We are standing on the brink of a new world. Whether it proves better or worse than the battered world we live in now will be determined by ourselves.
The year of the pandemic has been the worst of times. But the promise of a vaccine has sparked new hope. Science and human ingenuity have come to our aid again.
Most of the things that need doing are obvious – which is not to say easy.
The clearest specific message of the past year has been of the desperate urgency of huge recruitment to give the NHS capacity to do the job it has shown itself uniquely capable of doing.
We need nursing homes freed from the private sector and enclosed in public service. The pandemic has shone harsh light on the abandonment of the vulnerable by a system based on private profit rather than public need.
We need investment in the public service as a whole on an altogether different scale from the past. This should be the defining project for a post-pandemic age.
Everywhere we look there is crying need for radical change.
It is trite but true to say that we are all in this together.
The suppression of Black voices isn’t something that happens in faraway places of which we know little. The egregious shooting of George Nkencho in Dublin – and the racist bile spewed since – is proof of that.
The great issues across the world press down on Derry, too. We should take a hard look at Derry’s response to the Black Lives Matter demonstration in June. This was a local symptom of a global scourge. We might sympathise with suffering and struggle across the globe. But we should own up that our city fell far short when it came to dealing with the same injustice in our own back-yard
The incident was an alert that there isn’t only one pandemic, but pandemics also of racism, inequality and destruction of the environment. They are all connected. We have to seize the moment to begin the necessary task of transformation.
Private ownership of the wealth of the world is the ultimate source of all our political ills. Some have annual incomes measured in billions. Others scrabble at the edge of extinction. There is no logical, material or moral reason to allow this state of affairs to persist into the future. Its ugliness maims minds as well as bodies.
In 2021 and onwards, we will still be grappling with deep-rooted issues arising from our past. This emphasises the imperative to shape the future to meet the needs of all the people, not of a privileged few or a particular community.
It is a bad omen that our local council failed the test in the final week of 2020. City of Derry Airport is council-owned. The council had the power to help tackle the virus by shutting the airport down. We could and should have led the way. Instead, we backed off.
The same lack of insight has been evident in complaints about parts of the council debate being made public. This was a poor way to end the year. There are no precedents for the pandemic. Previous practice can’t dictate the way we face the future. More than ever, the right of the people to know must come first.
As we bid good riddance to 2020, we should stiffen our resolve so that the world, including our own little patch of the world, isn’t left in such a state that coming generations have to fight the same battles over and over and over again.