2009

New Year’s Day: a Thursday (severely cold weather)

2 January: Death of Tony Gregory, 61, Independent Dublin TD [member of the Irish parliament].

Carlos Latuff cartoon on the conflict in Israel-Palestine as experienced by the two communities

Carlos Latuff cartoon on the conflict in Israel-Palestine as experienced by the two communities

3 January: Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza strip (this is phase 2 of Operation Cast Lead, as it is called by the Israeli defence forces, phase 1 started on 27 December 2008; the aim of Israeli forces is to stop home-made rockets being fired into Israeli territory and to shut down the tunnels into Egypt the Palestinians have dug which, the Israelis say, are the means by which Hamas brings in the materials for their home-made rockets; Palestinians, on the other hand, say the tunnels bring food and other necessary supplies in because Israel have imposed a near total blockade on the territory). It is impossible to know the real rights and wrongs of what’s going on, of course, however one thing is for sure is that Israel seems to be following a policy of killing about 50 Palestinians for every dead Israeli (the ratio used to be about 10 to one but it looks like they have dramatically racheted-up the cost of war for the Palestinians). Also as the Carlos Latuff cartoon (above) seeks to point out the actual threat to Israelis from those home-made pieces of shit from Hamas are really nothing whereas Israel is in a position to deploy almost unlimited amounts of multi-billion-dollar ordinance any one piece of which does a thousand times more damage than even the very best effort by the Hamas people. Moreover, it seems very clear Israel is punishing the Palestinians in Gaza as a whole for the crimes of Hamas (ie, collective punishment of a people).

Cold weather consisting of snow and freezing temperatures causing widespread disruption across Britain and Ireland and northern Europe (many schools do not reopen after the holidays)

Cold weather consisting of snow and freezing temperatures causing widespread disruption across Britain and Ireland and northern Europe (many schools do not reopen after the holidays)

7 January: Russia shuts off all gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly endorses the move and urges greater international involvement in the dispute. The disputes are between Ukrainian oil and gas company Naftohaz Ukrayiny and Russian gas supplier Gazprom over natural gas supplies, prices, and debts. They have grown beyond simple business disputes into transnational political issues — involving political leaders from several countries — that threaten natural gas supplies in numerous European countries dependent on natural gas imports from Russian suppliers, which are transported through Ukraine. Russia provides approximately a quarter of the natural gas consumed in the European Union; approximately 80% of those exports travel through pipelines across Ukrainian soil prior to arriving in the EU. A serious dispute began in March 2005 over the price of natural gas supplied and the cost of transit. During this conflict, Russia claimed Ukraine was not paying for gas, but diverting that which was intended to be exported to the EU from the pipelines. Ukrainian officials at first denied the accusation, but later Naftohaz admitted that natural gas intended for other European countries was retained and used for domestic needs. The dispute reached a crescendo on 1 January 2006, when Russia cut off all gas supplies passing through Ukrainian territory. On 4 January 2006, a preliminary agreement between Russia and Ukraine was achieved, and the supply was restored. This tentative situation continued until October 2007 when new disputes began over Ukrainian gas debts. This led to reduction of gas supplies in March 2008. During the last months of 2008, relations once again became tense when Ukraine and Russia could not agree on the debts owed by Ukraine. So, finally, [in January 2009,] Russia shut off all gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine which, of course, has resulted in supply disruptions in many European nations: eighteen European countries reporting major drops in or complete cut-offs of their gas supplies transported through Ukraine from Russia.

8 January: Dell Computers announce the axing of 2,000 jobs at their plant in Limerick (this is part of their long-anticipated pull-out from Ireland now that they can have a European base some place in eastern Europe where they can pay their workers a lot less and have fewer pesky employment regulations and so forth).

16 January: Death of Sir John Mortimer, barrister, author and dramatist (b. 1923), best known for his Rumpole of the Bailey stories.

17 January: Israel has announced ceasefire in their Gaza operation (see 3 January, above). About 1,200 Palestinians dead (figure disputed but independent sources put it at between 1,100 and 1,400) and 13 Israelis (4 of the Israelis died as a result of “friendly fire”).

44th US president20 January: Barack Obama inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States in front of a crowd of more than one million in the mall in Washington (with countless millions watching the ceremony on television across the world).

21 January: Hilary Clinton becomes the new U.S. Secretary of State.

22 January: President Obama signs executive orders to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp within one year and to prohibit the use of torture (“enhanced interrogation techniques”) by American officials in dealing with terrorist suspects.

26 January: Prime Minister Geir Haarde is the latest casualty in Iceland’s banking system collapse; in October 2008, in less than a week, the country’s three major commercial banks (Glitnir, Landsbanki and Kaupthing) all had to be taken over by the state as they were unable to roll over their loans; however, it looks like the scale of the financial crisis in Iceland is too much even for the state to handle (plus there is controversy about party political donations from some of the financial institutions to Geir Haarde’s party — even talk of criminal proceedings for corruption). There’s trouble on the streets in Iceland (in the death of winter!!).

27 January: Death of American writer John Updike (b. 1932), best known for his “Rabbit” series of novels which chronicle the life of the middle-class everyman Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom over the course of several decades (portraiture of the view from New England in the second half of the 20th century).

Blagojevichmayor29 January: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich becomes the first state governor to be impeached and removed from office in a quarter century (Blagojevich is seen here in the picture on the right, in the black T-shirt): he was caught auctioning off Barack Obama’s senate seat — as governor he had the power to appoint someone to serve out the remainder of Barack Obama’s senate term. He’ll see jail for this — they’ve caught him cold on the phone, himself on his office phone (how stupid can you be?)!!!

29 January: Death of singer/songwriter John Martyn  (b. 1948), Solid Air (1973) is considered one of the defining albums of the 1970s.

FEBRUARY

 Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

1 February: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (right) is the new prime minister of Iceland. The previous prime minister, Geir Haarde resigned in January (see 26 January, above).

2 February: Former Taoiseach [Irish prime minister] Bertie Ahern blockaded and jostled out of National University of Ireland, Galway, by angry students protesting at the reintroduction of fees.

4 February: Unemployment in Ireland reached 9.2 percent with a record 326,100 people on the live register (the highest monthly increase in 40 years, now an average 1,500 people being laid off daily; things getting bad very fast)

5 February: The Bank of England reduced the base rate of interest by 0.5% to 1.0%, the fifth reduction since October 2008 (the British economy is tanking, the IMF expects it will shrink by 2.8% in the year ahead)

9 February: Chelsea Football Club sack manager Luiz Felipe Scolari after results deteriorate “at a key time in the season” (in 2002 Scolari managed his native Brazil to World Cup glory and, in 2004, managed Portugal to the final of the European Championships); Scolari was only appointed in July 2008, the third Chelsea that year; Chelsea are fourth in the premiership table but they are not playing well and his sacking comes after a 2-0 defeat away to Liverpool and an especially grim 0-0 draw with Hull after which Chelsea were booed off the field at the final whistle and sections of the crowd could be heard chanting “you don’t know what you’re doing” at Scolari.

11 February: UK unemployment has risen to 1.97 million, an increase of 146,000 in the last three months (see also 5 February, above).

Bushfires raging in Australia, the worst in Australian history; before they burn out 173 lives are lost, hundreds are injured, 7,500 people are left homeless. The fires come after Melbourne records one of the highest-ever temperature (46.4 °C, 115 °F) of any city in Australia. The majority of the fires are ignited by either fallen or clashing power lines or deliberately lit.

Bushfires raging in Australia, the worst in Australian history; before they burn out 173 lives are lost, hundreds are injured, 7,500 people are left homeless. The fires come after Melbourne records one of the highest-ever temperature (46.4 °C, 115 °F) of any city in Australia. The majority of the fires are ignited by either fallen or clashing power lines or deliberately lit.

12 February: Death of Irish playwright, essayist, and newspaper columnist Hugh Leonard (b. 1926).

13 February: Shares in the Lloyds Banking Group closed down over 30% after suggestions that one of its subsidiaries, HBOS, would post annual losses of nearly £11 billion. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, said that a ‘range of options’ remained in place to assist the banking system, and refused to rule out full nationalisation. (Also deputy chairman of the Financial Services Authority, Sir James Crosby, resigns amid allegations that, whilst chief executive of HBOS, he sacked a senior manager who raised concerns that the bank was exposed to too much risk.)

17 February: Irish Nationwide [Building Society] chairman Michael Walsh resigns over his involvement in the Anglo Irish Bank hidden loans controversy (the building society was secretly loaning money to Anglo-Irish executives to make the Anglo-Irish books look OK for audits/inspections and for annual reports for shareholders).

afghanistan18 February: President announces the deployment of an additional 17,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan before heading off on his first foreign trip (which is to Canada, a per tradition, a tradition not honoured only by George W. Bush).

21 February: Huge march in Dublin protesting how the Government is handling the economic crisis (estimates of the size of the crowd vary, but it was under/over 130,000, which by [apathetic] Irish standards is very big)

slumdog-millionaire22 February: At the 81st Academy Awards, British film Slumdog Millionaire wins 8 awards including Best Picture and Best Director. A ‘sleeper hit’, Slumdog Millionaire is a 2008 British drama film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Simon Beaufoy, and co-directed in India by Loveleen Tandan. It is an adaptation of the novel Q & A (2005) by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup. Set and filmed in India, the film tells the story of Jamal Malik, a young man from the Juhu slums of Mumbai who appears on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and exceeds people’s expectations, thereby arousing the suspicions of cheating; Jamal recounts in flashback how he knows the answer to each question, each one linked to a key event in his life.

24 February: Irish police raid the headquarters of Anglo Irish Bank in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin (this should have been done ages ago; they will not find anything incriminating now!!)

24 February: President Obama addresses Congress and defends the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a 700 billion dollar package to prop up the U.S. financial system, buying up huge holdings in AIG and troubled banks and the like to prevent a domino-type collapse (similar to what the UK and other governments across the world are doing right now). But, obviously, very controversial because essentially taxpayers are picking up the tab for the huge gambling binge the financial community has been on — privatizing profits and socializing losses. TARP is actually a George W. Bush legacy, it was signed into law in October 2008, before Obama was inaugurated as president in January 2009, but it’s clear Obama is going to take much of the flak for it.

rbs26 February: The Royal Bank of Scotland, as expected, announces annual losses totalling £24.1 billion, the biggest loss in British corporate history. It is also confirmed that the bank is to receive a further £13 billion from the government in return for an increased stake in the company. (Alongside the announcement of its results, the Royal Bank of Scotland Group announces that its former chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, is to receive a £693,000-a-year pension for life. The announcement leads to widespread condemnation, as might be imagined, in response to which the government blusters about taking legal action to claw back the payments, which it has no intention of doing for fear of being characterized as anti-free-market, ‘Old Labour’ et cetra; anyway it appears there is no credible legal basis for any such challenge to the deal.)

MARCH

AIG_Headquarters_New_York_City2 March:  Insurance giant AIG reports nearly $62 billion in losses during the fourth quarter of 2008, and the US government gives it $30 billion more in aid in a new bailout

3 March: Gunmen attack a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, Pakistan, killing eight people and injuring several others.

4 March: The International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC since its establishment in 2002.

As good as it gets for British PM Gordon Brown

British PM Gordon Brown

5 March: Following talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington D.C., Gordon Brown becomes the fifth British Prime Minister to address the United States Congress (an address mainly to do with the international financial crisis — Brown sees himself as the leader of the rescue mission in the Western World, and, indeed, in fairness, he has been at the centre of things since 1997, as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer and, more recently, prime minister).

5 March: The Bank of England reduces the base interest rate to 0.5%, its lowest ever level. It also announces plans to begin ‘Quantitative Easing’ by injecting £75 billion into the British economy. See also entries for 5, 11, 24, 26 February, and for 2 and 5 March, above.

7 March: British government takes a controlling stake, reported to be 65%, in the troubled Lloyds Banking Group. Toxic loans totalling £260 billion will be insured by the government as part of the deal (see notes for 5 March, above).

Brian Cowen nude7–8 March: Nude portraits of Taoiseach Brian Cowen hung clandestinely by Conor Casby in the National Gallery of Ireland and Royal Hibernian Academy’s gallery. Stupidly — iron fist in an iron glove — a police investigation is launched and the guy is arrested, making the story political (instead of simply laughing it off and letting the galleries deal with it as they thought best).

15 March: U.S. insurance giant AIG announces it will pay $450 million in bonuses to top executives despite its central role in the global financial meltdown and despite receiving a $173 billion government bailout. A massive public outcry follows, with Obama calling AIG greedy and reckless

Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson18 March: UK unemployment rose to 2.03 million in the three months to January. It takes unemployment above 2,000,000 for the first time since 1997. See also notes for 5 March and 7 March, above.

18 March: Actress Natasha Richardson, wife of Liam Neeson, dies (b. 1963); notable films included Patty Hearst (1988), The Handmaid’s Tale (1990), Nell (1994), The Parent Trap (1998), and Maid in Manhattan (2002). Natasha was one of the celebrated Redgrave-Richardson family, Vanessa Redgrave was her mother and Michael Redgrave her grandfather. She died as a result of traumatic brain injury cause by skiing accident in Canada.

Ronan O'Gara and Brian O'Driscoll with the Six Nations trophy

Ronan O’Gara and Brian O’Driscoll with the Six Nations trophy

21 March: Ireland beat Wales 17-15 to win the 2009 Six Nations [Rugby] Championship (and Triple Crown), completing a Grand Slam [ie, beating all-comers in a season] first time in 61 years.

APRIL

London_Summit_2009-12 April: With demonstrators on the streets (but kept well away from the VIPs), the 2009 G-20 London summit is held in response to the ongoing global financial crisis. The summit ends in the leaders announcing various measures, including a $1.1 trillion investment in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

8 April: Analogue television signals begin to be switched off in the Westcountry Television area as part of the UK’s ongoing process of digital switchover.

11 April: Gordon Brown’s special adviser Damian McBride resigns his position after it emerges that he and another prominent Labour Party operative, blogger Derek Draper, had exchanged a series of emails in which they discussed plans to smear Conservative Party politicians with a series of false stories about their private lives.

Christian Bale in the film version of J.G. Ballard's 'Empire of the Sun'

Christian Bale in the film version of J.G. Ballard’s ‘Empire of the Sun’

19 April: Death of J. G. Ballard (b. 1930), English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Ballard came to be associated with the New Wave of science fiction early in his career with apocalyptic (or post-apocalyptic) novels such as The Drowned World (1962), The Burning World (1964), and The Crystal World (1966). In the late 1960s and early 1970s Ballard focused on an eclectic variety of short stories (or “condensed novels”) such as The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), which drew closer comparison with the work of postmodernist writers such as William S. Burroughs. In 1973 the highly controversial novel Crash was published, a story about symphorophilia and car crash fetishism; the protagonist becomes sexually aroused by staging and participating in real car crashes. The story was later adapted into a film of the same name by David Cronenberg. While many of Ballard’s stories are thematically and narratively unusual, he is perhaps best known for his relatively conventional war novel, Empire of the Sun (1984), a semi-autobiographical account of a young boy’s experiences in Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War as it came to be occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army. Described as “The best British novel about the Second World War” (The Guardian), the story was adapted into a fabulous (1987) Steven Spielberg film.

Ireland's Paul O'Connell (left) with Brian O'Driscoll

Ireland’s Paul O’Connell (left) with Brian O’Driscoll

21 April: following Ireland’s Six Nations triumph and Rugby Grand Slam (see 21 March, above), Paul O’Connell is named as the captain of the British and Irish Lions squad to tour South Africa this summer along with 13 other Irish players.

22 April: Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivers the government’s budget to the House of Commons. It includes the introduction of a 50% tax rate for those earning in excess of £150,000 and the announcement that Britain’s debt level will rise to 79% of GDP by 2013.

27 April: The outbreak of Swine Flu (H1N1) originating in Mexico spreads to the UK, with 2 cases confirmed in Scotland.

Traveller-wearing-masks-d-00129 April: Three cases of Swine Flu are confirmed in England.

30 April: British military operations in Iraq officially ends after six years of combat. The Basra Province is handed over to American forces in a special ceremony, ahead of the withdrawal of British troops in the summer.

MAY

1 May: The number of confirmed Swine Flu cases in the UK reaches 13. Notably, the first cases of human to human transmission of the virus are confirmed in Scotland and South Gloucestershire (see also 27 and 29 April, above)

RTE's Ryan Tubridy

RTE’s Ryan Tubridy

8 May: The Daily Telegraph obtains a full copy of MPs’ expenses claims, and begin publishing them prior to the official parliamentary publication date of 1 July, reigniting the MPs’ expenses controversy.

11 May: Ryan Tubridy was named as the new presenter of the long-running Late Late Show (RTE’s flagship chat show) replacing Pat Kenny. His first show as presenter will be in September 2009.

16 May: Manchester United win the Premier League championship for the third consecutive year after a 0–0 draw against Arsenal at Old Trafford. They have now equalled Liverpool’s record tally of 18 top division titles.

Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin

19 May: The Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, announces his resignation from the office after coming under criticism for his handling of the ongoing expenses row.

19 May: Sri Lankan goverment announces victory in its 27 year war against the terrorist organisation Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (concerns about the apparent slaughter of Tamils at the end of it; government forces had them all penned in a peninsula and it appears like they simply systematically killed everybody, men, women, children, Tamil Tiger fighters, everybody).

20 May: Ireland’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse report was published (the Ryan Report). The long-delayed investigation into Roman Catholic-run institutions said that priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades. The Commission is one of a range of measures introduced by the Irish government to investigate the extent and effects of abuse on children from 1936 onwards. Commonly known as the Ryan Commission (previously “the Laffoy Commission”), after its chair, Justice Seán Ryan. (Judge Laffoy resigned on 2 September 2003, following a departmental review on costs and resources. She felt that: “…the cumulative effect of those factors effectively negated the guarantee of independence conferred on the Commission and militated against it being able to perform its statutory functions.”) The Commission’s work started in 1999. The Commission’s remit was to investigate all forms of child abuse in Irish institutions for children; the majority of allegations it investigated related to the system of sixty residential “Reformatory and Industrial Schools” operated by Catholic Church orders, funded and supervised by the Irish Department of Education. The Commission’s report said testimony had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the entire system treated children more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential, that some religious officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders amid a “culture of self-serving secrecy”, and that government inspectors failed to stop the abuses.

23 May: Leinster beat Leicester in the Heineken Cup final (European club rugby), the fourth time an Irish side has won the European trophy (a golden age for Irish rugby; see also 21 March and 21 April, above).

23 May: Former President of South Korea Roh Moo-hyun, under investigation for alleged bribery during his presidential term, commits suicide.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi with Champions League trophy

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi with Champions League trophy

26 May: Former Irish government press secretary Frank Dunlop was sentenced to two years incarceration for corruption, with the final six months suspended. He pleaded guilty to five charges of corruption.

27 May: Manchester United lose 2–0 to FC Barcelona of Spain in the European Cup final at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

29 May: Ireland’s oldest brewery in Cork since at least 1650, and home to Beamish and Crawford since 1792, ceased operations.

30 May: Chelsea win the FA Cup for the fifth time after beating Everton 2–1 in the final at Wembley Stadium. Everton French striker Louis Saha scores the fastest ever FA Cup Final goal, after 23 second.

31 May: Death of Irish-born gay-club entertainer Danny La Rue (b. 1927), known mainly for his drag act, who achieved a considerable level of mainstream success too (an amazing amount for such homophobic times). Among his celebrity impersonations (for which he was celebrated) were Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Margaret Thatcher. At one point he had his own nightclub in Hanover Square, and also performed in a number of top ticket shows in London’s West End. In the 1960s he was among Britain’s highest-paid entertainers. In 1982 he played Dolly Levi in the musical Hello, Dolly!. He also has the distinction of being the only man to take over a woman’s role in a West End theatre when he replaced Avis Bunnage in Oh, What a Lovely War! and he was until his death still a regular performer in traditional Christmas pantomime shows.

JUNE

1 June:  Air France Flight 447, en route from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris, crashes into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 on board.

1 June: Death of legendary Irish race horse trainer Vincent O’Brien, aged 92 (won just about everything there is to win in horse racing in this part of the world)

UK unemployment2-3 June: Unemployment in Britain is now standing at a 14-year high of 2,220,000 and rising (the latest quarterly rise in unemployment is the highest for 28 years). The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, confirms she will leave the Cabinet in the next reshuffle, expected after the forthcoming local and European elections. It is also announced that the Cabinet Office Minister, Tom Watson and the Minister for Children, Beverley Hughes are leaving government service. Then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, resigns from the Cabinet, placing increased pressure on the increasingly beleaguered prime minister, Gordon Brown, coming as it does at the same time as an Ipsos MORI opinion poll suggesting the Conservatives are on course for a landslide election victory, with 40% of those polled saying they would vote for the party. Labour and the Liberal Democrats stand 22% behind the Conservatives, both being supported by 18% of respondents. (Minority parties, including the British National Party and UK Independence Party also enjoying a surge in support, alongside the Scottish and Welsh nationalists.)

Hard times for struggling Irish premier Brian Cowen

Irish PM Brian Cowen

5 June: Local and European elections held in Ireland: good day for Fine Gael and Labour parties (the main opposition parties), poor day for the governing Fianna Fail party and very poor for the Green Party, the junior coalition partner. In the local elections: Fine Gael (35%, up 88 councillors); Fianna Fail (25%, down 135 councillors); Labour (14%, up 43 councillors); Sinn Fein (8%, up 2 councillors); Greens (1.1%, down 14 councillors). At 556 out of a total of 1,627 Fine Gael now have a the largest block of county and city councillors in the country (FF next with 407, then Labour with 231, then Sinn Fein with 127; Greens now down to 18). In the European elections, again Fine Gael came out top winning 4 of the 12 European Parliament seats that the Republic of Ireland occupy, Fianna Fail won 3, Labour won 3, with the other two seats going to independent candidates.

morland_brown5 June: Local election results very bad for the governing Labour Party in UK (with the remaining councils under Labour Party control all falling to the Conservative Party’s control). The projected national vote shares suggests that the Conservatives achieved 38% of the vote, the Liberal Democrats 28% and Labour 23%. In the aftermath of these results, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, reshuffles his cabinet amidst some pressure on his leadership of the Labour Party (newspapers, of course, characterize the reshuffle as ‘rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic’; as one parliamentary wag put it, in no time at all Gordon Brown has gone from being [the invincible] Uncle Joe [Stalin] to Mr Bean — his government is now a worse and more hopeless looking shambles that John Major’s government after the fall of Mrs Thatcher [but at least Major fought and won an election whereas Brown has shirked an encounter with the electorate (he should have gone to the country in the autumn after he took over from Tony Blair) and he is now totally in a bunkered situation and every time he emerges out of his Downing Street bunker he makes things worse for himself; it is painful to witness, and kind of funny too in a FUBAR sort of way].

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran

11 June: The outbreak of the H1N1 influenza strain, commonly referred to as “swine flu”, is deemed a global pandemic, becoming the first condition since the Hong Kong flu of 1967–1968 to receive this designation.

12 June:  Analog television broadcasts end in the United States, as the Federal Communications Commission requires all full power stations to send their signals digitally.

13 June: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is re-elected as president of Iran (widespread allegations of fraud and ballot-rigging and the like leading to trouble on the streets in a number of areas).

Daily Mirror Michael Jackson21 June: As a step toward total independence from the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland assumes control over its law enforcement, judicial affairs, and natural resources. Greenlandic becomes the official language.

22 June: Conservative MP John Bercow is elected as the 157th Speaker of the House of Commons (following resignation of previous speaker, see 19 May, above).

25 June: Death of American popster Michael Jackson (drugs overdose it looks like, he was on all sorts of shit up to and including horse tranquilizers).

25 June: Death of television actor Farrah Fawcett (b. 1947), best know for 1970s television hit Charlie’s Angels.

JULY

1 July: Death of American actor Karl Malden, actor and spokesman (b. 1912), best known for his performances in classic films such as A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, On the Waterfront (1954).

The Sarah Palin tribe

The Sarah Palin tribe

3 July: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin unexpectedly announces her resignation, effective July 26, 2009, [ie, just two-and-a-half years into her 4-year term] citing the costs and distractions of battling frivolous ethics investigations launched against her. However, of course, it is far more likely that she wants to cash in on her new-found celeb status (having been John McCain’s VP pick for the Republican ticket in 2008 and being so beloved by Fox News and other right-wing media outlets) which is potentially worth millions upon millions of dollars (an asset which is at top-dollar valuation right now; two more years in Alaska is not going to do anything more for it, and impeachment would lay waste to it); apparently she would far rather be enriching herself than going to country fairs and cornball dinner dances up in backwoods Alaska on $200,000 a year. Media chatterers speculate she is doing this because she wants to prepare for a presidential run in 2012, however, it is difficult to see how abandoning your post because you don’t like all the pettifogging scrutiny (such as it is up in Alaska) prepares you for a position in which you responsibilities increase a thousandfold (at least) and the pettifogging scrutiny increases correspondingly. No, this is a dash for cash; this yapper has got no serious future in American politics, except as a talking head (a crazy lady on the far right who is always good for a mangled sound-bite and an orthodontic grin).

Staffordshire Hoard5 July: The largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England (already dubbed “The Staffordshire Hoard”); it consists of over 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character (1,500 gold and silver pieces). The hoard was discovered buried in a field in Staffordshire by metal detecting enthusiast Terry Herbert. The artefacts have tentatively been dated to the 7th or 8th centuries, placing the origin of the items in the time of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. The hoard has been described by Leslie Webster, former keeper of the department of prehistory at the British Museum, as “the metalwork equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells.”

6 July: Death of Robert McNamara (b. 1916), business executive (with the Ford Motor Corporation) and 8th United States Secretary of Defense

11 July: 8 British soldiers are killed in Afghanistan.

Walter Cronkite announcing the death of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963

Walter Cronkite announcing the death of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963

17 July: Death of veteran radio and television journalist Walter Cronkite (b. 1916), best known perhaps for his announcement of the death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 (where he was so clearly in shock at the news he was broadcasting). Often cited as “the most trusted man in America”, his reports on the war in Vietnam, a situation he concluded in which “we are mired in stalemate”, were hugely influential in turning the tide in “Middle America” against the war.

First World War veteran Harry Patch

Harry Patch

19 July: Death of Irish-American writer Frank McCourt, writer (b. 1930), best known for the memoir Angela’s Ashes (1996), for which he won a Pulitzer Prize.

25 July: Harry Patch, the last British survivor of the First World War trenches, dies at the age of 111.

30 July: In Ireland draft legislation to establish the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) published. The Bill proposes to give NAMA extensive powers to take over land and development loans from banks in an effort to get them lending again (and thereby supporting economic recovery — all liquidity has gone out of the system, nothing’s moving, nothing’s growing, nothing’s developing, except a sense of crisis and foreboding).

31 July: Death of Sir Bobby Robson, former England football manager (b. 1933); after his playing career (he won 20 caps playing for England in the 1950s and 60s) he found success as both a club and international manager, winning trophies England, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, and taking England to the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup, which remains the national team’s best run in a World Cup since 1966.

AUGUST

 

8 August: Sonia Sotomayor takes the judicial oath, becoming the third woman (and the first Hispanic) to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor

20 August: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, imprisoned for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 (the Lockerbie bombing), is released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds as he has terminal prostate cancer. He is returned to his native Libya. Although the UK government denies any involvement — this was the decision of the devolved Scottish authorities — all the world knows this is part of a patch-up deal with Libya brokered by Tony Blair before he left office, which is worth billions in trade agreement deals for British corporations.

25 August: Death of Edward Kennedy (b. 1932), Senator for Massachuesetts, brother of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

Senator Edward ("Ted") Kennedy (1932-2009)

Senator Edward (“Ted”) Kennedy, 1932-2009

August: The “Shrewsbury Hoard” (also the “Shropshire Hoard”) is a hoard of 9,315 bronze Roman coins discovered by a metal detectorist in a field near Shrewsbury, Shropshire in August 2009 (specific date not provided). The coins were found in a large pottery storage jar that was buried in about AD 335. The coins were found buried in a brown pot in a plantation next to a public bridleway by Nic Davies only a month after he had started metal detecting as a hobby, and were his first find. See also entry for 5 July, above.

SEPTEMBER

8 September: The Police Service of Northern Ireland find and defuse a 600 pound bomb in South Armagh (see also 17 September, below).

Congressman Joe Wilson making the only contribution to American politics for which he will be remembered

Congressman Joe Wilson making his contribution to American politics (see entry for 9 September, below), at least it will be the only thing for which he will be remembered (probably)

9 September: President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on healthcare reform (the new president is determined to drive through a healthcare plan that will provide healthcare insurance cover for the estimated 30 million Americans who have nothing at all or have been refused cover [for ‘pre-existing conditions’ and the like]). Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouts, “You lie!” as Obama says illegal immigrants will not be covered under his healthcare proposals. The heckling was a first in U.S. politics: never before has a president been heckled at an address to Congress, not in living memory anyway, let alone in such street-corner terms — even at the height of his unpopularity, having taken the country into one of the most disastrous campaigns in American history (and done so like a confidence-trickster), was George W. Bush ever subjected to anything like it. (The partisanship in American politics is even worse than it was in the days of President Clinton, which is saying something because in Clinton’s time partisanship politics shut down the federal government and almost led to Clinton being impeached over the jerk-off Monica Lewinsky affair.)

keith-floyd-434014 September: Death of TV chef Keith Floyd (b. 1943), best known, perhaps, for the amount of wine he scoffed (on camera) as he made his very entertaining and popular television shows.

17 September: Three members of the CIRA (Continuity IRA) are jailed in Northern Ireland for 15 years each for having a live Mortar Bomb. Riots break out in Lurgan, County Armagh, as a consequence. Cars are hijacked and placed on the railway lines disrupting services between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The riots continued for three days and there were reports of masked gunmen roaming the streets. See also entry for 8 September, above.

World leaders at the G20 Pittsburgh Summit

World leaders at the G20 Pittsburgh Summit

24 & 25 September: The G20 summit takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. World leaders at the summit announce that the G-20 will assume greater leverage over the global economy, replacing the role of the G8, in an effort to prevent another global financial crisis.

OCTOBER

2 October: The second referendum on the EU Treaty of Lisbon held. The treaty was passed with a 67 percent ‘Yes’ vote (on a turnout of 59%); the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland permitted the state to ratify the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union, which was effected by the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Act 2009, approved by referendum (usually known as Lisbon II). The amendment’s enactment followed the failure of a previous attempt which was rejected in the “Lisbon I referendum”, held in June 2008. The successful referendum in 2009 represented a swing of 20.5% to the “Yes” side, from the result in 2008. Formalities having been conducted, the state ratified the treaty and deposited the instrument of ratification with the Italian government on 23 October. The Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009.

Stephen Gately10 October: Boyzone singer Stephen Gately died in the apartment in Majorca he shared with his husband, Andrew Cowles.

13 October: Séamus Kirk was elected Ceann Comhairle [speaker of the Irish parliament] following the resignation of John O’Donoghue over an expenses controversy.

15 October: Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Wolf Hall (about the life of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister) awarded the Man Booker Prize.

NOVEMBER

VFCVCVS08090.70

4 November: Five British soldiers are shot dead in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province while mentoring and training Afghan police. Six other British servicemen and two Aghan police are also injured in the attack which the UK military blames on a “rogue” policeman.

5 November: Fort Hood military base (in Texas) becomes the scene the worst mass shooting at a U.S. military base when Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan opens fire, killing 13 and wounding dozens.

8-14 November: Severe gales and heavy rain from an Atlantic storm cause floods and damage across Ireland, England, and Wales.

16 November: Death of British actor Edward Woodward (b. 1930), best known, perhaps, for his performances in the title role of the British television spy drama Callan (from 1967), earning him the 1970 British Academy Television Award for Best Actor, and for his portrayal of Police Sergeant Neil Howie in the 1973 cult British horror film The Wicker Man.

Thierry Henry handball which led directly to the goal which knocked Ireland out of the 2010 World Cup Finals

Thierry Henry handball which led directly to the goal which knocked Ireland out of the 2010 World Cup Finals

18 November: France qualify for the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa at the expense of Ireland (2-1 to France on aggregate; 1-0 to France in the first leg in France; 1-1 in Dublin) by virtue of a goal from Thierry Henry which involved a very clear handball, which he got away with (even Henry acknowledges he handled it). People very upset in Ireland; FAI attempting to secure a replay of the match and even a demonstration outside the French embassy in Dublin.

19 & 20 November: Highest ever UK 24-hour rainfall total, 314.4 mm, recorded at Seathwaite Farm, Cumbria. Many towns and villages in Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway are flooded following several days of heavy rain. Three bridges collapse, one of them leading to the death of a police officer, who was standing on the bridge when it collapsed.

20 November: The Progressive Democrats, the junior partner in the 2002-07 coalition government in Ireland (coalition with Fianna Fail), officially dissolved (they were all but wiped out in the 2007 general election).

22 November: The latest MORI poll in the UK shows the Conservatives just six points ahead of Labour, their narrowest lead for two years, with 37% of the vote, which, if translated into election results, would result in a hung parliament. Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has suggested his party would support the Tories if the election resulted in no overall majority.

25 November: Ireland’s largest tour operator, Budget Travel, has ceased trading.

Golf champion Tiger Woods and his wife Elin Nordegren

Golf champion Tiger Woods and his wife Elin Nordegren

27 November: Golfer Tiger Woods is involved in a car accident the day after Thanksgiving, triggering media coverage that reveal a very troubled and complicated life (involving scores of women).

DECEMBER

3 December: The Sisters of Mercy in Ireland announce that they will contribute property and money worth €128 million to the victims’ compensation fund following the publication (in May) of the Ryan Report in the abuses of children in church-run institutions (see entry for 20 May, above).

7 December: Funeral of Liam Clancy, the last of The Clancy Brothers.

Liam Clancy on stage with Shane McGowan

Liam Clancy on stage with Shane McGowan

16 December: 78-year-old Irish priest Thomas Naughton given a three-year prison sentence for his sexual abuse of an altar boy while he served in Blessington, County Wicklow.

16 December: UK unemployment now stands at the highest figure for 15 years – almost 2.5 million, 8% of the workforce.

London snow17 December: Pope Benedict XVI accepts the resignation of Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray who is criticised by the Murphy Report (into clerical child abuse in the Dublin diocese) for his behaviour concerning child sexual abuse.

18 December: Ireland’s first motorway to link two cities, Dublin and Galway, opened several months ahead of schedule.

18 December: Heavy snowfall causes widespread disruption across large parts of South East England, East Anglia, the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.

18 December: After 27 years, Sir Terry Wogan presents his final breakfast show on BBC Radio 2.

terry_wogan_1546200c23 December: Jim Moriarty, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, resigned, the second bishop to do so following the publication of the Murphy Report (see also entry for 17 December, above). He was followed within 36 hours by the two remaining serving auxiliary bishops in Dublin, Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field.

25 December: Videos surface of missing U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl being held by Taliban forces in Afghanistan since June. The videos are not considered proof he is still living because they appear to be several months old.

balls-of-fire25 December: As Northwest Airlines Flight 253 approaches Detroit, Nigerian al-Qaeda member Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (whom boarded in Amsterdam) attempts to detonate plastic explosives concealed in his underwear; he is subdued by passengers and crew.

31 December: Death of former Irish government minister Justin Keating, 79, humanist and Labour Party politician (Minister for Industry and Commerce, 1973–1977).

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