The year that was


Compiled by DAVID SHANKS


Russia turns off gas supply to Europe through Ukraine. Ethiopian military begins Somalia withdrawal. Riots rock Bulgarian and Latvian capitals as economic strife grips eastern EU. Saving all 150 passengers, US pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (57) ditches bird-stricken plane into Hudson river.

Barack Obama inaugurated as 44th US president. Israel ends Gaza invasion; death toll is 1,400. Obama signs an order to close Guantánamo. Indonesian ferry with 267 aboard sinks.

New US secretary of state Hillary Clinton signals new policy initiative in the Middle East. Icelandic government and banks collapse.


Worst-ever Australian bushfires kill hundreds. Obama’s $838bn stimulus package narrowly approved by Senate. Morgan Tsvangirai sworn in as powersharing Zimbabwe premier. Russia welcomes US offer “to press the reset button”. Obama asks Iran to “unclench its fist”. Venezuelans lift term limit for President Hugo Chávez. Obama says all combat troops will leave Iraq by August 2010.


Donors pledge $4.5bn aid for Gaza. Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir indicted for war crimes by the ICC; in retaliation he expels NGOs. Chávez seizes part of US agriculture company Cargill. US lifts stem cell research funding ban. President Nicolas Sarkozy returns France to Nato after 40 years. Former Marxist guerrillas elected in El Salvador. Madagascar president overthrown in coup.

Pope criticised during African tour for saying condoms aggravate the Aids problem. Josef Fritzl (73) jailed after having seven children by his imprisoned daughter.

Binyamin Netanyahu forms an Israeli government and promises to negotiate peace with the Palestinians.

EU presidency in disarray as Czech premier quits.


Hundreds of African migrants drown off Libya. Obama hails “historic” $1tn G20 global fiscal stimulus. Fourteen die in third mass US shooting in a month. Obama calls for a new era in transatlantic relations on his first official visit to France and Germany. Anders Rasmussen agreed as new Nato head at 60th anniversary summit. North Korea alarms US and Asia with long-range rocket launch. Italian earthquake leaves hundreds dead and ruins ancient buildings in L’Aquila. US and five other powers invite Iran to meet on its nuclear programme after Washington drops opposition to direct talks. Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika (72) wins a third term. Asian summit postponed because of protests supporting Thailand’s ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Michael Dwyer (25) from Tipperary shot dead in Bolivia amid accusations he was part of a hit-squad to kill the president. Iceland’s new pro-EU government wins election. The WHO raises its global swine flu alert level, warning “a pandemic is imminent”.


In Turkey 44 people shot dead at Kurdish wedding. Obama expresses “deep regret” over civilian deaths in an air strike in Afghanistan as he meets Afghan and Pakistani presidents. Jacob Zuma elected South African president following ANC’s election win.

In Bethlehem the pope supports an independent Palestine. Four Kuwaiti women elected MPs. Amid reports of a civilian massacre, Tamil Tiger rebels admit defeat, ending Sri Lanka’s 25-year war. British Commons speaker joins resigning MPs and ministers in expenses scandal.

Manmohan Singh (77) returns as India’s leader. Obama nominates first Hispanic to the supreme court.


Three young Irish doctors among 228 on disappeared Air France flight. In Cairo, Obama calls for a new beginning in relations between the West and Islam.

British Labour MPs’ support for Gordon Brown revives after Labour’s worst election in almost 100 years. In a major policy shift, US abandons its insistence that big developing countries must make greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

North Korea warns of a nuclear war in defiance of new unanimous UN Security Council sanctions. UN and humanitarian agencies call on Israel to end Gaza blockade. Terrified civilians say a UN-backed mission against Rwandan rebels is killing villagers. Two weeks of often violent protests, larger than those in the 1979 Iran revolution, follow re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; dozens killed. Nato and Russia agree to re-establish military ties.


Sweden assumes EU presidency. Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev agree a one-third cut in their strategic nuclear weapons arsenals.

China’s President Hu cuts short his trip to Italy for the G8 summit because of Han/Uighur ethnic violence, the worst in 20 years. G8 pledges $20 billion for sustainable farming in poor countries, a US initiative. Obama, in Africa, calls on Africans to seize control of their future by building democracy and eliminating corruption. President Denis Sassou-Nguesso wins Congo Republic election boycotted by opposition. Colleagues of murdered Russian human rights activist blame Chechnya’s leader. Kyrgyzstan election giving president a landslide is deeply flawed, says OSCE.


British military deployment in Iraq ends without ceremony. More than 700 killed in a radical Islamic uprising in Nigeria. Venezuela revokes licences of dozens of radio stations. Iran’s supreme leader says Ahmadinejad is a “brave, hard-working and wise man” as protesters clash with security forces during his inauguration. Bill Clinton secures North Korean release of two American journalists. Lockerbie bomber freed. Wildfires threaten Athens. Fighting between ethnic Chinese groups and Burmese forces drives 10,000 refugees into China. Japanese voters end long rule by the Liberal Democratic Party.


The commander of US forces in Afghanistan asks for 40,000 more troops; commentators warn of “Obama’s Vietnam”. Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at then US president George Bush is released. UN Goldstone report blames Hamas for firing missiles into Israel but condemns Israel’s Gaza offensive as “a deliberately disproportionate attack”. Moscow praises Obama’s decision to scrap US missile defence shield plan. In a serious blow to Obama’s Middle East policy, envoy George Mitchell leaves without a deal on an Israeli settlement freeze.

At UN general assembly, Obama commits the US to “a new era of engagement with the world”. Honduran forces besiege Brazilian embassy where ousted president Manuel Zelaya is holed up. World leaders interrupt G20 summit to say Iran is building a secret uranium enrichment facility. US announces major Burma policy shift involving engagement with generals. German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned to power with Free Democrats. Some 120,000 attend a papal Mass in the Czech Republic. Iran says it test-fired a medium-range missile. Oxfam says drought is driving 23m east Africans towards destitution.


China celebrates 60th communist anniversary. Peru’s ex-president Alberto Fujimori (71) jailed. Indonesian earthquake kills more than 1,000. Burma court upholds guilty verdict against Aung San Suu Kyi. Ireland passes the Lisbon Treaty. Hundreds killed in floods in Philippines and India. Greek socialists win. About 800,000 Romanians strike against pay cuts. China persuades North Korean leader to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks. France arrests Eta leader. Poland’s premier agrees to take part in a new US missile defence programme. Two Sudanese women sentenced to 20 lashes for wearing trousers. Goal aid workers freed in Darfur. Iraq arrests dozens of security officials suspected of collusion in bombings.


Hillary Clinton says Israel’s refusal to agree a settlement freeze should not obstruct negotiations, provoking Palestinian fury. Czech president Václav Klaus signs Lisbon. Judges order legal counsel for Radovan Karadzic, who has boycotted his trial. Honduras powersharing deal collapses. Tsvangirai calls off cabinet boycott. Thousands remember fall of the Berlin Wall. Obama’s healthcare Bill passes another hurdle with tight House majority. Prime minister Gordon Brown apologises for a botched letter to the mother of a British soldier killed in Afghanistan. Irish Columban priest freed in the Philippines. Russia and EU agree gas deal. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas vows to seek UN backing for a unilateral declaration of independence, despite EU opposition. Belgian premier Herman Van Rompuy named president of the European Council and Catherine Ashton as foreign policy chief. President Hamid Karzai sworn in following August’s deeply flawed election.British Iraq war inquiry opens.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn to be EU research and innovation commissioner. Palestinians reject Israel’s 10-month partial freeze of settlement building. Swiss vote to ban new minarets. Rancher Porfirio Lobo is declared Honduras’s president. Trial opens of John Demjanjuk (89), accused of helping to murder almost 28,000 Jews.


Obama announces another 30,000 troops for Afghanistan; allies promise 7,000. Israel bars Gaza visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin. Russian nightclub fire kills 113. Zuma reverses SA’s Aids policy. Tear gas used on Athens protesters marking the anniversary of the police killing of a 15-year-old boy. Evo Morales re-elected in Bolivia.

Baghdad bombs kill 130. Obama accepts Nobel Peace Prize. Irish priest murdered in Kenya. Romania’s constitutional court orders a recount in “rigged” election. EU leaders agree €7.2bn climate change package for developing countries. US special envoy gets North Korean agreement to co-operate on resolving “remaining differences”. Binyamin Netanyahu condemns attack on a West Bank mosque. Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi injured by attacker. Management consultancy giant Accenture ends sponsorship of golfer Tiger Woods, who has admitted being unfaithful to his wife.


RAUL ALFONSIN, 1980s president of Argentina (82).

CORAZON AQUINO, post-Marcos Philippines president, right (76).

GERTRUDE BAINES, world’s oldest person, who voted for Barack Obama (115).

JG BALLARD, English novelist (78).

BERNARD BARKER, Watergate burglar (92).

WALTER CRONKITE, former CBS newscaster,

right (92).

RALF DAHRENDORF, German-British social theorist and politician (80).

KIM DAE-JUNG, South Korean president, author of Sunshine Policy (85).

GUILLERMO ENDARA, president of Panama 1989-1994 (73).

MARILYN FRENCH, writer and feminist (79).

CLEMENT FREUD, British broadcaster and politician (84).

JADE GOODY, reality TV star who died of cancer (27).

MICHAEL JACKSON, legendary American performer and singer, left (50).

MAURICE JARRE, film music composer (84).

JACK JONES, former British trade union leader (96).

EDWARD KENNEDY, “liberal lion” of US Senate, left (77).

EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, founder of the Special Olympics (88).

CARDINAL STEPHEN KIM, South Korean pro-democracy champion (86).

BÉLA KIRÁLY, 1956 Hungarian uprising leader (97).

ROBERT McNAMARA, left, Vietnam war era US secretary of state (93).

LESZEK KOLAKOWSKI, Polish political philosopher (81).

CLAUDE LÉVI-STRAUSS, French social anthropologist (100)

KHALID BIN MAHFOUZ, Saudi banker infamous for Irish passports- for-investment scheme (60).

GAAFAR NIMEIRY, 1969 - 85 president of Sudan (79).

HELEN SUZMAN, left, South African politician (91).

MARY TRAVERS, singer-songwriter of Peter, Paul and Mary fame (72).

JOHN UPDIKE, US writer, (76).