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Old 12-18-2010, 08:29 AM   #1
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Default Rooney: Irish ready to stabilize finances

(Note most of the article is not about the Steelers but there are some quotes from Dan about Harrison. - mesa)
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Rooney: Irish ready to stabilize finances

By Salena Zito
Saturday, December 18, 2010

U.S. Ambassador Dan Rooney says Irish officials are doing what they must to shore up the finances of their faltering economy.

Irish lawmakers voted Wednesday to accept about $89 billion in loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for Ireland's banks.

In a telephone interview, Rooney said Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen "was doing what he needed to do" to stabilize what once was Europe's fastest-growing economy.

"Cowen said there are going to be sacrifices and that the sacrifices have to include everyone," said Rooney, the Steelers chairman appointed to the post two years ago by President Obama.

Rooney said many Irish people have told him that they have made peace with the fall of their economy, once dubbed by experts as "the Celtic Tiger" after it transformed Europe's poorest nation into its wealthiest.

"They say that we had a great time during the Celtic Tiger, but maybe it wasn't us, and maybe we need to get back to who we are," Rooney said, recalling those conversations. "'We have to get back to our culture. Sure, it might be tough, but we don't need have to do all of the things that have cost so much.'"

Marvin Goodfriend, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University, said Ireland's rapid expansion was based in part on favorable tax policies and other pro-growth initiatives. The boom began in the mid-1990s and ended in 2008.

Goodfriend said Ireland needed the bailout because businesses withdrew billions from Irish banks to place in safer-seeming banks elsewhere in Europe.

Irish banks increasingly relied on loans from the European Central Bank to stay afloat, he said.

"Inevitably, the Irish government had to take more responsibility for managing its banking problems," Goodfriend said.

Rooney said Ireland's banking problems, as well as high unemployment and slow job growth, have similarities to U.S. economic woes.

"The banks in Ireland are in trouble for the same reason that the banks in the U.S. were in trouble: They gave loans out without following procedures," he said. "Once the fall came, the builders and the people that borrowed a lot of money were unable to pay it back."

Rooney is confident Ireland will rebound.

The North Side native spends much of his time outside of the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, meeting with elected officials, business leaders and people in communities.

"I have visited 20 counties so far," Rooney said. "After I meet with the political and business leaders of a county, I hold town hall meetings."

Inevitably, someone waves a Terrible Towel during a community meeting.

"You would be surprised how often that happens," he said, laughing.

Rooney said he thinks about the Steelers often.

He was not happy about the $125,000 in fines that the National Football League levied against linebacker James Harrison, "but that is behind us now," Rooney said.

The team patriarch attended the Dec. 5 game in Baltimore against the Ravens, the Steelers' AFC North rivals. After the Steelers' grueling 13-10 win, Rooney walked among the players, shaking hands and offering congratulations.

He says attending games is a big part of what he misses about Pittsburgh, but he loves his job.

"I think what I am doing here is very important."

Obama's fall in popularity is natural, Rooney believes.

"The president's numbers were so high in the beginning, they had to fall somewhat."

He gives Obama high marks for brokering an agreement on extending Bush-era tax cuts.

"He was strong; he went across the aisle and brought people together and got something done," Rooney said.

Salena Zito can be reached at szito@tribweb.com or 412-320-7879.
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Old 12-18-2010, 06:35 PM   #2
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Default Re: Rooney: Irish ready to stabilize finances

An Irishman walks into a pub he's been going to for years. Ever since his brother moved to America he'd order two pints, one for himself, and one for his brother in America, then he'd drink them both.

One day he walks into the pub and says to the bartender "I'll have one pint of beer" The bartender hands him his beer and says: "Oh it's your brother in America, he's died hasn't he?"

"Oh no, my brother is fine" the man says "I've quit drinking"
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