BAD news for all of you hoping for an early change of government – there won't be a general election in 2010. You can never say never in politics, particularly bearing in mind Albert Reynolds' old adage about it being the little things that trip you up. But, having got through the last four months (Lisbon, Nama, new programme for government and a savage budget), the coalition is unlikely to be toppled in 2010.
There won't be any huge lift in the government's opinion poll ratings. The alienation of the public service plus the severity of the last three budgets means there is no easy way back.
However, it is possible that Fianna Fáil could edge up a few points to the high-ish 20s if some voters give them credit for taking the tough decisions, particularly if there are any signs that the recession has bottomed out. The fact that a 27% or 28% rating would be gratefully seized on by Fianna Fáil shows just how much trouble the party has got itself into.
There probably won't be a huge amount of lift for the Greens either but if the party could hold ground at the 5-7% level it wouldn't be a bad performance.
Fine Gael will start and end 2010 as the most popular party but expect further tensions between it and Labour as both parties vie to be seen as the main opposition to the government.
2010 may be the year that Gerry Adams' long tenure as president of Sinn Féin comes to an end but it's difficult to predict that – or the identity of his successor – with any great certainty.
The economy and financial matters will continue to dominate the debate. There will be an investigation into what caused the banking crisis, carried out by an Oireachtas Committee, but it probably won't get underway for a few months and it could even be 2011 before it completes its work. It's possible that the investigation mightn't begin until a referendum is held to allow Oireachtas bodies compel witnesses to attend. Government sources are speculating about the possibility of a number of referenda being held on the one day – mainly concerning uncontentious issues – but the big question is whether there will be a referendum on children. We're going to sit on the fence on that one.
The Irish economy will tentatively return to growth towards the latter part of the year, signalling that the worst is indeed over. But sadly there will be more job losses in 2010 with unemployment and emigration continuing to edge upwards.
The Taoiseach will probably opt for a cabinet reshuffle at some point in the year. Martin Cullen and Eamon Ó Cuív could be vulnerable, while Mary Coughlan will remain as Tánaiste but could move out of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, with Willie O'Dea looking the most obvious replacement. There is speculation that Mary Harney will finally bow out of the cabinet, being replaced by Batt O'Keeffe in Health but Harney likes being a minister and rumours of her demise may prove premature.
It would be amazing if 2010 proved to be as big a rollercoaster ride in political life as the past two years. The whole country could probably do with a 'steady as she goes' type 12 months. But just don't bet on it.
The country will continue to grope in the dark through most of next year. Things will hardly get better, and the only hope is that they don't get much worse. Events and trends beyond these shores will have a major impact on hopes and fears.
If the economies of Europe pick up, able-bodied and able-minded men and women will leave to seek a better life abroad. Meanwhile, back home, a prosperous Europe will mean higher interest rates and that could be when the excrement comes into violent contact with the air conditioning. Rising interest rates will unfortunately mean a greater level of home repossessions.
The public arena will not be without some cheer. By early February the backroom boys in Fine Gael will determine that Enda Kenny must give a state of the nation address, to further loosen Brian Cowen's failing grasp on power.
Kenny will go down a bomb. Or he may go up like a bomb. It all depends on whether he manages to keep a straight face while he talks in serious tones about all he is and all he can be. He will declare that behind his coiffeured image he is really a cross-dressing, onion-addicted compulsive gambler who enjoys the odd line of cocaine of a Friday night. By November, he will be Taoiseach.
In sport, Roy Keane will be an early managerial casualty. He will come out and admit that he failed to prepare and therefore he was prepared to fail, with all credit to assorted langers and the FAI. Roy will then retreat for most of the year only to re-emerge in early December as the new manager of Colchester United. Taking the helm of a team from a lower division will, he shall declare, allow him more time to walk the dog and quieten the noise that blares through his head.
2010 will see Kilkenny banned from the All Ireland hurling championship on grounds of unfair competition. Following an appeal to the Competition Authority and the Supreme Court, the ban will be reversed but every hurling county will cry foul.
Meanwhile, in Cork there will be no strike. The failure of any of the county's teams to strike shall prompt departing controversial county secretary Frank Murphy to re-consider retirement.
The nation's woes will receive some respite with the acquisition of back-to-back grand slams by the Irish rugby team in late spring. Following this historic milestone, coach Declan Kidney will receive the highest honour currently available in the state – appointment to the board of Nama.
The arts scene will be dominated by Jedward. The twins from Lucan will release a single in January which will fail abysmally. In February another single will receive the same fate. And another in March, April and May. By June, Bono will declare that the brothers are now even more famous than U2.
Unfortunately, the runes suggest that in late autumn the brothers will demonstrate that in some instances they can actually sing. The revelation will do irreparable damage to their careers and by Christmas they will have sunk without trace. Let's be careful out there.
There's only really one truly exciting buzz word in the world of technology for the coming year, and that's AR, or Augmented Reality. Put simply, AR is a view of the real world with aspects enhanced by computer generated imagery. So it's neither 100% real nor 100% virtual, but rather a mixed reality. AR exists for the purpose of digitally providing a layer of added information on top of a real situation, which has benefits for learning or ingesting added knowledge about that real world snap shot or view. A simple example of AR is those computer generated national flags, or advertisements on a pitch that TV stations sometimes use in football match broadcasts. The players are real, the event is in real time, but the virtual element is the flag, ad or logo, thus creating a mixed reality, with the virtual element changing the 'realness' of the situation, thus making it augmented.
A few more steps have already been made in bringing AR into our lives; the iPhone application Wikitude allows you to take a live view of your surroundings like a camera lens and information links pop up over objects or landmarks of interest. CNN's holograms of reporters or guests 'live' in studio during their presidential election coverage blurred the lines of reality. Fighter pilots already use AR devices as 'head-up displays' using eye pointing interactive controls for navigation, weaponry and more. AR instances are becoming more frequent, frequent enough to smack a 'trend' label on it.
In 2010, this trend will continue. Adidas is releasing an augmented reality sneaker in February. Go to the Adidas website, hold up the tongue of your new shoe to your webcam, and a virtual world appears which you can navigate using the shoe as a controller. Gimmicky? Sure, but it shows that big brands are onto AR. This year, we'll see more and more AR elements pop up in products, apps, museum displays, and navigation tools.
While it was previously thought that AR would mainly come into mainstream use in head mounted displays (think of the Teminator's view of the world) it's now becoming more and more obvious that we'll avail of AR using mobile phones and other more day to day objects encountering it sporadically rather that AR becoming a constant element of our interaction with the world.
The next step? Malleable AR computer screens as part of our real environment (like Tom Cruise's control deck in Minority Report), virtual or more visually interactive cinema (already crawling along with new advances in 3D), art projects and exhibitions with AR elements, and endless advertising gimmicks using AR as a hook. The future isn't virtual, it's just augmented.
The best thing about 2009 is that it's over. Unfortunately, in 2010 the government will invent new ways to squeeze even more money out of us. In addition to Nama, Brian Lenihan will set up Sofa (the Search Out extra Finance Agency). This will deploy squads of taxmen to rummage down the back of the nation's couches for spare coins. Apparently, there is still €370m-worth of pre-euro money hidden around the country. Start rummaging.
Iceland will continue to be a great source of relief to us as we say "could be worse. We could be Iceland". We will continue to outperform Iceland financially. Iceland the supermarket chain, that is.
The financial institutions will announce the creation of new jobs… in India, by outsourcing. (Hibernian Aviva have already started that ball rolling.)
Some time this year, the search party will return with news of George Lee. Has anybody seen him since he was elected last June?
Bertie Ahern will be elected honorary mayor of Newry. A year ago he told Newry Chamber of Commerce "the area deserves to be to the forefront of Ireland's economic renaissances". His book-signing there before Christmas, with the other southern shoppers, certainly played its part.
Visionary Joe Coleman will make further predictions. Last year, he forecast visions at Knock and pilgrims witnessed the "sun dancing in the sky". This year
I predict Our Lady appearing on 'Dancing With The Stars' on the telly. And I predict another vision in the sky – that of John O'Donoghue taking a cheapo Ryanair flight.
Iran, continuing its brinksmanship, will play a practical joke and swap chairs with Ireland at the UN. Later, as the Yanks are nuking us, the Iranians will claim not to have had their "contact lenses in that day" and blame the alphabetical seating.
In showbusiness, Big Brother will end and I predict a headline in this paper that reads 'Big Brother (no one) is watching you'.
X Factor will return with Louis Walsh's latest protégé: Jed Ward – a singing member of the Travelling community with a split personality.
In sport, Tiger Woods will restart on the Pro Tour. Not the golf one, the other kind of 'pro' tour.
As the monsoon season begins, Disney will buy County Galway and turn it into a water theme park called 'Pirates of the Corrib'.
Ryanair will introduce 'Pay-as-you-go' air miles. Run out of credit mid-flight? Off you goooooooooo...
Despite cutbacks at the station, TV3 will somehow find money to set up Ursula Halligan's new office in the oncology unit of the Mater.
Finally, my top prediction for 2010 is… the end of the world. Later this month, in Switzerland, Cern's Large Hadron Collider will be restarted. Critics say the Big Bang machine will create a black hole that will rip earth apart. So forget the above predictions – we're doomed.
The good news is that we're all going down together. See you on the other side, folks.