At this time of the year, I like to pause for a moment to reflect on all that has happened over the past twelve months. We will all have personal highlights and the best thing about those is that they’re the things that will stick in our minds for years to come, bringing a smile to the face as the memory comes back time and time again.

It can however be a little more difficult to recall the standout moments from this year if you’re thinking of what happened in the world as a whole. Everything seems to merge together and you find yourself thinking, “gosh, that couldn’t have only happened a few months ago”. Sometimes they feel much more recent but there are other times when it feels like they happened much longer ago.

Brexit definitely falls into the latter category. It’s been going on for so long that I struggle to remember a life when we had a government certain about anything except the fact that they’re certainly not uncertain. While the Brexit referendum itself was almost two years ago, it seems that Theresa May and her merry men have suddenly realised that next year is 2019: the year we theoretically make our grand exit.

We’ve had resignations galore, a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister that she eventually won, an EU court announcement that states that the UK can legally still eat some humble pie and back out of the whole Brexit mess and hundreds of thousands of people taking to the street demanding that they get a say in the final deal if and when it is eventually decided upon.

They’re so bogged down with Brexit, that it’s a struggle to think of anything else Parliament has done for us this year but there is one thing that stands out.

In November, specialist doctors were awarded the authority to legally prescribe medicinal cannabis products to patients that they believed would benefit from such treatment. This change in the law followed the heart-breaking plight of Billy Caldwell who had been forced to travel internationally to access cannabis oil to treat his severe epilepsy. As his mother Charlotte made their story public, scores of other parents came forward with their experiences of how cannabis oil seemed to help their children’s conditions.

Alas, as with Brexit, this change has also faced its hurdles. Many of the specialist doctors who are theoretically able to provide the prescriptions do not as they feel that there is not enough clinical data to warrant the medical use of cannabis and so patients are going to private doctors at hefty costs in the hopes of obtaining a prescription. Given that this isn’t an avenue many can afford, they’re either having to leave the country for treatment once again or having to resort to breaking the law. There’s no point in changing the law if it doesn’t actually make one iota of difference.

Still, at least Stormont has been a constant source of reliability all year. Our MLAs still can’t manage to agree on anything except disagreeing. Any lingering ember of hope for some kind of resolution was likely extinguished pretty early on in the year after talks began once again in February.

It seemed close at one point as Theresa May popped over the water for a quick visit and speculation was rife. Then Michelle O’Neill claimed that some kind of real agreement had been reached with the DUP and it seemed the impossible had been achieved but that was strenuously denied by the DUP. I’d say they ended up back at square one, but I doubt they can even agree where square one actually is anymore.

At least we can rely on the Irish government to keep things ticking over. I cannot help but feel that they’re looking out for our overall interests more than Westminster or Stormont are despite their having the least legal obligation to.

It was a momentous year for those in Ireland as the ‘Repeal the Eighth’ campaign took on new life ahead of the referendum in May on abortion laws. It was a landslide with more than two thirds of voters repealing the amendment. It has now passed into law and while it isn’t everything that campaigners had hoped for in regards to how the legislation currently is written, it’s certainly a huge move forward in allowing women to access care in their home country. The biggest hurdle has been navigated and no doubt the rules and guidelines will need to be altered as reality puts them to the test.

That’s the thing with legislation – for it doesn’t always meet the expectations of those who are in favour and it can divide a nation if the matter in question is controversial.

This year has seen shocking levels of gun violence in America once again. As dire as our political system here may be, at least children here can focus on their schoolwork rather than constantly living in fear of a school shooting. This was the worst year since 1970 for school shootings in the USA, with on happening, on average, once every eight school days. On Valentine’s Day, it took only six minutes for the teenage perpetrator of the Florida school shooting to kill seventeen people and injure seventeen more.

Overall, it’s been a pretty bleak year politically but at least we can always rely on finding silver linings in our own lives. It’s finding that little light that helps to keep us pushing on to make it through the darker days. Hold on to them as 2019 begins and use those memories to encourage new ones.

Perhaps that’s something our government could take inspiration from.

They constantly look for fault and negativity so it’s all we ever hear about, and that takes its toll on even the most optimistic of people. If only they would try taking a chance, then perhaps they’d be able to surprise us all and make some positive headlines next year.