At a meeting of the Global Irish Network last Thursday in New York, many influential Irish Americans challenged Dublin officials about the message the government conveys about the Irish economy.
The discussion focused on two newspaper articles, both of which cast doubt on the solvency of the Irish government. One was an article by UCD professor of economics Morgan Kelly published on Nov 8th by The Irish Times. The second was “Ireland’s Fate Tied to Doomed Banks” published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Nov 10th.
Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Mary Hanafin, who chaired the meeting, said that the networks’ 60 North American based members “were very, very concerned about that article being on the front page and the impact that it had.”
She added, “People were questioning and were quite challenging about what the Government is doing. And that is exactly why they were there.”
It was “not so much a case of blaming the messenger,” Hanafin told The Irish Times, but how the message could be improved.
Public relations executive Susan Davis said that a “champion group” was needed “for the messaging of the campaign.”
Economic questions were fielded by Alan Ahearne, special advisor to the Minister for Finance.
“There was a good deal of call for real transparency in the Irish Government’s approach to dealing with the emergence from a very deep, prolonged recession. People who are trying to help the recovery are finding that information is not readily available, that things are sometimes more opaque than transparent,” said Mark Tuohey, a Washington lawyer who specializes in government investigations.
Ms. Hanafin said that participants in the discussion also said that it would “help [Ireland’s] reputation . . . to see people who might have caused any of this difficulty brought to court.”
Participants praised Ms Hanafin, Mr Ahearne and Brian Lenihan (who was not present) despite the aggressive tone of the discussions.
“I still think the Government, particularly Brian Lenihan, is getting the basics right,” said Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chairwoman of the American Ireland Fund.
“If they just hold steady and hold their nerve and if the markets allow that, I think that Ireland will come out of this on their own . . . Overwhelming negativity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
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