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The Top 20 What was the ‘biggest thing’ to happen in 2016?

A countdown of the top 20 ‘biggest things’ that happened this year, according to Irish people.

IN SUMMARISING A year, we are often prone to our own subjective points of view.

Recapping 2016, many people will strongly remember the Apple taxation ruling, discussions about the Eighth Amendment or the long-running Olympic ticket scandal in relation to Pat Hickey.

But the last 12 months were packed with hugely significant events. To ascertain a more objective view of 2016, research firm Ireland Thinks identified and surveyed a representative sample of 1,026 Irish people.

We asked them an open-ended question: What did they feel was the ‘biggest thing’ that happened in 2016.

So here follows a countdown of the top 20 ‘biggest things’ that happened, according to Irish people:

20. The Floods (0.2%)

4/1/2016 Severe Weather Conditions Apartment evacuations in Athlone in January after Storm Frank flooded the area around the river Shannon. Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

Undoubtedly devastating for a large number of people, this year’s floods during Storm Frank left a permanent mark on communities in the west and midlands.

19. Pope visit announcement (0.3%)

Vatican Pope Alessandra Tarantino / PA Wire Alessandra Tarantino / PA Wire / PA Wire

Although the pontiff’s planned visit is not due until 2018, enthusiasm in relation to the announcement was sufficiently significant to warrant this as one of the more important events. Enda Kenny confirmed Pope Francis’s trip while in the Vatican last month.

18. Rise of the left and right across the west (0.5%)

Austria Election Demonstration Protesters walk with posters No nazi in the Hofburg during a demonstration against Norbert Hofer, a presidential candidate for right-wing Freedom Party, FPOE, in Vienna earlier this month. Ronald Zak / PA Wire Ronald Zak / PA Wire / PA Wire

Irish people have been closely watching the rise of left and right wing movements across Europe – not just in the UK – but also in Spain and Greece in relation to the left and Germany and Austria in relation to the right.

17. Ireland at Euro 2016 (1.0%)

Robbie Brady’s now-famous goal against Italy – and the love shown by and to Irish fans – made the tournament one to remember.

AJ+ / YouTube

16. Olympics success (1.1%)

The O’Donovan brothers and Annalise Murphy’s silver successes in Rio were a highlight for many, not least as a result of the viral interviews of the rowing duo.

BBC / YouTube

15. Tipperary winning the All-Ireland (1.2%)

Seamus Callanan Callanan scored 13 points (9 from play) on that September Sunday. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

All-Ireland success is never far from being a highlight in any given year, but beating Kilkenny in the manner the Premier did – with Seamie Callanan at the helm – was particularly special.

14. Celebrity deaths (1.2%)

PastedImage-95693 Munster players stood at the front of the Ireland figure of eight at Soldier Field in Chicago before taking on the All Blacks. INPHO / Billy Stickland INPHO / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

Since the untimely deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher over the Christmas period, much has been written about the number of celebrities that have passed away during 2016. At the start of the year, David Bowie released his final album and died just days later, sending fans the world over into mourning. In Ireland, it was the shocking death of Munster’s Anthony Foley in October which registered most prominently.

13. Conor McGregor’s victories (1.2%)

UFC 205 Mixed Martial Arts Julio Cortez / PA Wire Julio Cortez / PA Wire / PA Wire

Conor McGregor’s big victories to claim two UFC belts make the list at number 13. His fame shows no sign of abating, taking home RTE’s Sportsperson of the Year. The42′s editor Adrian Russell, at the time, wrote:

Strip away the Instagram filter on Conor McGregor’s Hollywood 2016 and what’s left in the lens? Two belts. A compelling redemption story that added an arc to a previously straightforward narrative. And easily one of the most impressive years from an Irish athlete.

12. Public sector pay deals and strikes (1.5%)

The threatened garda strike and other public sector industrial actions were regarded as being noteworthy this year.

11. Isis terrorism across Europe (2.2%)

France Truck Attack Luca Bruno / PA Wire Luca Bruno / PA Wire / PA Wire

Horrific terror attacks were carried out or claimed by Islamic State ‘fighters’ in Brussels, Nice, Istanbul and Berlin. The attack in Nice in July marked a frightening development in capabilities as 84 people were killed when a truck ploughed through a Bastille Day crowd.

10. Irish economy improving (2.4%)

Fine Gael's Minister Bruton, Coveney outline plans / Fine Gael / Fine Gael / Fine Gael

One of the few highlights, economic recovery and improved employment figures registered with many of those polled. Interestingly, but maybe not surprisingly, this tended to be more prominent among supporters of Fine Gael.

9. Housing and homelessness crisis (2.7%)

Much like the recent Eurobarometer poll which identified housing as the most pressing issue in Irish politics today, the housing and homelessness crises gets into the top 10 of this list. With the Apollo House occupation ongoing, it is likely to feature next year too. / YouTube

8. Ireland beating New Zealand for the first time in rugby (3.3%)

PastedImage-81705 an Sheridan / INPHO an Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The most prominent sporting result this year was the success of the Irish rugby team against the All Blacks in Soldier Field, Chicago on 5 November.

7. Same-sex marriages (4.1%)

Ireland's first same sex marrage In November 2015, Richard Dowling (left) and Cormac Gollogly became the first same-sex couple to tie the knot under Ireland's new laws. PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

Although the referendum happened in 2015, the ramifications of the event were still felt quite strongly in 2016 as the prevalence of same sex marriages registered at number seven. This was the third-most important event for those in the youngest, 18-24 age group.

6. Syrian war and refugee crisis (5.2%)

Migrant crisis Syrian refugee Ahmad El Alayi, 12, undergoing treatment at a physical rehabilitation centre in Sanliurfa, south eastern Turkey PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

The Syrian war, the situation in Aleppo and the refugee crisis were collectively acknowledged by 5.2% as the biggest thing of 2016.

5. 1916 Commemorations (5.7%)

1916 Easter Rising commemoration Maxwells / PA Archive/PA Images Maxwells / PA Archive/PA Images / PA Archive/PA Images

The extended commemorations of the 1916 Rising – the parades, the wreath-laying, the Proclamation readings and the cultural events – registered as the fifth-most important event of 2016. This scored highly among the older generation, particularly those over 65 years of age for whom this jumped to the third-most important event.

4. Water charge protests and charges scrapped (7.0%)

Water charges protest Protestors from the Right2Water movement opposed to water taxes and austerity, gather in Dublin in January Niall Carson / PA Wire Niall Carson / PA Wire / PA Wire

The scrapping of water charges was the single biggest Irish policy incident, fondly remembered by Sinn Féin supporters and others.

3. Irish general election and change of government (7.3%)

Irish general election PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

The General Election and the change of government was the third most important event this year, according to Irish people. It was regarded as more important for supporters of Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and the AAA-PBP – and much forgotten by Labour supporters.

2. US election and Donald Trump’s victory (22.5%)

2016 Election Trump Mary Altaffer / PA Wire Mary Altaffer / PA Wire / PA Wire

Considerably ahead of the third-most important event, the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States was identified by 22.5% as the biggest thing to happen in 2016.

1. Brexit (24.0%)

EU referendum PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

The most prominent event of 2016, according to Irish people, was Brexit. It was most acutely felt by those aged between 35 and 44, by Labour and Fine Gael supporters and by those in the border counties. Altogether, almost half of all respondents to the question registered ‘Trump’ or ‘Brexit’ as the biggest thing that happened in the past 12 months.

Dr Kevin Cunningham is a Lecturer at DIT and managing director of Ireland Thinks.


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