adams for an unfunny Christmas carol singing video which offended victims of Provo violence with its parroting of republican phrases and also offended lovers of music.
The Sing Your Own Songs award
To the English football fraternity who ‘stole’ Sweet Caroline from the Green and White Army as their anthem.
The Ted Hastings Holy Mother of God Slap in the Bake award from Jesus, Mary and the wee donkey that floated up the Lagan in a bubble
To Line of Duty for an underwhelming cop-out ending which revealed that the long hidden baddie ‘H’ was the underwhelming Ian Buckells. Who?
The God Love the Queen Happy Families award
To the weary (and wearisome) Windsors who were shattered by a fraternal feud, claims of racism in a Meghan Markle interview; a health scare when the matriarch had to call off a visit to Northern Ireland and who had to sit alone at the funeral of her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. And then of course there was….Prince Andrew.
The award for the Ton-Up Celebration that Went Down like a Ton of Bricks
To the team marking the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland which was so low-key that it almost vanished under the radar.
The That Wasn’t Very Big of You award
To the Irish President Michael D Higgins who turned down an invite to a Northern Ireland centenary service, claiming one of the reasons was that organisers got his title wrong but later admitted he was wrong and they were right.
The We Are not Amused award
To Barry’s Amusements in Portrush which hasn’t been able to dodge the roller-coaster of economic difficulties and shut its doors, leaving behind a merry-go-round of a million memories.
The Try and Get Your Tongue around That award for the UK’s Naughtiest Name
To the Carry On sounding name of the Ulster townland of Ballywatticock that made national news after it recorded the highest temperature in the British Isles. The people of Brown Willy in Cornwall, Shitterton in Dorset and Fanny Barks in Durham were glad the heat had been taken off them.
The I Don’t Believe It/New Balls Please award
To the tennis club of Emma Raducanu in England who responded to her historic victory in the US Open by telling her the historic triumph couldn’t guarantee her a court on her return.
The Unforgettable Memorials Mess
To Chief Constable Simon Byrne who one minute said that consideration was being given to removing memorials to dead officers from police stations but shortly afterwards said that they were staying.
The Teigh Transna Ort Fein
(go to hell) award
To the unspeakable bigots whose social media hate campaign forced the groundbreaking Irish language nursery school, Naiscoil na Seolta, to re-locate from its base in the Protestant Braniel estate which gets its name from the Irish ‘Broinngheal’ meaning, ironically, ‘bright front’.