I don’t mean to sound like the prophet of doom with utterings from the Biblical Book of Revelation, but I fear that the Emerald Isle will be hit by a massive tidal wave of the coronavirus this month which tragically will overwhelm the health services on both sides of the Irish border.
However, hopefully by the summer the various vaccines will have kicked in and Covid 19 and its various mutations will have been contained. It may be a case that for the remainder of this decade, we as a community, will just have to live with the pandemic.
Apart from the vaccine itself, the only positive thing to come from this tale of tragedy will be that the power-sharing Executive at Stormont will have to work in unison as never before if Northern Ireland is not to mark its centenary with a Covid-related death toll not seen since the Irish Famine.
Forget Brexit for the meantime, the real battle is in protecting the whole island from the ravages of Covid. However, when the health service eventually gets the virus contained, no doubt the Stormont Executive will conjure up a row over an Irish Language Act.
As a Presbyterian, I’ve no issue with such an Act as it was Presbyterianism which historically saved the Irish language from total extinction in past centuries.
Hopefully, 2021 will see a lot more folk from the pro-Union community embrace the Irish language, thereby snatching it from the grip of Sinn Fein which has been using a proposed Act as a battering ram against British culture in Ireland.
But speaking of Brexit, the DUP will be very grateful that elections are not scheduled in Northern Ireland until at least May 2022 as the DUP is a party under pressure because of the supposed ‘Irish Sea border’. This inevitably will spark discussions on the need for a new Right-wing Unionist party taking in the concerns of the loyalist working class and the need to mobilise the ‘stay at home and don’t vote’ Unionists.
The DUP voting against the BoJo Brexit deal at Westminster will see the initial alarm bells being sounded for the death knell of so-called liberal Unionism.
2021 will most likely see the political deep ‘greening’ of the Alliance Party, anxious to build on its electoral successes west of the River Bann. For decades, until Naomi Long took the leadership helm, Alliance was always viewed as a ‘soft u’ Unionist party.
East of the Bann, it has attracted Protestant voters as a protest movement for ‘EU Remain’ voters. But to build its profile in the West of Northern Ireland, it must continue branding itself as a ‘soft r’ republican party, capable of gaining first preferences from moderate nationalists and hardline republicans alike, rather than mere transfers to keep pro-Union candidates out.
Dublin will try to mark the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland by pushing its Shared Ireland unit, which will effectively backstab the liberal Unionist movement in the North.
Civic Unionism, or so-called moderate Unionism, will be branded Appeasement Unionism as liberal political activists and church folk within Unionism and ecumenical Christianity clamber over each other to give concessions to Leinster House.
The activities of such liberals within Unionism and Protestantism will add spark to a new dissident loyalist movement not seen since the days of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 as the ghosts of the Orange Volunteers and Red Hand Defenders begin rumblings in sections of the loyalist community.
As the Northern Ireland centenary celebrations, commemorations and commiserations continue throughout the year, dissident republican terror factions will be doing their utmost to ensure their brand of outdated republicanism is heard.
In spite of the Brexit deal and the Irish Sea ‘border’, the real beneficiaries from the UK actually quitting the EU will be the cross border smugglers. The black market in Ireland will flourish at a pace not seen since the rationing era of the Second World War.
The security forces on both sides of the Irish border - wherever that may be - will be stretched to capacity as all types and volumes of goods come on the smuggling agenda. Indeed, such will be the challenges posed by smuggling that the British Irish Ministerial Council will have to establish an all-island unit to combat this lucrative business.
As expected, US President ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden will eventually be handed the keys of the Oval Office in Washington, but the ideology of Trumpism will have such a hold in American politics that any talk of Sleepy Joe being able to influence a border poll on Irish unity will be total hot air.
The Donald will continue to pull strings in the background ensuring that Sleepy Joe’s tenure in the White House could be as short as Peanuts Carter’s one hit wonder. Trumpism will replace Tea Party influence in the American Republican Party.
The most Sleepy Joe will be able to achieve in Ireland is to persuade the SDLP to become part of the historic Fianna Fail/Fine Gael coalition with the Stoops becoming the coalition’s official partners in Northern Ireland.
The SNP will use Brexit to make another massive push for a second independence referendum in Scotland. BoJo will only grant it once he is assured the English Government in London has milked all the North Sea oil and fish it can get.
Mind you, if Scotland succeeds in becoming an independent nation and rejoins the EU, it will increase the calls for Irish unity under the banner of a Celtic League of Nations - the Republic, Northern Ireland and Scotland - as a new EU ‘country’. Maybe it might even score more points in the Eurovision!
Certainly the Northern Ireland centenary will have Unionist and republican revisionists scribbling to the wee small hours on their varied spins on partition. It will become a battle of the pens as to which version of history you want to believe, with social media awash with conspiracy theories.
The key word will be ‘persuasion’. Republicans will be trying all sorts of rhetoric to ‘persuade’ Unionists - especially those of the liberal brand - that their next 100 years is better served with an all-Ireland, democratic socialist republic.
Right-wing Unionists will ride roughshod over liberal whimperings and ‘persuade’ nationalists that Southern Ireland will be economically castrated by Brexit - leaving Southern Ireland both geographically and financially isolated from the rest of the EU, and the only way forward is for Southern Ireland to itself abandon the EU under Irexit and throw its lot in with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of nations.
Right-wing Unionism has always had an unhealthy suspicion of English Governments, especially Tory ones.
So expect some Right-wing Unionists to tinker with the Northern Ireland Protocol and open channels of communication with the Russians. Such Right-wingers see the merits of how the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man has marketed themselves very successfully as tax havens. Know any very, very rich Russian billionaires who want to invest in wee Ulster?
And speaking of Ulster, expect an Ulster county team to clinch the Sam Maguire in 2021. In the soccer front, my beloved Gunners will avoid the ‘drop’ from the Premiership, which will be retained by Liverpool, with Germany once again dominant in the Euros.
In horse racing, expect Irish jockeys and horses to dominate the English scene.
On the religious front, the Covid pandemic will see an even bigger increase in the number of street evangelists leading to confrontations on street corners, arrests and a clamour of clerics wanting to become the first Christian court room martyr of 2021.
Tourism across the island will take a nosedive, but the film and TV industry will get a boost with cheap locations for shooting across Ireland. There will be plenty of jobs in the security forces as ‘Covid Constables’ will be required to enforce pandemic restrictions.
Expect the price of seeing a doctor, dentist and prescriptions in Southern Ireland to rocket as republicans try to spin the claim - ‘better to be unified in a hovel and live in poverty than allow the Brits to pay our generous benefits as part of the UK’.
But the real jobs, as the hospitality trade collapses, will be in the Irish navy and British Royal Navy as more gunboats are needed to stop mainland EU fishing fleets roaming through British and Irish waters. ‘Join the Navy and sink a trawler’ will be the recruitment call as a new Cod War erupts in the seas off the British Isles.
Who will be the new Sir Francis Drake confronting the 2021 Spanish Armada of mainland EU boats?
Then again, maybe the Russians will be so attracted by the Ulster Tax haven and any future ‘Bank of Northern Ireland’ they will open a nuclear power plant in each Irish province, creating 100,000 jobs across the island and making millions selling cheap electricity to the EU. Let the Brexit Boom begin! Happy Easter!
Listen to Dr John Coulter’s religious show, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.30 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM, or listen online at www.thisissunshine.com