Well, there we have it. Today marks the final day of 2015, and before long we shall be welcoming in the New Year of 2016. Personally, I cannot believe that it is New Year’s Eve already; I am still convinced I am tucked away somewhere mid-semester. However, regardless of my living in denial regarding the rapidly approaching New Year, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful and Happy New Year. I hope that 2016 is filled with every happiness, friendship and success for you all.
I would like also to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has visited this blog, who has ‘liked’ and shared posts, who has commented and subscribed. I really do appreciate how people have taken time out to visit this blog, and scroll through my posts. When I started this blog back in July of this year, I had imagined it to be of mostly small circulation, and more of a way for me to articulate and publish my thoughts on politics, legal developments etc. I did not imagine that many would actively click on the links to my posts, let alone read them! So you can imagine that I am really so very amazed and grateful that this blog has had over 700 visitors and over 1,200 views in only a couple of months. I cannot thank you enough, and I so very grateful that there are those who are willing to read my musings. I can only hope that you are willing to continue to do so into the New Year!
I started this blog in the summer of 2015 prior to commencing final year law, thinking it only to be an online journal of sorts. Now I realise it has grown to be more than this: it has given me a voice on topics I love and care passionately about. I do not write for money or other rewards; I write because it is interesting, challenging and always fun. I can see how theory taught in my degree gains practical application, and in turn can share this knowledge with others. I have been able to share my experiences as a law student, final year student and study abroad survivor, sharing tips along the way. I have been able to help promote causes, such as student societies, charity appeals, volunteer opportunities and student activism. Writing this blog brings me such enjoyment, and I often look forward to reading the news/researching topics of interest to write about as a means to relax during my studies and other student commitments.
So, it has been a great couple of months writing and working on this blog. It has also been a great year as a whole, from studying abroad in the US to commencing my final year as an undergraduate law student. As I sit here swamped with research and notes listening to the wonderful Serial podcast (season one; the Adnan Syed case is becoming very interesting) I was thinking that I should jump on the current bandwagon, and provide a review of sorts of my year in this post. To do so, I will provide a list of my most-read posts and provide a brief summary of each. I will work through on a month-by-month basis, selecting the two posts which recorded the highest hits from each month.
You will see that quite a lot happened in both the political and legal spheres in 2015. Case in point: how can we forget the General Election in May? I was jetlagged, having only arrived in Dublin that morning. I insisted on being driven North to vote, and proceeded to stay up all night to watch the results come in. What a shake-up of the political landscape unfolded. Alas, that I did not have my blog at the time. Or perhaps that is something to be relieved about, given my jetlagged state.
Anyway. Without further ado, let’s begin.
Whose Water Cannon is it Anyway?
This post examined the announcement of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, of her decision to refuse to allow the use of water cannon in England and Wales a year after three of them were bought by the Metropolitan Police at the behest of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Ms May’s three reasons behind her decisions were the basis of operational use, concerns about police legitimacy and medical/technical reasons. The application to request her permission to use water cannon and her subsequent rejection ‘does not apply to Northern Ireland where the use of water cannon is already authorised’, meaning Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where water cannon is used.
Under the Wheels of the EU.
This post covered the ongoing (as it then was) drama around Greece and negotiations around bailout terms. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke out against austerity and harsh bailout terms, and called for a referendum to be held for the Greek people to decide whether to accept the EMU bailout terms. This referendum was criticised by several EU member states as being political-motivated and they warned it would not be considered during negotiations. Whilst the referendum results were in favour of rejecting the harsh bailout terms, Tsipras ultimately had to accept said terms.
Study USA: One Year (and many memories) On
This post discussed my study abroad year in America. I was accepted onto the British Council NI’s ‘Study USA’ scholarship programme, and was placed at the wonderful Coe College, a private liberal-arts college in Cedar Rapids, IA. I explain the programme, noting the requirements scholarship students must fulfil whilst studying abroad, and share my experiences and memories. (I am a law student who was in a sorority and interned at a local law firm. Am I Elle Woods yet?)
When in doubt, seek the Northern Irish out.
This post centred around a letter that then-Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham wrote in The Belfast Telegraph. In his letter, Burnham essentially stated that he was the one who will ensure the people of Northern Ireland have a voice, and are listened to. In my post, I analyse the promises/statements made in the letter, and in sum find it reads more as a reiteration to Labour supporters in the UK mainland of what Burnham stands for, rather than what he would actually do re NI if he should he win the leadership contest. Given the assessment of English parties in Northern Ireland as evidenced by the previous analysis of recent voting outcomes in both 2010 and 2015, the main conclusion I drew overall from the PR exercise was that Burnham must be have been desperate in his bid to become Labour leader and see off the threat of Jeremy Corbyn if he sought to woo Northern Irish voters.
How do you solve a problem like Stormont?
This post discussed the crisis that struck Stormont, dragged out from August until the end of September. Kevin McGuigan, was murdered in Belfast, and then the news took a turn when it was revealed he was an ex-IRA man. His murder was an apparent revenge killing, as allegedly he had been involved in the revenge murder of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison. Moreover, the murder of McGuigan was apparently ordered and carried out by none other than the IRA. The Chief Constable of the PSNI then publicly stated that the Provisional IRA ‘still exists’, further commenting that some Provisional IRA members were involved in the murder. As Sinn Fein and the DUP bickered, the UUP announced the party’s decision to move into opposition via the resignation of their sole representative minister in the Executive. Then the DUP announced there would be no more Executive meetings, and FM Peter Robinson would ‘step aside’, as all DUP ministers bar one resigned. I offer my thoughts on the above, and ultimately conclude that Stormont’s current operation needs to be rectified.
Crown him Corbyn, King of an unstable Labour.
This post covered the successful election of Jeremy Corbyn, as he became the new Leader of the UK Labour party. The veteran left winger, who had only been included on the ballot list at the last minute after several MPs ‘lent’ him their nominations in an effort to kick-start actual discussion and scrutiny, was only ever expected to scrape last place. But after putting in unexpectedly strong performances in leadership hustings, he began to win over large numbers of activists. I wrote about the dire post-General Election summer endured by Labour, and the events which led towards Corbyn’s victory. I also wrote about the controversial Shadow Cabinet appointments made by Corbyn in the aftermath of his win, and the events such as his decision not to sing the National Anthem which marked the end to his honeymoon period. My conclusion? Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
Honorary mention: ‘Of Women, words and the status quo‘ -this post was just beaten out of contention, but given that it involves one Lord Sumption, a member of the UK Supreme Court, making controversial remarks about gender representation and equality in the judiciary, I simply have to include it.
As you move through the (careers) fair
This post was essentially my guide of preparing for and making the most of careers fairs at university. Careers fairs provide students with a unique opportunity to come face-to-face with firms and companies in a relaxing and informal setting, and therefore can help with future career planning. As in a nutshell, attending these fairs is an essential step in planning your future career, I wrote this survival guide of sorts to help students understand why they should attend such events, and then how to prep for their attendance and make the most of their time when there.
Uni’s back for the new term: the adaptability guide.
This post was my write-up of commencing final year Law, and how it felt to be going back to university and entering final year. I discuss how I feel about my modules for the semester, and then offer my tips/survival guide to adapting back into a routine, be it for work, university like myself and so on. This includes understanding the importance of project/time management, task prioritisation.and the wonders of timetables and drawing of schedules. But it also reiterates that you have to remember to set aside time for yourself, too.
This post was written in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. I discuss how it had been a typical day for me on Friday the 13th November, attending a workshop and undertaking research for a coursework assignment for my Legal Theory module that was due for the following Monday. Then I happened to scroll through my Twitter feed, and turned to Sky News to watch horrific scenes. I state the importance of unity using the example of Northern Ireland during The Troubles. I conclude that we must live our lives and insist on our freedoms and civil liberties. We must not blame or be violent towards our fellow citizens. Islam is not what ISIS represents, and we should not be asking our Muslim friends and neighbours to prove they are not terrorists.
A political tale in exploitation and and opportunism.
This post covered the US political response to the Paris attacks. Opening with the news that the vote on the proposed bill, American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, had passed the House, I note that the events and statements made by US politicians following the Paris attacks were a showing of political expediency, political exploitation of the attacks and ultimately a display of political opportunism. I examine the response of President Obama and compare it to the statements made and positions taken by 2016 hopefuls Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul.
Honorary mention: ‘Pro Bono – the important art of helping others for free‘ – again, this was just beaten out of the top two spots, but for any law students interested in pro bono, this one is for you, focusing as it does on National Pro Bono Week, why pro bono is important and how you can get involved.
Sexism Strikes Again
This post examines (using a lot of Smiths references to be sure) sexism in the form of messages sent on networking websites, case in point being a message I received on LinkedIn. It also examines the case of Charlotte Proudman, the barrister who received what she considered a sexist and offensive message from a law firm partner, also on LinkedIn. I conclude that it is a regrettable fact that women are subject to receiving unwanted messages regarding their appearance on social media, but oh, how I thought I would be safe on LinkedIn, an apparent professional platform.
Charged no more: the end of the Criminal Courts Charge.
This post covered the news that the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, announced his intent to repeal the criminal courts charge. I examined the criminal courts charge, what it stood for and the arguments both for and against it. I also examine the controversy it created in its short lifespan, and the criticism it faced from magistrates and judges. I concluded that the announcement to repeal this charge was perhaps proof that sometimes widespread criticism and unpopularity can have an effect on the government, resulting in its scrapping of an unpopular measure, or policy.
We need to talk about Syria.
This post focused on discussing the House of Commons debate on the government motion for the UK to intervene in Syria (I was watching it live on television at the time of writing), and I share my thoughts on the subject. I note the political opportunism and expediency being revealed for both the Conservative government and for the divided Labour Opposition.
Happy reading, and a very Happy New Year to you all.