The New York meeting of the Irish diaspora advice group took place at the Irish Consulate in New York last week.
First put together by the Irish government at Farmleigh in Dublin in September 2009, the diaspora gathering was attended by 160 leaders from across the globe and was pronounced a great success. The New York meeting was the first follow up in North America and was well attended.
Over 60 Irish American leaders from several cities and varied backgrounds met with Irish Tourism Minster Mary Hanafin and her officials in a day long session to make their recommendation about the Irish diaspora/Irish in Ireland relationship.
Top of their list was the continuing financial uncertainty in Dublin and the need for the government to get it behind them.
While things were certainly heading south in Farmleigh in 2009, the scale of the international fall for Ireland has been stunning since.
The days of the Celtic Tiger seem like some Shangri La now, a time when Ireland enjoyed incredibly positive international coverage and all seemed like a bright new age.
Then came the deluge. Hence the advice in New York.
It was solid counsel. For weeks now the Irish government and its financial machinations have been in the crosshairs of the international media.
Some of that media has been unremittingly hostile or at the every least adversarial. In the U.K., The Financial Times and Daily Telegraph in particular seemed full of schadenfreude at Ireland’s parlous condition, payback perhaps for all those years of headlines during the Celtic Tiger about how Ireland was surpassing Britain.
The main reason the crisis is important is that the future of the euro currency may be at stake. Europe has already bailed out Greece. Ireland may be next, and the real fear is that major countries like Spain and Italy could follow.
Therefore, the European Union wants to stop the rot now before the whole system falls apart.
In the process, however, the status of Ireland has been deeply undermined. The impression of a floundering government is being widely spread throughout the media, a country unable to sort out its own financial affairs.
Credibility is everything in the U.S., and this Irish government has consistently underplayed the crisis and its ramifications for the country.
That issue of credibility was at the heart of the Irish American message last week. Whatever the Irish government does and says, it must be able to gauge the entire extent of the problem it faces and the ways in which it will address the crushing debt.
It doesn’t fall easy to politicians to admit the worst case scenarios or even include them in their statements, but the reality is that Ireland must face up to them now.
Any more “surprises” about how much is owed or hidden debt costs will truly consign the country to the list of European undesirables.
That is a very significant factor. Companies thinking of moving overseas first and foremost want a stable environment to operate in. Ireland with its daily diet of rumor, innuendo and far from flattering global coverage, is not that place right now.
That needs to change, which was the message from the diaspora last week. Let us hope it is acted on.
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