Derry Journal Review of the Year: December - Hopes dashed at Stormont but people keep festive spirit alive

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December brought with it renewed, albeit short-lived, hopes that the NI Executive would get back up and running as pressure continued to mount on NHS services and households in the north west.

As the parties geared up for a new round of talks with the Secretary of State, there was cautious optimism that this time there might be a result. But despite growing pressure, the DUP once again poured cold water on hopes of a pre-Christmas resolution, which in turn resulted in the long awaited pay increase due to tens of thousands of public sector workers not being paid.

There was more bleak tidings as it emerged that the expected lifespan of men in Derry and Strabane remained significantly lower than the average for the North, declining from 77.7 years over the 2015-17 period to 77.3 years over 2019-21. Meanwhile, female life expectancy in Derry and Strabane was also significantly lower, declining from 81.4 years to 81.1 years.

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As the war on Palestine raged in Gaza and the death toll continued to mount, we spoke to a Palestinian woman now living in Buncrana who has lost 25 members of her family. In the interview, Majida Alaskari urged people in Donegal and Derry to keep taking to the streets and speaking out.

Santa and his helpers visiting the Children's Ward in Altnagelvin Hospital.Santa and his helpers visiting the Children's Ward in Altnagelvin Hospital.
Santa and his helpers visiting the Children's Ward in Altnagelvin Hospital.

As Christmas loomed, we reported on the numerous warnings from local organisations over the direct impact homelessness, and the high costs for food, fuel and other goods was having locally as debt levels rose and many struggled to make ends meet.

But December wasn’t all gloom, and the news that the City Baths was reopening at last was universally welcomed, as was the awarding of the Freedom of Derry & Strabane to victims campaigner Jon McCourt.

Meanwhile the numerous Christmas markets, displays, concerts and school nativities organised right across the north west brought some much needed festive cheer to local communities, and the Journal reported on the kind people fundraising with Christmas events and displays as well as the hundreds also embodying the true Christmas spirit when they braved the chilly Swilly or did sponsored walks and runs in aid of local charities.