There won't be too many sad farewells to the past year, which brought us everything short of famine and pestilence. The New Year starts off very well with a new president in place and a renewed country anxious to leave the past behind. President-elect Barack Obama will bring with him the best wishes of billions around the world as he seeks to grapple with the recession/depression we have sunk into. Nowhere will those wishes be more fervent than Ireland, where the cold winds of change have blown across the January landscape with the effect of an ice storm. The New Year was hardly born when Dell announced 1,900 job losses at their Limerick computer plant. The impact on such a close-knit community can only be imagined. Up to 10,000 downstream jobs may be affected as Dell departs for Poland. Also the news that Waterford Crystal has gone into receivership was expected to some extent but nonetheless a great shock. One of the great Irish brands, Waterford has suffered greatly from the weak dollar and the cost of doing business in Ireland. Then came unemployment figures in Ireland showing that the numbers out of work had jumped by 71 percent in a year. Rumors of bankruptcies of leading figures continue to persist in Ireland, even as the government seeks desperately to right the ship. Previously it had been announced that Ireland was the first European country to be officially in a recession. One wonders why it took so long. Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen has a thankless task ahead as he seeks to navigate both a global economy in recession and an Irish economy that is foundering. These are bleak times for him and for every world leader. Ireland, however, after scaling the heights, has sunk to the depths with a resounding thud with a speed that has shocked most observers. Let us hope this is a temporary pickle and that the New Year brings better tidings. It can hardly be worse than the old.

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