Friday 21 October 2016

An Irish Sweet Sixteen... just some of the reasons to be cheerful in 2016

Published 30/12/2015 | 02:30

'The #COYBIG hashtag will be trending this summer as more than 50,000 Irish soccer fans flock to France to cheer on the lads at the Euro 2016 finals.' Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
'The #COYBIG hashtag will be trending this summer as more than 50,000 Irish soccer fans flock to France to cheer on the lads at the Euro 2016 finals.' Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Taoiseach Enda Kenny famously promised in 2011 that Ireland would be "the best small country in the world" to do business in by 2016.

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His prediction proved a little optimistic. But after the economic and social battering we have taken over the last decade, it's important to remind ourselves how far we have come - and that we are indeed a great little country, making a unique impact all over the world.

So let's forget the dream crushers and doomsayers and, while acknowledging that life will continue to be very tough for many, Ireland has an awful lot going for it.

Let's not reflect or look back, let's look forward to what will hopefully be a great year for many.

Here are 16 reasons to be positive about Ireland for 2016. #Positiveireland:

1 A gay couple getting married in Ireland WON'T be headline news.

2 After years of austerity and pay cuts, wages are set to rise again by an average of 2pc.

3 The unemployment rate is also set to drop to 8.5pc, its lowest level in seven years. And the economy is forecast to grow at its most rapid rate since 2005, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

4 This will be a boom year for tourism, with a record 8.2 million visitors choosing to holiday in Ireland. And they are expected to spend around €4.4bn when they're here.

5 There is relief in sight for the thousands who found themselves stung by the property crash. The number of mortgages in negative equity is set to plunge from a high of 315,000 in 2012 to well under 100,000 in 2016. And while house rents are still ridiculously high, tenants can expect some relief with the two-year rent increase bar.

6 Come On You Boys in Green! The #COYBIG hashtag will be trending this summer as more than 50,000 Irish soccer fans flock to France to cheer on the lads at the Euro 2016 finals. We will ignore the fact that we are in one of the toughest groups. Book your holiday now.

7 It's an election year and your chance to have your say in how the country is run. All the parties are promising lots of goodies. Take your pick. Fine Gael is pledging to slash the personal tax burden to bring Ireland into line with low-tax countries such as America and Britain. Labour is promising to hike the minimum wage by €2 an hour. Fianna Fáil says it will abolish the hated Universal Social Charge for every worker earning less than €80,000.

8 Music lovers will be hitting the high notes with loads to look forward to. Adele plays Dublin in March, Rod Stewart takes over Nowlan Park in Kilkenny in June, tenor Andrea Bocelli will wow audiences in September while Justin Bieber will have hearts racing in November.

9 The rate of emigration is to slow further - and we can still be proud that we have a 70 million-strong diaspora flying the flag all over the globe as we continue the amazing journey of our nation.

10 Speaking of the nation, the Civil War is officially over as we celebrate 100 years of our glorious history with hundreds of 2016 commemorations planned all over Ireland.

11 Don't knock the humble pint of milk - it is set to become the new white gold. Following the end of the EU milk quota, Glanbia, lreland's largest milk and ingredients producer is planning to increase production by 63pc in the next five years to serve the growing needs of Asian, Middle Eastern, African and Central American markets.

12 Unlike other countries, be thankful we don't suffer extreme weather conditions. In 2016 expect snow, rain, wind (and if we are lucky, some sun).

13 We are moving closer to a country where it will be possible for un-baptised children to gain access to their local religious-run schools.

14 Despite our incomes having been slashed, we are still one of the most giving countries in the world. The Charities Aid Foundation has just ranked Ireland the ninth most generous country of 145 countries surveyed. Seven out of 10 people in Ireland donate money to charity, and this is expected to continue in 2016.

15 Another golden year for Irish movies lies ahead. Fingers crossed that Saoirse Ronan will get an Oscar nomination for her spectacular performance in Brooklyn. And there are great things expected from Irish made movies 'Mammal' by Rebecca Daly and 'The Land of the Enlightened' by Pieter-Jan De Pue, which have their world premieres at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January.

16 Ok, I'm showing my bias here, but as a Cat I'm looking forward to Kilkenny making it three-in-a-row in this year's All-Ireland Hurling Championships.

Irish Independent

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