Here are the biggest news, sport and entertainment headlines of 1998…
Politically, there was real progress in Northern Ireland when, after 30 years of violence and nearly two years of intensive peace talks, an agreement was reached. The ‘Good Friday Agreement’, as it was called, laid down a future of friendship and harmony and led to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Republic of Ireland’s leader, Bertie Ahern, receiving acclaim from all corners.
The much talked about ‘Human Rights Act’ received royal assent, meaning that the UK had to fall in line with the ‘European Convention on Human Rights’. Amongst other things, it gave a legal right to life, a fair trial and freedom of expression; prohibiting discrimination, torture, and the death penalty. Some saw it as necessary for a civilized society whilst others saw it as yet more interfering European bureaucracy.
Another arrival from Europe causing debate was the 43rd Eurovision Song Contest. This year’s competition was held in Birmingham and hopes were high for UK entry Imaani and her song ‘Where Are You?’. She pulled off an admiral 2nd place behind Israel’s entrant, male-to-female transsexual Dana International. The winner attracted much post-contest hype and publicity, then everyone remembered that it was only the Eurovision song contest anyway. As for Imanni, the fact you don’t even recognise the name tells you all you need to know about her subsequent music career.
Also giving hope to the UK (well, the English part of it anyway) was World Cup 98 in France. As always, fans were hoping / praying / begging that this would indeed be the year and, as near always, things went a little bit wrong. England were the victims of penalties again (this time to Argentina) and, new face on the block David Beckham was the victim of his own temper. Having been sent off for a silly kick at one of the Argies, Beckham got blamed for everything and was hated by everyone (including, probably, Victoria).
No doubt Jim, Barbara, Anthony, Dave and Denise, of the Royle family, would have been watching the World Cup from the comfort of their sofa in their council house in Manchester. Who would have thought that a TV show about other people watching TV would be such a success? Actually, they didn’t just watch TV, they also smoked cigarettes, made cups of TV and broke wind! It’s doubtful whether Jim Royle would have been impressed with American cult import ‘South Park’ but the rest of the UK certainly got into it; millions tuning in every week to see “Who killed Kenny?” (many more may have tuned into find out who had killed Beckham!)
The cinemas saw a swing back to America for the big successes of the year with no noticeable UK films coming out in 1998. The bloody ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was a second world war hit starring Tom Hanks; the story involving a group of soldiers with orders to safely take home a Private James Ryan to his mother, whose other 3 sons have already been killed. A lot less bloody and a lot more singing and dancing was the re-release of ‘Grease’. The high school love story coming back to the big screen 20 years after its original release (this time with enhanced colour and digital sound).