In the beginning, the international press was the oracle. Following two harsh budgets, papers like the Financial Times and the New York Times were full of praise for the road less travelled. Constantly, the government and its allies referred to the verdict of the international press.
The only dissident voice beyond these shores was from Nobel winning economist Paul Krugman, who wrote in April 2009, "Ireland's recent policy moves – raising taxes and cutting spending in the face of a severe recession, so as to reassure nervous lenders – are an extremely disturbing omen."
Even as late as last spring, the plaudits were still coming. The Wall Street Journal noted on 10 March: "Debt-laden Ireland is winning applause from financial markets for quickly taking the kind of harsh economic medicine that countries around the world are putting off."
Over the last few months, however, the worm has turned. As the enormity of the banking losses have become apparent, the international press is beginning to see Ireland as being up the swanny with n'er a paddle in sight. Now the government regards the media beyond these shores as being wholly unfair in their analysis.
On 28 June, a piece in the New York Times read:
"Rather than being rewarded for its actions, Ireland is being penalised. Its downturn has certainly been sharper than if the government had spent more to keep people working. Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1% last year and remains in recession."
Then a few weeks ago, the same paper asked: "Can one bank bring down a country?" The sentiment was echoed elsewhere, including the German daily Allgemeine. It called Anglo "Ireland's nightmare bank", saying that it may be too big to let fail, but might also be too large for the state to rescue on its own."
The only international coverage that government figures were interested in over the last month was the Newsweek poll which put Brian Cowen as the fifth best leader in the world. Newsweek itself is up to its gills in debt, so maybe it felt a kinship with the beleaguered leader.
The bleating about unfair international coverage was best addressed by the Wall Street Journal's man in Dublin, the native Quentin Fottrell, writing last week:
"It is a story that keeps changing, which is why the bond markets have been spooked and Ireland's reputation has taken a battering. Don't blame the international media. We are saying exactly the same thing as the Irish press.
"Before the financial crisis, Central Bank bulletins constantly reassured investors and journalists and house-buyers that Ireland's profit-making banks were stress-tested and well-capitalised. And people believed them.
"But, as history has shown, those bulletins, along with government statements on the cost of the bailout of Anglo, are up there with the Dublin Bus timetable and Ulysses as among the greatest works of Irish fiction."
Can't blame the doggone messenger for everything.