Wednesday 22 November 2017

Lise Hand: Ka-boom! How our shattered reputation was blown sky-high – yet again

Lise Hand

Lise Hand

KA-BOOM. That's the sound of a country's reputation going up in smoke, blown sky-high by a sniggering, sneery snippet of song. And not just any reputation, but one which had been, as the Taoiseach himself put it a couple of months ago, "in tatters" and which had painstakingly been rebuilt, step-by-step by the current Government.

In June 2008, an abashed and rattled Taoiseach Brian Cowen was obliged to conduct a Walk of Shame around a leaders' summit in Brussels a few days after the Irish electorate rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum.

But the EU's chagrin at this Irish escapade was a mere shadow of the outrage sparked abroad a few months later by the extraordinarily shenanigans which unfolded on the infamous night of the bank guarantee.

Across Europe, prime ministers and finance ministers were aghast at the potential ramifications for their own troubled banks, and watched with anger and concern as the enormous scale of Ireland's financial follies were revealed. And in the centre of the implosion was Anglo – the alpha and omega of the country's collapse. Ireland was placed firmly on the naughty step of Europe and the IMF was summoned to remove the reins of power.

When the Coalition took office in March 2011, both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore immediately prioritised the rebuilding of our tattered reputation. Slowly the strategy began to work. As other countries, most notably Greece, fell off the cliff, Ireland began to be pointed out as the poster-boy for countries in an IMF programme.

By last summer, it was even possible to have a laugh about our position on the international naughty step. Every speech the Taoiseach made to an international audience mentioned our progress off said step.

But everything comes back to Anglo. Thanks to a taped snatch of an Anglo banker singing 'Deutschland Uber Alles', it seems that Anglo has risen once more from its crypt to haunt the Irish Government.

Our reputation had already taken a considerable knock again of late, thanks to the furore over claims that the country is a tax-haven.

The Taoiseach and his colleagues rapidly and forcefully rejected the claims. But now, practically on the eve of his last EU summit under the Irish presidency, along comes this unwelcome reminder of the ugly hubris of Irish bankers. The times may be different, but when it comes to Anglo, the song remains the same.

Irish Independent

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