LEADER reporter MIKE DWANE looks ahead to some notable Limerick anniversaries which occur during 2011.
THERE'S a good chance 2011 will end with Michael Noonan in Cabinet and Ireland having gone through a referendum – on abortion – that will bitterly divide opinion. If that does happen, 2011 will look a lot like 1986.
Twenty-five years ago, Deputy Noonan was moved from Justice to Industry and Commerce by Garrett FitzGerald. This was also the year Limerick voters issued a resounding no to proposals to ease restrictions on divorce.
Bishop of Limerick Jeremiah Newman was a significant voice in the campaign, warning "God says no to divorce". In Limerick East, opposition was at about the national average of two-to-one against. Limerick West recorded one of the highest 'no' votes in the country at 75 per cent.
In 1986, Shannon Airport opened US immigration pre-clearance, a facility expanded in 2008 to include customs.
While Maradona was winning the 1986 World Cup, Limerick's Al Finucane was making his own history when, aged 43, he became the oldest player ever to play European football in a match for Waterford against Bordeaux.
It had all started out for Al 50 years ago when he played his first game for Limerick, aged 17.
2011 also marks the 50th anniversary of one of Ireland's worst air disasters when a President Airlines DC-6 crashed into mudflats on the Shannon. Local fishermen searched for survivors but all 83 souls on board were lost.
In 1961, Limerick saw its first ever entrant in the Rose of Tralee. Marlene McCarthy from Mount Mungret received fan mail from American GIs after her appearance.
James Collins and Donnchadh O Briain won Dail seats for Fianna Fail along with Fine Gael's Denis Jones in Limerick West. Donogh O'Malley was returned with Fianna Fail colleague Paddy Clohessy and Fine Gael's Tom O'Donnell in Limerick East. This was also the first time one of Limerick's most controversial politicians, Labour's Stevie Coughlan, was elected to the Dail.
Jim Kemmy would clash with Coughlan in the years to come. Kemmy would have been 75 in 2011 had he lived.
The year also marks the 75th anniversary of the death of the Earl of Grafton when his Bugatti crashed during the Limerick Grand Prix.
In 1936, archaeologist Sean O Riordain began excavations on one of Ireland's richest heritage sites, Lough Gur.
Significant building work was finished in Limerick in 1936 with the completion of a new estate, St Mary's Park. Also in that year, Limerick got a new cinema and entertainment venue. The 1500-seat Savoy Theatre opened with a Pathe newsreel and Brewster's Millions.
On the sporting field, Ahane's Mick Mackey and Jackie Power inspired Limerick to All-Ireland final victory against Kilkenny in 1936.
As Munster champions, Limerick also qualified to play Kilkenny in the decider 100 years ago but the Cats were named champions when Limerick refused to play a rearranged fixture in a dispute over the venue.
The 1911 census recorded there were 143,069 people living in the city and county, down from 330,029 before the famine.
Also in 1911, West Limerick MP PJ O'Shaughnessy complained bitterly in the House of Commons that the local police sergeant in Broadford had taken to closing the local pubs when funerals and GAA matches were taking place.