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Why Ireland must raise its game now

The IMF's scathing assessment of the economic policies pursued by the previous government should serve as a warning to the current administration of the need for Ireland to raise its game. By accusing the former government of a lack of "political fortitude", diplomatic-speak for utter gutlessness in the face of selfish, vested interests, our new masters have made it clear they expect much better, from the new Government.

In addition to criticising the political cowardice of the previous government, the IMF was also scathing about many of our institutions.

While the IMF's strictures will have come as little surprise to anyone following Ireland's economic collapse, they still serve as a welcome reminder that, a change of government notwithstanding, much more needs to be done before this country can emerge from the crisis.

Despite its reputation, the IMF has played a straight bat in its dealings with this country. Unlike the EU and ECB, which have both pursued their own agendas, regardless of their impact on Ireland, the IMF is understood to have wanted a lower interest rate. It is charging us just 3.1pc on its portion of the bailout compared to the penal 5.8pc rate being charged by the EU, and wanted to 'burn' the senior bondholders of the Irish banks when the terms of EU/IMF bailout were being discussed last November.

Why didn't the previous government exploit the fact that the IMF was quietly supportive of many of its concerns? A competent negotiating strategy last November would have had this country exploiting the tacit sympathy of the IMF and turning the divisions between it and the EU and the ECB to our advantage.

This didn't happen. Why? Could it possibly be due to the lack of political fortitude and poor quality institutions identified by the IMF? If so our political cowardice and shambolic administration have cost this country dearly.

Things cannot go on like this. The post-Celtic Tiger bust has shone an unsparing light on this country's leadership and its institutions. While the IMF's criticisms sting it is hard to argue with them. The political and administrative system is no longer fit for purpose and requires reform.

We would be well-advised to heed the IMF's advice. If Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore are serious about extricating Ireland from the mess it is now in they must be prepared to embrace the far-reaching change that their predecessors shunned with such disastrous consequences.

Irish Independent