Our top front pages of 2015
The Gibraltar Chronicle publishes six editions a week, so summing up a year’s work in 12 front pages is no easy task. But here they are, a dozen of our favourites, one front page for every month of the year. They include stories that reflect the challenges and successes of our times, and images that will endure. Some months presented an impossible choice. May, for example, was packed with major stories each of which delivered a strong contender. There will be omissions, inevitably, and many of you will disagree with our selection. But that is fine. We had disagreements in the newsroom too.
The year started with the sad news of the death of Dr Bernard Linares, for many decades one of Gibraltar’s foremost citizens. In the House of Commons, MP’s called for tougher action on Spain, while Spain continued to object to Gibraltar’s inclusion in EU aviation packages. Michael Llamas, QC, was appointed Attorney General, the first local in the post in nearly a century, and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo spoke in Madrid about opportunities for cross-border cooperation, much to the chagrin of Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garci´a-Margallo who tried to torpedo the talk. A Holocaust memorial was unveiled in Commonwealth Park and a new hospital signalled a step change in the delivery of mental healthcare. Our choice of front page for this month, however, focused on the heightened security measures put into place in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris. Armed police patrolled Gibraltar’s streets, a feature that would sadly, but necessarily, remain prominent throughout the year.
February brought closure in the long-running inquiry into allegations of abuse in the Dr Giraldi home, with chairman Sir Jonathan Parker finding the claims unfounded. Britain’s Foreign Minister Philip met his Spanish counterpart in Madrid and said the UK would never discuss Gibraltar’s sovereignty against the wishes of the Gibraltarians. Britain has held firm to that position, despite Spain’s calls for a return to bilateral talks. As always, relations with Spain dominated much of the news agenda in 2016, although there was no progress toward ad hoc dialogue aimed at practical cooperation. Our front page for the month illustrates Spain’s approach to Gibraltar under the Partido Popular, encapsulated in the decision to close the local branch of the Instituto Cervantes.
A larger building was purchased for Calpe House in London, quadrupling the number of rooms for sponsored patients to 36. Amid news of law suits and the renaming of streets, sporting history was made in March with Gibraltar’s first international goal, courtesy of Lee Casciaro in a game against Scotland. Solomon Seruya, a prominent businessman who always defended good relations with Spain, died this month. Our choice for the month is the tragic front page announcing the discovery of a dead family in a flat on Boschetti’s Steps. The killings sparked the largest murder investigation in Gibraltar’s history and brought to the fore the debt owed by this community to the men and women of the Royal Gibraltar Police, who always step up to the challenge, no matter how horrific or traumatic.
The UK’s forthcoming referendum on EU membership became increasingly prominent in the political agenda, as Britain geared up for a general election in May. The police was under continued scrutiny over bullying allegations, while the Gibraltar FA was also in the spotlight over its finances. Incursions continued at sea, while Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Opposition leader Daniel Feetham traded blows over public finances, a sign of things to come as the temperature of exchanges began to rise ahead of Gibraltar’s own general election later in the year. Our front page choice is somewhat self-indulgent. After nearly two decades at the helm of this newspaper, Dominique Searle stepped down as editor to become the Chief Minister’s special advisor. He was succeeded by Brian Reyes.
May arrived with a warning from the Chief Minister that Brexit – the new catchphrase for Britain’s potential exit from the EU – would represent ‘a political meteorite’ for Gibraltar. At least Gibraltar would at least get to vote too. The Gibraltar International Bank opened its doors, stepping into the gap left by Barclays Bank which closed its Main Street branch. There was a positive reaction in Gibraltar as David Cameron returned to Downing Street with a majority Conservative government after the UK election. There were more incidents at sea and some stern diplomacy from Britain by way of response. In the Mediterranean, the UK despatched Royal Navy ships to help with the migrant crisis and Gibraltar’s naval base became increasingly busy. In the arts, Christian Hook’s portrait of Alan Cumming was included in the list of top 100 masterpieces in Scotland’s national galleries, while Albert Hammond won the prestigious Ivor Novello award for his outstanding song collection. Locally, the Kitchen Project signalled that contemporary and modern art were alive and healthy in Gibraltar. The month closed with the shock resignation of Governor Sir James Dutton, who confessed that the role had been ‘more representational and ceremonial’ than he had expected. Sir James left two years into what should have been a three-year term and insisted his decision was for ‘purely personal and professional’ reasons. There were several strong contenders for the May front page, but in the end there was only one choice. Gibraltar honoured its evacuation generation in May, recognition of the fundamental role they played in creating this modern community. This was the first major event in a busy calendar to mark the 75th anniversary of the evacuation.
The Mario Finlayson National Art Gallery opened its doors and Gibraltar’s politicians clashed as the LNG row exploded. A proposal for a £1.1bn development on the east side reclamation was unveiled and La Linea got a new mayor in the form of Juan Franco and his upstart party La Linea 100x100. In New York, the Chief Minister used tough words to challenge the chairman of the UN’s Committee of 24, while in Brussels, Gibraltar failed to appear on the EU’s blacklist of tax havens, much to Spain’s frustration. There was big news too from the world of dance, where Jordan Bautista joined the Polish National Ballet. There were furious exchanges in Parliament during the budget debate, with the GSD insisting that the government could not be trusted on public finances or power generation. The battle lines were clearly mapped out for the election ahead. As an antidote to the political flack, there was inspiring news from the Island Games, where Gibraltar’s sportsmen and women performed very well and brought home a medley of medals. But in the end, there was only one choice for our June front page. The sight of two Guardia Civil officers, standing in tricorn hats and full uniform saluting the Union Jack during the Queen’s Birthday Parade in Casemates, will not soon be forgotten.
July came with another round of incursions at sea. On land, security was stepped up and tributes were paid to the victims of another terror attack, this time in Tunisia. Hannah Bado won Miss Gibraltar and Karl Ullger exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
The Chamber of Commerce published a report highlighting the Rock’s economic contribution to the Campo, but with elections on both sides of the border there was little prospect of any significant thaw in relations. There were mergers in the gaming industry and reports of people being stung by email scams, while the local branch of Unite the Union joined the union’s national UK council and gained extra clout. The row over LNG flared up once again during a six-hour parliamentary debate that saw sparks fly in every direction. Adolfo Canepa, the Speaker of Parliament, voiced frustration
at the ‘acrimonious’ tone of the debate. The issue of gay marriage appeared on the radar and Gibraltar’s Special Olympics athletes won 15 medals at the world games. Spain’s intelligent border opened for business, but not without a glitch or two as our choice of front page illustrates.
Gibraltar paid tribute to Sir Joshua Hassan on the centenary of his death and our students once again did the community proud with their excellent exam results. A capsule found at the old St Bernard’s hospital site captured the Queen’s 1954 visit in time. Gibraltar made a bid to host the 2019 Island Games – and later won. The persistent Spanish incursions into British waters topped the agenda during a visit by UK Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt. As if on cue, Spanish vessels were involved in a string of incidents no sooner had she left, bringing condemnation once again from the UK and Gibraltar governments. Amid concern about safety at sea, both governments called for cross-border cooperation between law enforcement agencies. But it took another serious incident, this time involving gunshots, to focus minds and deliver a promise of cooperation from Spain. Incursions figured prominently throughout the year’s news coverage, and on this month’s front page too.
Monsignor Mark Miles, the Pope’s Gibraltarian translator, was honoured by the community, which also acknowledged its debt to the Royal Gibraltar Police as the force accepted the Freedom of the City. In
San Roque, Miguel Angel Moratinos, the architect of the trilateral forum, said Spain should stick by its commitments under the Cordoba agreement. On National Day, Gibraltar remembered the Queen and the
evacuees, while the Gibraltar Music Festival delivered two amazing days of top-end musical entertainment. A few weeks later, Sir James and Lady Dutton bade a tearful farewell to Gibraltar. Early in September, the new St Bernard’s school welcomed its first pupils, while at the end of the month the University of Gibraltar opened its doors and set fresh academic foundations for generations to come. But our front page, once again, came from the sea. Despite efforts to calm the mood, September arrived with yet another dramatic incident, this time caught on video.
October started with another landmark, the arrival of Liz Hutchinson, the new RAF station commander and the first woman in the job. The legal year opened in ceremonial fashion and put the spotlight
on the changes in Gibraltar courts. UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond delivered stern warnings to Spain and Argentina that Britain would stand by the UK and the Falklands. In the UN, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo hit out at Spain’s ‘neo-colonial and expansionist’ attitude to Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Service celebrated 150 years of its history and a general election was called. On stage, 17 countries competed in the IDO European Show Dance Championships in Gibraltar. Gibraltar was lashed by storms and a driver had a lucky escape in an incident that delivered an enduring image, captured on our front page for the month.
November brought with it another terrorist attack in Paris. All of Europe mourned with France and Gibraltar was no different. Across the community, there were solemn acts of reflection and solidarity, captured poignantly by the Moorish Castle lit up in the French tricolour and the image of minute’s silence during a service in a local synagogue. Gibraltar’s message of tolerance was echoed throughout the busy activities of the Gibraltar International Literary Festival. There was nostalgia too as the veterans of HMS Calpe marked its 50th anniversary. And all of this against the background of a general election campaign which, after months of feisty exchanges over gas and money, seemed somewhat subdued. The GSLP/Liberal alliance won a landslide victory and the GSD, with a line-up that includes several new MPs, vowed to regroup and battle on. The election gave us our front page for the month.
December came and with it another general election, this time in Spain. The outcome brought to an end the bipartisan dominance of the PP and the PSOE, with newcomers Podemos and Ciudadanos storming into parliament with strong gains. With no clear winner, the question of who will govern Spain – and the implication for Gibraltar - remains to be resolved in the opening weeks of 2016. The tragic killings on Boschetti’s Steps were the subject of an inquest that concluded a man killed his partner and their children before taking his own life. On a brighter note, there was world class snooker and GBC’s annual open day raised a record £135,000 and still counting, once again demonstrating this community’s charitable generosity. Hockey umpire Nathan Stagno received his golden whistle, recognition of a formidable international achievement in the sport. With terrorism still at the top of Gibraltar’s security challenges, local law enforcement agencies and emergency services, together with the military, rehearsed their response to a Paris-style marauding attack. Our front page, however, looks ahead and focuses on one of the biggest challenges facing Gibraltar, the UK’s in/out referendum. The Chief Minister, from his new office in the refurbished No 6 Convent Place, urged the community to champion EU membership.
And here are a few that we liked but didn't make the cut...