There is no doubt 2019 has been a dramatic year for Irish politics. There have been near misses with Brexit, the highs and lows of three elections and political controversies.

At the same time all politicians acknowledge more needs to be done in Ireland to address health, housing and the global issue of our time: climate.

Here our political team of David Murphy, Paul Cunningham and Maggie Doyle see what 2019 tells us about the year ahead.

Three elections in 2019 - with the big one to come in 2020

The general election is lurking around the corner, possibly in the early months of 2020. During 2019 politicians had opportunities to assess the public appetite for their policies in the Local and European elections and four by-elections.

There is a lot which can be said about the by-elections and the European contest but perhaps the strongest gauge of what might happen during a general election were the local elections held in May. That is because a massive 949 seats in local authorities were filled and statistically it gives a good indication of the standing of the parties.

The elections showed Fianna Fáil enjoyed the largest percentage of the first preference vote at 26.9%, followed by Fine Gael at 25.3%, Independents at 19.6%, Sinn Féin at 9.5%, Labour at 5.7%, Greens at 5.5%, Solidarity-People Before Profit at 1.9% and Social Democrats at 2.3%.

The Fianna Fáil performance was a strong indication of the party's resurgence, winning 279 seats. The party won a seat in the European elections and is due to take up another seat when Britain leaves the EU. It also had a strong performance in the November by-elections, winning two out of four seats on offer.

While Fine Gael made gains in the local elections the party fell short of its aim to win 50 additional seats - in the end it won 255. It had a strong showing in the European elections taking up four positions of the initial 11 on offer. However it had poor performance in the by-elections and failed to secure any additional TDs in the Dáil.

Perhaps the biggest change in voting patterns was the significant collapse in the Sinn Féin vote in the local elections as its number of councillors dropped from 158 in 2014 to 81 in 2019. While it also lost two seats in the European elections, the party took encouragement from winning a seat in the November by-elections.

2019 was a resounding success story for the Greens. It had 12 seats going into the local elections and three days later there were 49 Green councillors elected throughout the country. It also won two seats in the European elections and one seat in a by-election.

Social Democrats won a respectable 19 seats in the local elections while Solidarity-People Before Profit lost 17 seats, leaving it with 11 councillors.

Confidence and Supply – the glue that held Government together

Confidence and Supply, the deal brokered between the two big parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, came under pressure in 2019.

But the pact survived to keep the current coalition of Fine Gael and Independents in place, although on much tighter numbers than before.

The agreement was renewed in December 2018 after the initial May 2016 deal took effect.

In 2018, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin gave the go-ahead for the minority government to continue through 2019, but with the caveat there would be an election in "early 2020".

Unsurprisingly, it was health and housing that mostly put the agreement under pressure, but Fianna Fáil’s abstention from motions of no-confidence in two government ministers ensured the Government remained in office.

During the debate on the no-confidence motion against Minister for Health Simon Harris in February, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald criticised Confidence and Supply, saying it had "undermined and discredited the political process".

Both sides recognised the fragility of it - when the costs of the overrun of the National Children’s Hospital became apparent, Mr Martin said it was "breach" of the agreement.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said the Confidence and Supply Agreement was "not a perfect arrangement" but that it had created stability at a dangerous time for Ireland during Brexit negotiations.

There was some external recognition for Ireland’s political harmony. Last April, after another Brexit near miss, the European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt commended Fianna Fáil, in an interview on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live. He said the party was working in the interests of the country with the agreement.

He said: "We need a little bit more Irish common sense in British politics."

Brexit – a year of two UK Prime Ministers

Britain’s controversial plans to leave the European Union ate up a vast quantities of political energy.

Deadlines came and went. Red lines were crossed. An alphabet soup of arrangements, backstops, plans, deals and protocols soaked up late nights and weekends.

It was a year of two halves - the first dominated by then UK prime minister Theresa May making unsuccessful attempts get a deal across the line the House of Commons.

The second half of the year saw Boris Johnson flirting with leaving the EU without an agreement, only to be blocked by the House of Commons, finally getting a majority after an election and pushing an agreement over the line.

From the point of view of the Irish politics the main aim was to ensure that Ireland’s interests were a priority for EU negotiators.

Top of that list of demands was ensuring that no hard border was introduced on the island as part of Brexit and the freedom of movement was maintained.

Despite the usual sparring and jousting among politicians in Leinster House, they were aligned on Brexit.

The need to have a stable Government in place while Britain slid from one political crisis to another was paramount to many in Leinster House.

On 7 June Mrs May resigned and was replaced by Mr Johnson later that month.

A key encounter came on 10 October when Prime Minister Johnson met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Following that meeting a new deal was agreed with EU negotiators.

The deal abandoned the so-called backstop, but also shifted checks to the Irish Sea. That move freed the island of Britain from remaining part of the EU Customs Union - a key sticking point for hard Brexiteers.

It was met with expected opposition from the DUP which had supported the minority Conservative coalition in the House of Commons. Brexit legislation was stalled.

Britain held a general election on 12 December, giving the Conservatives a landslide majority. The development made life easy for the Irish Government and the EU as they now were dealing with a British Prime Minister who could implement their plans with help of a whopping majority.

For Ireland it meant the Withdrawal Agreement would be passed through the House of Commons quickly.

That had a further consequence for Ireland - the raison d'être forfgener the Confidence and Supply arrangement to remain in place lapsed - sparking speculation about a general election early in the New Year.

Budget 2020 – how the Finance Minister dodged a bullet

Paschal Donohoe, the Minister for Finance, had a tricky task in the run up to the Budget.

He was preparing his economic package as Britain was again flirting with the prospect of leaving the European Union without a deal on 31 October. That scenario would cause enormous economic damage to Ireland and the UK.

Mr Donohoe had two options - A) announce a precautionary Budget built on the assumption that the UK would leave without a deal, or B) assume common sense would prevail and Britain would get a deal or an extension.

While "B" happened, with Britain extending Brexit until January, Minister Donohoe and colleagues prepared for "A" a no-deal scenario.

It meant he had the best of both worlds.

He could introduce a prudent Budget despite the booming economy. He also had the political cover of a potential no-deal Brexit as an excuse not to reduce income taxes and not to repeat the social welfare increases of past year.

On 8 October he unveiled a package which made relatively few changes.

However, he did increase Carbon Taxes by €6 per tonne which added 2c per litre to the price of petrol or diesel.

Absent from his Budget speech was a commitment to go further and make commitments to increase the tax annually in an effort to reduce emissions.

Internal affairs – politicians land in hot water

"Let no person in this House, and beyond, be in any doubt this is a very serious situation which requires urgent action."

That was the assessment of Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl in October, when dealing with the negative fall-out from widespread coverage of irregular voting in the Dáil chamber.

He said the public must have "total and absolute confidence" in the voting process and then quickly followed-up to make sure it happened. From now on, Dáil deputies have to be in their own seats when voting, and party whips must guarantee that is the case.

While many TDs had voted for colleagues who were elsewhere in the Dáil, it was Fianna Fáil TDs who were involved in votes for colleagues who had actually left the chamber.

The cases of Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins are still before the Dáil's ethics committee. Lisa Chambers was found by the Members' Interests Committee to have "inadvertently" pressed her colleagues button and given a warning.

Fine Gael experienced its own problems when Cork North Central TD Dara Murphy resigned his seat to work with the European Commission. There were calls for investigations into his Dáil attendance, and expense claims, given he had been working regularly in Brussels for two years, as well as being a TD, with the European People's Party.

The party also moved to de-select its Dún Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey as a general election candidate. She garnered much negative coverage over her decision to initiate an insurance claim against a Dublin hotel after falling off a swing. Fine Gael also deselected its Wexford general election candidate Verona Murphy after her controversial remarks on immigration.

But it wasn't just the political parties who faced difficulties. The Houses of the Oireachtas also had to try to explain why a printer and related equipment, which cost €1.3m, couldn't fit into the designated building when it arrived.

None of the controversies helped the politicians’ reputations in the eyes of the public.

Climate – the pressing global issue of our time

2019 was the year that Dáil Éireann declared there was a climate emergency - and thereby Ireland became only the second country in the world to do so. Campaigner Greta Thunberg was impressed, tweeting: "Great news from Ireland!!! Who is next?" But it was a strange affair in May: only six TDs were in the Dáil chamber at the time.

Two months earlier, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action published a cross-party report entitled: Climate Change: A cross-party consensus for action. The document was a substantial achievement, building on the work of the Citizens' Assembly the previous year. It was supported by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour and the Greens as both balanced but radical. However, consensus remained elusive - Sinn Féin and People Before Profit voted against it, arguing green taxes hurt low income earners unfairly.

In July, the Irish Government published its Climate Action Plan. Its objective is to ensure Ireland reduces carbon emissions by 30% between 2021 and 2030, and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

At the UN climate change summit in Madrid in December, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton declared that "Ireland is determined to play its part" in tackling climate change.

At the meeting, the Climate Change Performance Index found that Ireland had improved its position by seven places. However, it remains languishing at number 41 out of 61 countries.

Sometimes politics is criticised for promoting the urgent ahead of the important.

For leaders across the globe the extent to which they take concrete action to limit the effects of climate change will be a critical issue in 2020.