|President Barack Obama welcoming Taoiseach Brian Cowen to the White House on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2009|
It's a positive for Ireland, that an Irish Taoiseach has access to the highest levels of US political power on St. Patrick's Day. On Tuesday, President Obama announced the nomination of 76-year old Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, as the US ambassador to Ireland, in the presence of Brian Cowen, at the White House. Obama called Rooney "an unwavering supporter of Irish peace, culture and education," while Cowen, who at home has been singularly inept during the economic crisis, has worked wonders during his US trip and produced an export bonanza worth €100m. People may wonder why Irish ministers shouldn't spend more time abroad attending business signing ceremonies after engineering miraculous manna-like drops from heaven!
Dan Rooney co-founded the American Ireland Fund in 1976 and the organisation, according to the White House, has raised more than $300 million for peace and education programs in Ireland. This Rooney is a more reassuring sportsman, than the other Rooney, who plays for Manchester United!
The President commented in welcoming the Taoiseach to the White House: "Now, before I turn it over to the Taoiseach, it turns out that we have something in common. He hails from County Offaly. And it was brought to my attention on the campaign that my great-great-great grandfather on my mother's side came to America from a small village in County Offaly, as well. We are still speculating on whether we are related. (Laughter.) I do share, though, a deep appreciation for the remarkable ties between our nations. I am grateful to him for his leadership of Ireland. The bond between our countries could not be stronger. As somebody who comes from Chicago, I know a little bit about Ireland, and the warmth, the good humor, and the fierce passion and intelligence of the Irish people is something that has informed our own culture, as well. And so that's why this day and this celebration is so important."
Cowen said after the meeting, that he hoped there would be a “satisfactory outcome” to the US administration’s review of its corporate tax regime.
He said Obama had made it clear that he did not regard Ireland as a tax haven.
As for the exports bonanza, which generated headlines such as - - Irish firms win €100m in US export sales, US contracts worth €100m agreed with 92 Irish firms and Irish Software in €100m Windfall - - and were hailed by accountant and political appointee Hugh Cooney, Enterprise Ireland chairman, as "significant sales in what is the world's most leading market for innovative, high-tech niche products."
The Taoiseach said: "This week, Enterprise Ireland client companies secured contracts worth more than €100m with leading, high-profile companies such as Broadridge, Monster Cable, Symantec, Credit Suisse, Verizon and QVC. These contracts are significant and show that Irish companies continue to produce world-class products and services."
The truth of course is that there was no windfall.
Trade missions are important and ministerial participation helps to raise the profile, unless it's Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, who is well known for her earthy language. Two participants on the recent trade mission to the United Arab Emirates, have recounted how she embarrassed her hosts when she commented on a background mirror during a speech, that it was showing her "fat arse."
Most business deals are not consummated with signing ceremonies and business does not arrive manna-like from heaven.
State agency Enterprise Ireland is tasked with producing the window dressing on export orders, to give the great unwashed at home, the image of the minister as a miraculous rainmaker.
We simply don't know how much of the announced €100m is actually new business. It's quite possible that none of it was actually agreed in the past week but it is reported as fact in the media.
Some people may think this is harmless spoof but during the Celtic Tiger period, marketing spoof had primacy over credible enterprise policymaking and much of the media went with the flow.
Journalists can be as economically illiterate, as much of the rest of the population is, or on trips like the US one, it's easier not to ruffle any feathers.
"It's difficult to have a reporter say, 'I just came from an interview with Hank Paulson, and he lied his darn-fool head off.' It's difficult. I think it challenges the boundaries," Jim Cramer of the CNBC business network, said in his interview with Jon Stewart of The Daily Show last week.
Even if you as a reporter, cannot verify your story, at least use a caveat rather than reporting what is essentially a fiction, as fact.