IRELAND is NOT finished. We will Survive and Prosper.

Comment

Conor Brady remains a ‘class act’. Fintan ‘Casandra’ O’Toole, a true polymath, should realise that the people are the bosses. The electorate and the rejectorate decide who will govern us. I have not often approved of their collective choices but I continue to face these two forces to try to do the right thing for my country. I will die knowing that at least I tried, even though, not successfully. This country is very democratic. The method of government needs change but it is up to the TDs to make changes. The executive council (cabinet) is too powerful and TDs too weak. Fintan O’Toole should seek election for Labour. Now is the time for him. Then let him see what the electorate demands and how difficult it is to marry the ideal with the possible. The good aspects of the breakaway of TDs in Fianna Fail is that it may reform the way the parliament operates. The Committee system should be made more powerful. When an all-party position is agreed, the details should be brought forward in legislation and a free vote allowed. It is the secrecy of the Irish system which covers up inefficiencies and abuses. I will expose them when I can and take the consequences. My area of greater knowledge is the Health Service. I intend to expose some abuses and stupidities there soon. Timing is important. Any exposure must engender reform, resolution and change to prevent recurrence. Ireland can change and Richard Bruton’s reform of government document contains many elements which need to be implemented. That is why I continue to stand for election. You need guts to stand up to abuse and unaccountable bullying. My regret at present is that I have too little time for medicine. I love medicine and the ideals of professional paternal caring. My patients have been lucky. I have always been able to get people seen by experts when I need to. Only twice in my life have I been refused. I never forget such things.

Getting the right message out about Ireland Inc.

CONOR BRADY
OPINION: Why is the Government not telling influential foreign media the positive news about Ireland?


With the  Government protesting that it will not be seeking a European Union bailout, the world’s news media continues to give Ireland a savage kicking. It is not pleasant.
On Friday, I met a man who runs a profitable business employing about 50 people. He had just taken a phone call from his London bank telling him that they were pulling out of a capital loan deal. They had simply decided they want nothing to do with any Irish business at this time.
A good deal of the kicking has been deserved. But not all of it. Some, as Brian Lenihan has said, has been irrational. Much of what appears in certain UK media, in particular, seems imitative.
One suspects that there is very little independent validation of what is passed out as news. But perception is arguably more influential than reality in this context. Loss of reputational assets may be as important as loss of economic assets. Lara Marlowe wrote in these columns on Saturday of the concerns raised at the Irish Global Network in New York about the “accuracy and efficacy” of the message coming from Ireland.
Analysts use the term “viral” to describe how modern news media feed off each others’ narrative. An Australian editor of my acquaintance put it more earthily: “They’re like starlings, all flocking off to crap on the same building at the same time.”
There are only eight or nine truly influential financial news organisations. They include the Financial Times, Bloomberg , the Economist , the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the BBC , the New York Times – and especially in Europe – the Frankfurter Allgemeine and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung .
One wonders if the Government or anybody representing it with the necessary competencies even has their telephone numbers. One has the overwhelming sense, in watching the TV news or in reading the newspaper reports, that there is little or no persuasive or effective input on behalf of the State here. The coverage does not reflect any sustained or coherent message from Ireland Inc.
Is it greatly to be wondered at that then, if Ireland does not actively tell its own story, that what gets on the front page and what makes the bulletins is the often unattributable and self-serving commentary of the people who run the international money markets?
The reality is that while the bank bailout is a gargantuan burden and while reducing the budgetary deficit is going to be crucifyingly painful, there are many positive elements in the Irish economic equation and it has a positive story to tell and to sell – if somebody would get on with the task.
The bank bailout can be carried, albeit with great pain. With political courage and – indispensably – with major sacrifice starting from the top, we can readjust our incomes and our living standards.
We have vibrant IT industries with vast potential, driven by bright, innovative people. We have huge opportunities in renewable energies, offering us the potential to become significant net energy exporters. We have a world-beating agricultural base, with wonderful food manufacturing and agribusiness possibilities, again driven by people with vision, energy and imagination.
Eighty-five per cent of the workforce goes out to its employment each day. Our high-end exports are strong and rising. Notwithstanding the shambles of the native banks, we have a developed expertise in financial services management. We have a tourism industry that is currently languishing but where we have invaluable expertise and a product that can be reinvented and remarketed.
And we have a stable, working democracy, with solid institutions that can and will absorb whatever stresses and strains may be thrown up. Ominous warnings about political instability and the collapse of the Irish Government (from newspapers that traditionally have been no great friends of Ireland) may convey suggestions of constitutional crisis and barricades in the streets.
This is nonsense. If the Government falls, a new Dáil will be elected and it will form another government. The civil servants and the Garda and the various State services will continue their work. The traffic lights will change, the shelves in the supermarkets will not be empty and the trains will continue to run.
But it is about time that we started telling the positive story to the people that matter; the editors, the publishers and the senior policymakers in the powerful broadcast organisations. To the best of my knowledge, nobody in Government or in the administration with the appropriate competencies has been charged with doing so.
In the early 1970s when it seemed as if the conflagration of the North was going to spill over into the Republic, when cabinet ministers were being rounded up by the special branch and when rumours of coups and crises fed off one another, the government of the day took the initiative with a co-ordinated international media campaign.
Experienced journalists and communications professionals were recruited ad hoc and sent abroad with instructions to brief editors and programme chiefs in world capitals. They worked every contact and network they had so they could get in to where policy and key editorial decisions were being made.
Irish people in senior positions in international media were tapped. A London-based media relations company with good international contacts was contracted. The results were positive. Ireland’s reputation was assailed but the wider, fuller picture was successfully put across.
It is not sufficient to wheel visiting TV crews in to interview Ministers in Merrion Street for a two-minute interview. It is fatuous to imagine that Irish embassies abroad can do the job. They simply do not have the personnel with the necessary skill sets.
There has been criticism of the Government’s failure in domestic communications. Very much more seriously, it has failed – and continues to fail – to engage with those who shape world opinion and, in turn, Ireland’s destiny.