Kenny and Gilmore bask in praise for leadership on economy

OECD chief praises State’s ‘amazing renaissance story’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development  Ángel Gurría, and  Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore, at  a meeting at the OECD headquarters in Paris, yesterday. Photograph: AP

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Ángel Gurría, and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore, at a meeting at the OECD headquarters in Paris, yesterday. Photograph: AP

Sat, Feb 8, 2014, 01:00

Ángel Gurría, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, set the tone for yesterday’s “leaders’ forum” with Ireland when he began by saluting the country’s “amazing renaissance story”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Ministers for jobs, social protection, education and the environment sought guidance on post-bailout policies. Most had forged ties with the club for developed nations known for sound statistics and advice, during 14 years in opposition.

To hear Mr Gurría tell it, Ireland has moved from darkness into light. “GDP fell 6½ per cent in that very black year of 2009,” he said. “In 2012 unemployment reached 15 per cent, while youth unemployment was 30 per cent.” He praised “Irish perseverance” and quoted the US author David J Lynch’s description of Ireland as “one of the world’s most resilient countries”.


Ireland’s ‘remarkable efforts’
The Taoiseach and Tánaiste sat on a stage before 300 ambassadors, policy experts and members of the Irish community in Paris. They appeared to glow as Mr Gurría credited “leadership, rigorous policies and remarkable efforts by the Irish people” for “turning the situation around”. Ireland, he noted, was “the first country to successfully exit its bailout programme.”

Italy’s ambassador to the OECD congratulated “the Irish Government and the Irish people for this achievement.” The Mexican ambassador followed, drawing comparisons between the late Celtic and Aztec tigers.

“You mentioned the prospect of the return of the Celtic tiger,” Mr Gilmore replied.

“We’re not planning for a return of the Celtic tiger. We discovered tigers can be unpredictable, dangerous and are best admired in the wild, he said, prompting the audience to burst into laughter.

“We’re not planning on a restoration of overdependence on speculation, light-touch regulation, overdependence on one particular sector. We’re about the building of a sustainable economy, having learned the lessons of the crisis,” Mr Gilmore said.

Mr Kenny said that three years ago Ireland “had no name in terms of integrity. Our credibility internationally was shot. We were blocked out of international markets. Interest rates were exorbitant.”

Now, Ireland has exited the bailout “cleanly, without a precautionary credit line,” he continued. “The country created 58,000 new jobs last year, and employment is growing for the first time since 2007. We’re not going back . . . Ireland is still a fragile place, but we know where the high ground is up ahead.”