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Sutherland is confident of Ireland's economic future

Jennifer Freedman

Published 17/02/2011 | 05:00

IRELAND'S problems will take a number of years to overcome but buoyant exports and manufacturing growth show that the country will be able to face the "appallingly difficult challenges," according to Peter Sutherland.

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"There is no doubt about the dire situation that Ireland faces having regard to the bank crisis and its fallout," said Mr Sutherland, a former chairman of Allied Irish Banks and Irish EU commissioner, in an interview with Bloomberg.

"However," he continued, "the positive aspects for the Irish economy seem to have been lost in much of the discussion."

Mr Sutherland is one of two former Fine Gael attorney generals who acted as chairman of AIB. He served in the cabinet of Garret FitzGerald and Dermot Gleeson served under John Bruton.

Mr Sutherland later became chairman of BP and now serves as non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International.

Referring to Ireland's public finances, he said: "Budgetary tightening is inevitable. We have to cut the deficit."

While the deficit "demands urgent and painful changes", he said, "it must also be said that exports are extremely buoyant and manufacturing production is up by over 12pc year on year".

He continued: "Ireland has probably one of the best balances of trade in Europe. The fantastic growth in the 1990s hasn't been lost and Ireland, on today's GDP figures, has still grown since 1995 by significantly more than the EU average, or even that of the eurozone."

Mr Sutherland added: "This is not to minimise an appallingly difficult challenge, but to suggest more balance.

"This negative spiral can still be reversed, but this will be painful and it will take a number of years."

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