Close to home
From the highs of Euro 2012 and the Olympics, the year came to a sad end on these shores, not least because of the loss of beloved writer Maeve Binchy and the untimely death of Savita Halappanavar
Angela Merkel thought they were working, but the Euro 2012-bound Irish soccer fans were tweeting all the way. Hours before they even touched Polish soil, their picture with the flag at Dublin airport departures had gone viral.
Aware our post-bailout bilateral relations might hinge on this image, your trusty Berlin correspondent forwarded it to Angela Merkel’s office. Her reaction? Reliable sources say the lady thought it was hilarious. The German ambassador to Ireland invited the fans to the Booterstown embassy, and the flag was finally auctioned for charity for €15,800. Even the Bild tabloid got in on the act, sharing the joke on its front page with its 12 million readers.
On the record, chancellor spokesman Steffen Seibert was cautious, saying, “If we comment on one picture, we have to comment on them all.” After some cajoling, he added: “But I will say that some are a lot funnier than others.”
PHOTOGRAPH: GERARD NOLAN
The death of Savita Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway in October resonated across the globe and put the State’s stance on abortion under the spotlight as never before.
The 31-year-old dental nurse from India was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to hospital, in Galway, on October 21st, after presenting with back pain. She was found to be miscarrying. Her husband, Praveen, told this newspaper that she had asked several times over a three-day period for the pregnancy to be terminated, but he says the request was refused because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “This is a Catholic country.”
Savita died of septicaemia a week later. The story became headline news all over the world, sparked protests across the country and became central to the debate on legislating for the X case. Multiple inquiries have been launched and more details of the circumstances surrounding her death will emerge in the new year. Conor Pope
PHOTOGRAPH: JULIEN BEHAL/PA
A dear friend
As novelist Jennifer Johnston said in the days afterwards: “It is very hard to think of the world without Maeve.”
Her death in July provoked a stream of warm personal letters and online tributes to this publication from many who had never met her but felt a close affinity to the unofficial laureate of Irish storytelling, feeling her loss as they would that of a dear friend. The words “generous”, “warm” and “wise” were employed over and over to describe both Binchy’s writing and the way she lived her life. That so many felt they knew her was tribute to her prolific talents, whether in best-selling fiction or her former life as Woman’s Editor, London-based reporter and roving columnist for The Irish Times across five successful decades.