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Friday 20 October 2017

Embassy officials cosied up to opposition as crisis deepened

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

AMERICAN embassy officials worked to forge stronger links with Fine Gael and Labour as the economic crisis deepened, leaked US Embassy cables reveal.

The cables indicate American officials were anxious to be on good terms with key figures in the alternative government parties. Embassy officials increasingly sought out the views of senior Fine Gael and Labour strategists as the Fianna Fail-Green Party coalition lurched from crisis to crisis.

Among the most prominent figures spoken to by the embassy were Fine Gael's economic adviser Andrew McDowell and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore's chief adviser Mark Garrett. Mr McDowell is now an adviser to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, while Mr Garrett is programme manager for Tanaiste Mr Gilmore.

One cable details how Mr McDowell predicted in February 2009 the government would have to continue recapitalising the banks. However, he said opposition parties were not going to "cause a fuss over the issue" at the time "because of the fragility of the economy".

Embassy officials sought out Mr McDowell again ahead of the April 2009 budget for details of what Fine Gael would do if in government. According to a cable, Mr McDowell said Fine Gael recommended raising taxes for higher earners and cutting public-sector staff and pay levels.

Mr McDowell expressed the view that the Government had little choice but to cut social welfare spending.

Mr Garrett is said to have advised embassy officials in March 2009 that he believed the then government would not fall immediately, despite the banking collapse. "Garrett believes that in the absence of a 'smoking gun' tying a government minister to the improprieties at Anglo, the status quo will hold," a cable from the time stated.

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