By Mark Devenport
"The Ice Age is over". That's how Ian Paisley summed up the changes that have taken place in Northern Ireland and its cooperation with the Irish Republic when he attended a north-south ministerial meeting in July.
Ian Paisley didn't throw any snowballs at Bertie Ahern
The first minister had in mind the old era when he threw snowballs at a previous taoiseach.
But his metaphor applies more generally - 2007 saw the most dramatic melting of the political permafrost anyone in Northern Ireland could have imagined.
The gradual warming in relations between former enemies may date back to the mid-1990s.
But so far as 2007 was concerned, the political year began on 28 January, when Sinn Fein members gathered in Dublin.
At an extraordinary ard fheis (conference), they voted to support the police and take places on the Policing Board.
Building on the IRA's destruction of its arsenal in 2005, Sinn Fein's policing move helped to pull the carpet from under the feet of any unionist "refuseniks".
The DUP fought the March assembly election campaign on an ambiguous platform - talking about the need for delivery from both republicans and the government before it could contemplate power-sharing.
But the most important sentence in the DUP manifesto was the one which was not there - in contrast to previous documents it did not rule a mandatory coalition "out of the question".
The first and deputy first ministers met with President George Bush
Soon after the election, the DUP executive voted to do a deal.
They pushed the restoration of devolution back to May, but that was a detail.
The extraordinary scene in the Stormont members' dining room on 26 March said it all.
After some midnight manoeuvres, with tables being hauled into different configurations in the room, Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams appeared, almost side by side, to let the world know they had overcome decades of enmity.
The day of 8 May amounted to a victory lap for Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, and some striking images of the leaders laughing together on the sofas in the first minister's office.
Then the VIPs departed, and we were left to see how the executive would cope on its own.
The politicians themselves had predicted that Stormont could be a "battle a day".
But the burgeoning relationship between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness confounded those predictions.
The first and deputy first ministers themselves do not like the nickname, "the Chuckle Brothers", given them by their political opponents.
However, the tag stuck, because it reflected a shared sense of surprise the public felt when they saw the two old enemies cracking jokes in front of a Stormont committee.
Aside from the personal rapport at the top, the executive pulled together when faced by unpredictable crises like flash floods and a
foot-and-mouth outbreak in England.
Margaret Ritchie clashed with executive colleague Peter Robinson
It commissioned reviews which pointed towards a way forward over the controversial water charges and domestic rates.
There were some "battles" between nationalists and unionists, over the Irish language and the future of education.
But the ones which appeared most venomous were fought between the two big partners in the coalition and the two smaller parties.
The DUP finance minister Peter Robinson admonished the SDLP social development minister Margaret Ritchie over the way she handled her decision to cut funding to a UDA-linked conflict transformation initiative.
Then Mr Robinson and his wife Iris were involved in running battles with the UUP health minister Michael McGimpsey who complained his department had been given insufficient funds.
These internal rows will no doubt continue in 2008, as will the disagreements over academic selection and the future of the proposed multi-sports stadium at the Maze.
The year ended with both high and low notes.
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness completed a high profile tour of the United States, where they were feted by politicians and businessmen and granted a lengthy meeting with President Bush at the White House.
MEP Jim Allister left the Democratic Unionists
However, on their return, they received what looked like a flat "no" from Gordon Brown to their demand for a cut in local Corporation tax to provide an incentive for inward investment.
The rejection came in the form of a report from the former head of the Inland Revenue Sir David Varney.
In comparison to Tony Blair, Mr Brown has adopted a much more "hands-off" style towards Northern Ireland, leaving all the work on devolving justice to his Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward.
Not everyone is convinced by the new dispensation.
The DUP's only MEP, Jim Allister, quit the party in protest at its deal with Sinn Fein. He has since formed a new movement called Traditional Unionist Voice.
Sinn Fein has also lost one assembly member, who cited doubts about policing as one reason for his resignation.
But given the low level of support for anti-agreement politicians in the March elections, it would seem that power-sharing's opponents will have their work cut out if they want to bring the Stormont edifice down.
Structural problems in the system designed by the Good Friday Agreement may well require reform, but at the end of 2007 few could imagine any return to the politics of conflict.
It was equally hard to envisage Stormont going back to the old days of "stop start" devolution.