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Top economist takes on new role as adviser to Lenihan

UNIVERSITY of Galway economist Alan Ahearne is taking a leave of absence to act as an economic adviser to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

Dr Ahearne, who has become well known as a commentator on the economy, moves into the Department of Finance amid criticisms of a lack of economic analysis in the Department.

Welcoming Dr Ahearne's decision to accept his offer, Mr Lenihan said it was not the result of any dissatisfaction with economic advice from the civil servants.

"There is no shortage of good advice here," Mr Lenihan told the Irish Independent, "but political advisers can perhaps interact better with a minister than civil servants. And at a time of crisis like this, you should take as much advice as you can obtain."

Mr Lenihan said he had always intended to make such an appointment but did not want to do it in a rush. He said Dr Ahearne was known for his analytical mind and "that's an important quality".

Before joining NUI Galway, Dr Ahearne was a senior economist in the International Finance Division of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, DC.

Before the economic downturn, Dr Ahearne had warned of the dangers of the property bubble and had taken a gloomy view of the prospects of the Irish banks. He predicted correctly last December that the Government would face borrowings of €20bn this year, rather than the €13bn officially forecast at the time, and has been seen as one of the more pessimistic commentators.

"I tend to be a bit of an optimist myself, but it is important to bring in all kinds of views," Mr Lenihan said.

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