2015 in review: Terror stalks Paris | Trident proves divisive

MARTIN Hannan’s final look back at the past 12 months, covers October to December

Paris falls silent as the city  and the world  honours the dead of Vendredi Treize, when terrorists  murdered 130 in a series of shootings and suicide bombings. Picture: Getty
Paris falls silent as the city  and the world  honours the dead of Vendredi Treize, when terrorists murdered 130 in a series of shootings and suicide bombings. Picture: Getty


On the last day of the month, a Russian Airbus jet with 224 people on board crashed in the Sinai peninsula after a terrorist bomb exploded. There were no survivors, and Russia went into a state of mourning.

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Within days, the Sinai branch of the Islamic State faction claimed responsibility and though no final verdict has been delivered, experts said the bomb was probably placed on board the plane at Sharmh el-Sheikh airport. Many countries banned their aircraft from flying there, crippling the Egyptian tourism industry.

Pauline Cafferkey becomes a Ebola virus victim twice. Picture: TSPL

Heavy fighting in Syria, where IS gained ground in the north of the country, worsened Europe’s migrant crisis as more and more refugees flooded into the continent.

IS was also reported to be behind the bombings that hit the Turkish capital of Ankara, in which more than 100 people died.

The Israel Palestine conflict worsened as Israeli aircraft bombed Gaza in retaliation for rocket attacks on Asdod. Tensions increased with riots in the streets of Israel and the west bank. An innocent Eritrean refugee, Haptom Zerham, was shot and beaten to death by enraged Israelis who mistakenly thought he had shot a solider.

In the US, the latest mass shooting, this time in Oregon, saw nine people gunned down by a student who then killed himself.

Andy Murray won Sports Personality of the Year 2015 at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture: PA

A fire in a nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, killed 62 people. The Romanian government subsequently resigned.

It was a natural disaster that hit France, where flooding killed at least 19 people in the Cannes area.

British resident Shaker Amwar was finally released from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre after being held without trial for 14 years.

The closure was announced of the Tata steelworks at Dalzell and Clydebridge, ending steel production in Scotland. The Scottish Government set up a task force which is trying to save the works.

There was better industrial news when the Ferguson shipyard on the lower Clyde, saved from closure by entrepreneur Jim McColl, won a £95 million order to build three CalMac ferries.

Pauline Cafferkey, the nurse from Lanarkshire who barely survived catching the Ebola virus during her aid work in Africa in 2014, was rushed back to the Royal Free hospital in London suffering from meningitis caused by the virus remaining in her system. She was at one point critically ill, but survived and is now free of the virus.

After newspaper reports in September, Michelle Thomson, one of the SNP’s 56 MPs elected in May, had to stand down from the party and withdraw from the SNP group at Westminster over allegations about her property dealings. Police investigations into the allegations are still ongoing. The following month another SNP MP, Natalie McGarry, also had to resign the SNP whip after allegations about missing funds in a pro-independence group.

The position of the House of Lords is now under review by the Conservative government, angered by peers voting to delay the planned cuts to tax credits.

The Scottish Parliament passed the Human Trafficking and Exploitation bill, making trafficking a specific offence in Scotland.

At the end of the month, after a passionate debate, the Scottish Labour Party conference voted to make it their policy that the Trident nuclear missile system should not be replaced, putting members at odds with the UK party.

Labour stalwart Denis Healey, chancellor of the exchequer in the 1970s, died in this month.

Broadcaster Hugh Scully, Scottish pop singer Jim Diamond and the Irish screen star Maureen O’Hara also passed away.

In sport, the Rugby World Cup in England dominated events. The host country went out at the group stage and Scotland reached the quarter-finals only to lose to Australia thanks to a refereeing mistake which was later admitted by World Rugby. New Zealand went on to win the cup, the first team to retain the trophy.

Fifa’s corruption scandal took a dramatic twist when the governing body’s ethics committee voted to suspend its president Sepp Blatter, its general secretary Jerome Valcke and Uefa president Michel Platini for 90 days.


To the lexicon of terrorist outrages such as 9/11 and 7/7 we must now add Vendredi Treize.

The worst terrorist attack of a year full of them came on the night of Friday the 13th in Paris when gunmen and suicide bombers sent out by ISIL-Daesh killed 130 people and injured nearly 400 others in a concerted series of attacks across the French capital.

Suicide bombs were heard exploding during the France v Germany football match at the Stade de France, signaling the start of a night of terror in which tourists and local people alike, mostly eating in restaurants, were attacked at random.

The worst atrocity took place at the Bataclan Theatre where the American band Eagles of Death Metal were playing. Three masked gunmen opened fire on the audience and then took hostages before two detonated suicide bombs and a third was killed during the police raid to free the hostages.

The world came together to condemn the killings, which ISIL-Daesh said were in retaliation for French involvement in the war in Syria.

In that conflict, international tensions heightened when Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet that had strayed into its airspace. One of the two pilots was killed, but the other was rescued.

Later in the month, Islamist militants attacked a hotel in Bamako, Mali, killing 27 people.

At home, the Scottish Parliament voted 96-17 in favour of a motion calling on the UK government not to renew the Trident missile system.

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie was the only Labour member to vote against the call to reject renewal.

In the defence review, the UK government announced the reversal of the decision to end the Nimrod early warning fleet which caued the closure of RAF Kinloss. Instead RAF Lossiemouth will host nine new American-built maritime patrol aircraft. The review also committed the government to renewing Trident.

In sport, an investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sent a seismic shock through athletics. The report concluded that there had been state-sponsored involvement in the doping of Russian athletes, and at the same time, suspicion grew about the activities of various officials of the IAAF, including former president Lamine Diack who was arrested and charged with corruption and money laundering in France.

The new IAAF president, Lord Sebastian Coe, vowed to clean up the sport.

The world of rugby union mourned Jonah Lomu, who died from a heart attack linked to his long-term kidney disease. The gentle giant of rugby was just 40.

The sport of horse racing lost one of its greats, the 11-times champion jockey Pat Eddery, who passed away at the age of 63.

Derby winners Frankie Dettori and Golden Horn won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe while Michelle Payne became the first woman jockey to win the Melbourne Cup aboard 100-1 shot Prince of Penzance.


The complete closure of the Forth Road Bridge was announced after a routine inspection found serious structural defects on the 51-year-old bridge.

Claims and counter-claims followed about who had been responsible for the failure to maintain the bridge which will be replaced next year by the Queensferry Crossing.

It was expected that repairs would see the bridge closed until next year, but contractors Amey worked round the clock and the bridge was open to vehicles except HGV lorries yesterday.

The name of driver Harry Clarke will now live in infamy in Scotland after the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Glasgow bin lorry crash found that he had deliberately lied and misled doctors and employers about the state of his health.

A year on from the tragedy, the families of the six people who were killed are considering a private prosecution against Clarke after the Crown Office said several times during the year that it would not be prosecuting him.

A few days after the findings were published, the Scottish Parliament heard details of how the FAI system will be overhauled.

In the UK Parliament, the events in Paris on 13 November hugely influenced a debate on whether Britain should join the USA and France in bombing ISIL-Daesh targets in Syria. The SNP group all voted against the proposal which was passed by 397 votes to 223. Within hours, British jets were in action over Syria.

Also at Westminster, the Chancellor’s autumn statement showed that he had accepted the verdict of the House of Lords and the cuts to tax credits will not be going ahead.

Finance secretary John Swinney’s budget for the Scottish Government did not use the new devolved powers over income tax, and caused local authorities in particular to cry foul over a 3.5 per cent reduction in their budgets.

In the first election court in 50 years, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael defeated an attempt to have his election quashed. During the case, Carmichael admitted lying about knowing of the so-called Frenchgate memo.

Lord Grenville Janner was told that he would not need to stand trial for alleged child sex abuse offences. He died later in the month.

Just weeks after the massacre on 13 November, Paris hosted the United Nations’ climate change conference which eventually saw agreement by most of the countries in the world to take steps to tackle global warming.

In Britain, Storm Desmond caused widespread flooding, especially in Cumbria where many homes and businesses were flooded out.

In the USA, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik opened fire on a party being held by the San Bernardino County department of health in California. Farook, a department employee, led the mass shooting which resulted in 14 people being killed and 22 being seriously injured.

US presidential candidate Donald Trump sparked an international furore when he issued a call for a ban on Muslims entering the USA. There was huge revulsion at his demands, with the Scottish Government cancelling his business ambassadorship and Robert Gordon University stripping him of his honorary degree. The possibility was aired that the Open Championship could be removed from the Trump Turnberry course in Ayrshire.

A South African court upgraded Oscar Pistorius’ conviction for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to murder. He faces 15 years in prison.

Scotland lost one of its finest novelists and one of its most respected journalists in the space of a few days. William McIlvanney, known as the Godfather of Tartan Noir for his Laidlaw trilogy, died at the age of 79.

His great friend Ian Bell, columnist and author of biographies of Robert Louis Stevenson and Bob Dylan, died suddenly at the age of 59. Both will be very much missed.

In sport, Rangers hogged the headlines as they had done for most of the year after chairman Dave King and his associates took over the club in March. An internal war had begun with shareholder Mike Ashley, the billionaire owner of Sports Direct and Newcastle United, and in this month Ashley failed in his attempt to have King jailed for alleged contempt of court. A judge will give his verdict on the case next month.

The club also featured tangentially in a shocking incident in Honduras where Arnold Peralta, a former player with at Ibrox, was gunned down in a gangland shooting.

The Fifa corruption scandal deepened still further when Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were suspended from the sport for eight years.

Jimmy Hill, the broadcaster and football legend, died at the age of 87.

Andy Murray won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, principally for leading Great Britain to its first Davis Cup success since 1936.