The year ends as it began -- with a struggle
LATE 2010 was so dominated by the economic situation and the arrival of the International Monetary Fund, that the months immediately preceding now seem like we were in a different country.
But back in sunnier times, the early part of July was all about glamour -- domestic and international.
The tiny village of Aughavas in Co Leitrim came to unlikely prominence for a few hours as St Joseph's Church hosted the wedding of the year, with Brian O'Driscoll and Amy Huberman officially joining up to become Bramy.
Rob Kearney, accompanied by the beautiful Susie Amy, was spotted in a local sweet shop the night before.
Similarly bizarre sightings were reported in Adare, Co Limerick, the following week as Eamon Dunphy and Jamie Redknapp played golf with the likes of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
However, there was no doubting the big attraction at the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am: Tiger Woods was back on the prowl after the stunning revelations concerning his multiple infidelities.
The first joke about him chasing birdies was mildly amusing. The 150 that immediately followed? Not so much.
But any light atmosphere around the country was destroyed a few days later when eight men were killed in a two-car crash in Co Donegal, the worst collision in the history of the State.
Seven young men travelling in one car were killed, with only the driver of the vehicle surviving. The driver of the other car was also killed.
In Inisowen, they buried their dead over three days, the population alternating between heartache and emotional exhaustion.
The seven dead men travelling in the Passat were; Mark McLaughlin (21) of Fahan; Paul Doherty (19) of Ballyliffen; Ciaran Sweeney (19) of Ballyliffen; PJ McLaughlin (21) of Burnfoot; James McEleney (23) of Clonmany; Eamonn McDaid (22) of Buncrana and Damien McLaughlin (21) of Buncrana.
Hugh Friel (66) from Clonmany was driving the other car home from bingo in Buncrana.
Emotion of a different hue was in evidence on the sporting field.
While Tipperary and Cork would end long waits for the All Ireland hurling and football titles respectively, the most dramatic event at Croke Park took place much earlier.
Louth were just seconds from a long-awaited Leinster football title when Meath's Joe Sheridan scrambled the ball over the line, apparently illegally.
The goal stood, however, and irate Louth supporters confronted referee Martin Sludden after the final whistle, with the worst offenders striking the amateur official. Professional officials were prominent the following month as notorious rapist Larry Murphy left Arbour Hill prison, with some sections of the public concerned that he would end up living in their neighbourhood.
In September, an increasingly under pressure Taoiseach was questioned about his drinking habits.
In dramatic scenes on the final day of Fianna Fail's party meeting at a hotel in Galway, Brian Cowen was forced to deny he had been drunk or hungover when conducting a radio interview earlier that morning.
He later apologised for the 'quality of his performance'.
But the pressure was unquestionably on, and it increased exponentially in the following months.
Possibly the defining image of the year -- and certainly the one that has helped define Ireland in the international community -- was that of AJ Chopra of the IMF making his way to the Central Bank in November shortly ahead of the long-denied 'bailout'.
A beggar holding out a cup as Mr Chopra and his colleagues walked past provided a particularly apt metaphor.
Ireland was big news, but for all the wrong reasons. The international media was dominated by talk of the IMF-EU-ECB bailout, with cliche-ridden images of horses and leprechauns unfortunately to the fore. At home, the economic crisis sparked dramatic scenes. There were the protest marches on the Dail, the sight of health minister Mary Harney being pelted with red paint, and the victory of Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty in a by-election in Donegal.
And so the year ended as it had begun: people struggling with the weather, the new reality of their finances, and having lost faith -- what little was left -- in their political leaders.
Let's picture ourselves in better times during 2011.