With Christmas only two days away, our political leaders will be able to enjoy a well-earned break with their nearest and dearest.
The down time will allow them to reflect on another extraordinary year in Irish politics as the Government and the opposition grappled with the global pandemic.
As they tuck into mince pies, party leaders will also look ahead to the new year and the challenges they face over the coming 12 months.
The political landmines are not just external to their respective political organisations, and our most senior politicians will spend most of 2022 looking over their shoulders.
Here we look at what each leader may be facing in the new year and how they might surmount the issues they will be presented with.
Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
The Taoiseach’s main focus will be the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and how the country can finally rid itself of social distancing restrictions once and for all. At this stage, Mr Martin seems to have given up second guessing the virus, which is understandable in some ways but unforgivable for many other reasons.
He has produced two plans for Living with Covid so far, but neither has actually worked, and promises that vaccines were the silver bullet have been replaced by curfews on hospitality and new limits on crowds. The latest talk is of new anti-viral drugs.
If we are to live with the virus, the Government will have to adopt a more long-term strategy to ensure society is not closed down every time Covid presents new challenges.
The Taoiseach has been bullish recently about his ambition to continue to lead his party when he moves into the Tánaiste’s office this time next year.
To achieve this goal, he may have to see off a leadership heave at some point. TDs and ministers close to Mr Martin insist he has the numbers to face down anyone seeking to dethrone him, and point to the failed coup at the party’s recent get-together in Meath.
The Taoiseach still holds all the cards. Is anyone really going to challenge him while the Covid crisis continues?
However, his downfall could be prompted by an unexpected government crisis or an unwarranted show of loyalty to his government counterparts.
Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar
It was a year to forget for Mr Varadkar. Once considered a Teflon Tánaiste, he seemed to lose his political mojo as he became embroiled in controversies of his own making. There was a garden party for Katherine Zappone in the Merrion Hotel and travelling to London for a concert when they were not allowed to take place here. Both incidents gave the impression of a politician out of touch with a lockdown-weary public. Opinion polls showed support for Fine Gael tanked after all of Mr Varadkar’s carry-on.
In the new year, he will hope Fine Gael can bounce back and convince voters they are the grown-ups in the Government. He will also hope the garda investigation into his leaking of a GP contract finally comes to an end and ultimately clears him of any wrongdoing. He could have a very tricky year politically and legally if charges are recommended.
His leadership will surely come into question if this were to happen, and there is any number of potential successors waiting in the shadows should he falter.
Environment Minister and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan
Mr Ryan will consider 2021 to have been a political success. He passed his Climate Action Plan without too much fuss and got huge amounts of funding in the Budget for a host of environmental initiatives.
He had so much money he was able to give every household in the country €100 off their electricity bill in the new year at a cost of around €200m. He will hope that pricey plan rolls out successfully.
He will not be overly worried about internal political threats, but he does have an ambitious deputy in Culture Minister Catherine Martin.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald
The last year could not really have gone any better for Ms McDonald. Sinn Féin’s popularity has continued to increase at a steady rate with every passing month, although she struggled at times to present a coherent message on the pandemic as she plays populist to every sector that complains.
But it seems to be working, and even her cynical ditching of Sinn Féin’s long-held opposition to the non-jury courts for trying terrorists and criminals did her no damage among her supporters.
She will hope next year she can continue to grow her support. She may have a quiet word in Gerry Adams’s ear and ask him to stop reminding people that Sinn Féin likes to celebrate mass murderers and terrorists.
She will also hope some of her, let’s say “less experienced” TDs, don’t mess it all up for her. Do not expect to hear those particular TDs on air any time soon. It is unlikely the Sinn Féin leader will face a heave as the party does not do coups. It has yet to have a leadership election, so a heave is a long shot.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly
Mr Kelly will hope his party can start making some impact in the opinion polls.
He may also hope he can patch things up with Micheál Martin after their recent Dáil tiff.
Social Democrat co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall
The two leaders will continue to build on their success in the last election with an eye on being in government.