Leona O'Neill: A new year diet won't make the future brighter – but people can

2018 was a pretty dark year and there are more storm clouds on the horizon for this year so let's ditch the diet that we won't stick to anyway and resolve instead to take action in whatever way we can to improve things, writes Leona O'Neill

We can do small things here in our little circles in the coming year that can make a difference

IT'S difficult to comprehend that it's been a whole year since we pledged to become perfect-body-having, extreme-healthy-food-eating, do-gooding, saint-like bastions of fabulousness. I hope you achieved every one of your New Year's resolutions.

Mine lasted only slightly longer than the big tin of Roses that were supposed to survive at least until New Year's night.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't vow to make this year different. Maybe park the creating-a-new-you, losing-seven-stone, taking-up-an-extreme-sport side of things and promise to make a realistic difference in your own circle in the hope that the ripple effects will reach far and wide.

I say this year is the year when we take back control of Northern Ireland, stop allowing people to drag us backwards towards our darkest days, stop allowing our children to suffer in poorly funded schools, our elderly relatives to wait 10 hours for treatment in our accident and emergency departments. I say this year, we vow to stop being walked over and trampled on by politicians who care not a jot that we are all struggling as long as they are OK.

Northern Ireland used to be the headquarters of protest, the nucleus of civil rights and resistance, yet we have not had a working government for two years and we have done very little. We have had politicians who draw a pay cheque for refusing to talk and work together to make our situation better, yet we let them.

Our children's schools are crying out for help, laying off staff, are unable to afford books, after-school clubs and even toilet roll and yet we do nothing.

Universal Credit has families in our communities running to food banks, welfare reform has created a dire situation and many of our neighbours and their children are living in extreme poverty. Yet we sit back and take it.

This time last year the American public inaugurated a racist, misogynistic, taunting, uncaring, obsessive tweeter into the highest office in the world and we've seen the ceaseless car crash he has created since.

Here at home we had our own problems, voting a bunch of abstentionists into Westminster, leaving those opposed to Brexit with no voice during perhaps the most volatile and dangerous era in modern political history.

And we seemed to hark back 20 years and hand the parties on complete polar opposites of the political spectrum power again, resulting in stand-off of epic proportions that shows zero signs of being resolved any time soon.

Voids created by perfect political storms across the world have allowed those with extreme views to raise their voices. People have lost their fear of being politically correct and spouted all kinds of hatred. Racism is on the rise globally and sectarianism is on the rise locally.

We must vow this year to do better. We must promise to challenge those who insist on harming our society, our civility, our communities, our existence. We can't stop extremists from spewing vitriol and breeding hatred but we can make sure that their views are challenged. We can make sure that those they speak ill of feel that they are not alone. We can continue to fight their corner.

If the Trump elections have proved anything to be true it is that bad politicians are elected by good people who don't vote. In 2016 only half of the voting population in the north came out to vote. Last year that rose to 65 per cent. That means that a sizeable section of the community didn't bother to make their vote count.

I defy anyone to tell me that politics doesn't affect them. If you are angry at the state of this place, make this the year you make your voice heard in the ballot box.

As we enter 2019 and certain Brexapocalypse, we must vow to hold on for dear life as we navigate the rapids. We must promise to fight back with people power if we can and, whatever happens, stay the course and work to make Northern Ireland work. We have far too much to lose.

The world might look as if it has gone crazy. Hatred and division might look as if they are rising to the fore, but we can do small things here in our little circles that can make a difference.

We can raise children to be empathetic, to have compassion for their fellow man, to have a heart open to helping others and to be wise and caring. We can show them how to stand up against hatred, and to respect our neighbours near and far by being good human beings every day. We can make them strong, fierce, fearless and willing to stand up for what's right.

Forget your diet resolutions, let's do that every day and work to make the future brighter.

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