The arrival of Christmas has been muted this year as we have all felt profound sadness within our Island community. We are still collectively shocked by the tragic events of 8th and 10th December.
This Christmas, my thoughts and prayers will be with the families and friends of the 12 Islanders who we lost in the horrific incidents off St. Ouen’s Bay and at Haut du Mont Apartments.
This will not be the Christmas that they had planned or hoped for, and the grief they are suffering will make this a very difficult period.
Very sadly, a dairy farm then lost three quarters of one of its herds, virtually overnight, from 15th December.
This was followed by news that another Islander had died in a fire on 17th December, bringing yet more grief to a local family and to our community. I hope the families and loved ones of all those who have died in what has been a dreadful month for Jersey can take some small comfort in knowing that everyone in the Island stands with them in support and solidarity, and we will continue to do so in the days and months ahead. They are not alone.
Pictured: The Chief Minister and Chief Executive, Suzanne Wylie, leaving tributes in Ordnance Yard for the islanders who lost their lives in the Pier Road explosion.
A number of families are also spending Christmas in different accommodation, having been displaced by the explosion at Haut du Mont. We will continue to provide the support they require, and we hope they will be able to return home as quickly as it is safe to do so.
Islanders will rightly expect answers to the many questions that we all have following these tragedies. The separate investigations to find those answers are underway and, whilst these processes always take longer than we would all wish, they will be run properly, independently and give a full and clear explanation of how and why these different incidents occurred. Where lessons need to be learned, they will be.
I very much hope, not only during my remaining time in office but in the years after, that we do not go through another period like the past few weeks. I hope that no Island leader ever has to begin a Christmas message in such sorrowful terms again. If a light is to be found during these dark times, it is in the response we have seen from across the community.
We would rather not have to deal with these events, but how we respond when they happen says a lot about our Island. We have seen professionalism, dedication and compassion from people in the public, private and voluntary sectors. The generous response from various organisations and individuals to the Bailiff's Island Appeal has been overwhelming. We are indebted to them all for their response, and I send them my heartfelt gratitude.
We owe so much to our emergency services and our search and rescue communities, who worked day and night, including in near freezing conditions, firstly to try and save lives, and then to give dignity to the deceased and closure to their families. In respect of the crew of the L'Ecume II, we are conscious that this effort continues.
Pictured: L'Ecume II, which sank after colliding with Condor's Commodore Goodwill freight ship, leading to the loss of three fishermen. (Rob Currie)
The past weeks have also shown how close the bonds are between Jersey and our close neighbours. We've had support from our sister Channel Islands, from Normandy, Brittany, and agencies from France and the UK. As Chief Minister, I have received kind and warm messages from across the wider British family and the world. We are fortunate to have such strong connections and wonderful friends.
For many Islanders, 2022 has been a challenging year. We are all having to contend with double-digit inflation, which has not been helped by the ongoing and wholly unnecessary aggression by Russia in Ukraine, and other continued interruptions in the global supply chain. I know that households are under significant pressure. The Government has already helped, putting money back in Islander's pockets, and will continue to offer targeted support during 2023 where it can.
This is the first Christmas that will be largely uninterrupted following the Covid pandemic of 2020 and 2021, and I know that will provide some welcome relief to a number of families. Given what we have witnessed recently in our own Island, and when we look at the distress facing people elsewhere in the world, those of us who will be spending Christmas together are reminded of our good fortune.
Christmas is a special and important time of year. For many Islanders of Christian faith, it is a time of hope, joy and renewal as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. For other Islanders, it can be a culturally significant time of year and a time for reflection. Whilst many of us break from our usual routines, I know we will keep in mind those who will be working as normal in our health, care, infrastructure and emergency services, so that we can all be cared for and remain safe.
We live in a strong and united community, and one that has previously shown itself capable of dealing with adversity. That spirit will win through again, individually and collectively, and we can be confident of looking ahead to happier times.
However you are celebrating or marking Christmas, I wish everyone in Jersey a peaceful festive period, and a healthy and successful 2023.
WATCH: A Christmas Message from the Bailiff