Americans bemused by Irish governance in Indo's Wikileaks exposé

Reading the Irish Independent's coverage of the diplomatic cables it received from notorious whistleblowing website Wikileaks over the past few days, you'be be forgiven for forming the impression that the Irish government was being run by a bunch of amateurs.

The overall picture that emerges from the leaks on the whole can probably be summarized as a group of bemused but seemingly very clued-in American diplomats wondering just what was going on across Dublin in Leinster House, why those with the information about the impending economic bust close to hand weren't divulging it to the Irish public, and most pointedly why nobody at the Department of Finance had seemingly formulated a plan for recovery.

Former Ambassador Thomas Foley emerges of course as the protagonist of the show, while the sub-diplomats and councillors that join him at high-level meetings also seem to share in his disbelief and disquiet at what they seem to have correctly foreseen as an economic disaster in the making.
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Former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's "turned a corner" speech, in which he claimed - without reason - that the economy had turned a corner, when in fact only the bailout was in store, seems to have come as a particular shock to the diplomats, while the lack of a clear plan as to what to do if a bailout was necessary, and almost total paralysis at the Department of Finance in this regard, were also concepts of Irish misgovernance which seemed alien and incomprehensible to the Americans.

The most worrying thing about the leaks, though, is that the American diplomats seemed to have had a much more realistic of where Ireland was heading, and of what was going on behind closed doors, than the government itself did.

Lenihan's turned a corner speech was instantly spotted as being the stuff of make-believe, while other aspects of the country's finances -- even the provision of near-free education at third level -- came under scrutiny and shown to be incompatible with what Ireland was trying to achieve financially.

The Americans knew that the value of the 'toxic' loans being transferred to NAMA wasn't what the government was claiming it was, and had realized that the State would have to have recourse to an EU/IMF bailout deal even when it was maintaining its charade that it wouldn't be necessary.

If Ahern and Cowen had managed to pull the wool over anybody's eyes with what was truly going on, it certainly wasn't the American diplomats.