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Why we should proudly wear our smiley face as we face into the next 12 months

Una Mullally - Sunday Tribune
Chin up, everyone. The era of those FFers is almost at an end, and we're rocking, rucking and helping each other out like never before. Una Mullally counts the reasons to be cheerful for 2011
[See reason 6: Plundering natural resources to make us rich beyond our wildest dreams]
1. A general election


Hear that noise? Yes, it's the mass printing of P45s. Polling day will be a happy day for democracy and sanity this year, as we finally get the chance to kick out of Leinster House those goons who have been ballsing up the country for the past few years. The outcome of the election is obviously completely predictable, but there are several political planets aligning to ensure that it will be a sensational time in Irish politics. The shackles that Fianna Fáil have bolted over our nation's potential will once and for all be removed and for the first time in the party's history it will be completely and utterly hammered in the ballot boxes. Ha! Ain't karma a bitch?


2. A presidential election


And if that wasn't enough political excitement for you, come autumn, we'll be deciding who gets to live in the gaff in the Phoenix Park. Presidential elections are more fun than big scary general elections, because, let's face it, they're just personality and popularity contests. We might even have our first gay president in David Norris, who would be only the second-ever gay head of state internationally. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the prime minister of Iceland, gets the accolade of being the first, so maybe the only difference between Iceland and Ireland really is a letter and six months. Anywhoo, prepare for a barrage of baby kissing and handshaking from a litany of wannabe Úachtaráns.


3. Irish music


Right now, Ireland has the best indie music scene in the world. Built on independence external to the implosion of major record labels in the industry, a strong work ethic, innovation and fun, Irish music applauds diversity, which is why it's hard to even call it a 'scene'. Bands including Villagers, Adebisi Shank, And So I Watch You From Afar, Solar Bears and Fight Like Apes swagger from poetic songwriting to astoundingly complex instrumental compositions. Nothing sounds like what's being created here at the moment, and international ears are pricking up. Live venues continue to open and expand in Dublin and music bloggers recently voted Irish blog the fifth-best music blog in the world. Rock on.


4. Home-grown successes


One of the few sectors excelling at the moment is Irish crafts – knitwear, tweed hats and all of those other things that many people forgot about during the boom while slipping on their drool in Harvey Nicks. In fact, the craft sector in Ireland is worth €500m to the economy. Handmade artisan products are still shifting major units abroad, but it's at home that we're seeing the big successes. By 2008, the Guaranteed Irish self-funded initiative was almost dead, but since then consumers have done a complete u-turn and 2010 was the best year ever for products with the Guaranteed Irish symbol. How's that for buying local?


5. Rugby world cup


Not to put any pressure on the goys but UNLESS THEY DO AMAZINGLY WELL IN NEW ZEALAND ALL HOPE IS LOST. Ahem. And signs are they will. Irish rugby is riding the crest of a wave at the moment, and our players excel internationally with their skill, passion and sportsmanship (most of the time.) So along with Drico et al kicking ass down under, the next step should be to convince various countries to take up hurling in order for us to actually be the best at something in the world. As in something good, because we're pretty great at debt at the moment, but that doesn't count. Crouch, touch, pause, obliterate the opposition please.


6. Plundering natural resources to make us rich beyond our wildest dreams


According to documents obtained thanks to another reason to be cheerful (WikiLeaks), we could have approximately a bajazillion (or something to that effect) gasfields knocking around our coasts that we don't even know about. Unfortunately, this information came from Shell so let's just do that Men In Black memory eraser thing on them and then go look for the gas ourselves. Julian Cetti, Shell Ireland's head of commercial and business strategy, let slip that there could be enough gas around to meet our needs for years. Let's get it. And while we're chilling out offshore, isn't it about time we started mining all of that gold found in Cavan a few years ago? That said, it would be easier to get gas from Shell than gold from the fist of a Cavan man.


7. The yoof of today


Apart from being better-looking than ever before, our young people are a talented and pro-active bunch. Students led by well-behaved example with their vocal and organised protest on the streets of Dublin at the tail end of 2010, putting those who talked the talk but didn't march the march to shame. Our young actors like Domhnall Gleeson (right), Robert Sheehan, and Saoirse Ronan are representing us internationally with aplomb, and young people are also more optimistic than the cranky aul' ones spouting negativity. Thankfully, it finally feels as though a confident new generation is ready to shape this nation. If they write the future, then the future looks well written.


8. Thanks for the pranks


The brightest light shines after the darkest hour. That might sound like a line from a CSI: Miami script, but I actually just made it up right there. No need to applaud. What I mean is, misery often leads to the most funny and surreal moments. Plenty of people complain about a lack of decent satire in Ireland during this rotten aul' time, but one look at the Rubberbandits, Gift Grub, Après Match, prank reporters interviewing politicians with dildos instead of microphones and clever street art and you've got yourself a litany of hugely smart satirical therapy as a collective coping mechanism. F*** your lack of humour, I've a horse outside.


9. Growth in secularism


Choice is the most important thing in a modern, free society, and 2010 was a landmark year for choice. The European Court of Human Rights has made a point that we have to finally stop being ostrich-like about our abortion laws. Civil partnership, although falling short of true equality for gay people, is the first step on what will hopefully be a short journey to full civil marriage. The website showed that many, many people want out of the Catholic church. Non-faith schools are growing in popularity. The option to be who we want to be and to live how we want to live without the shadow of an all-pervasive religious institution looming overhead is becoming a reality at last.


10. Community spirit


In times of great strife, one would hope that people would pull together, and the recent snowmageddon that sent the country into deep freeze was testament to how, in difficult times, we still look after our neighbours, or even strangers who are stuck in airports or in a snowy rut. Combined with a DIY community spirit, this togetherness, an emphasis on kindness, dispensing with competition and one-upmanship, is the real reason to be cheerful this year. We have been metaphorically kicked while down so repeatedly over the past couple of years, but it's beginning to feel as though there's a kind, outstretched hand ready to haul us up. It's not from a government, or any other authority, but from each other. Chin up.