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Thursday 18 September 2014

Former Taoiseach urges public to tighten their belts in attack on President

Published 11/05/2013 | 05:00

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Former Taoiseach John Bruton  at Leinster House yesterday.Pic Tom Burke 23/2/12
Former Taoiseach John Bruton

FORMER Taoiseach John Bruton told the public to tighten their belts and put up with austerity, as he poured scorn over President Michael D Higgins's call for relief.

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Mr Bruton – who enjoys a €140,000 pension and is now a lobbyist for the IFSC – insisted Irish people must get used to living with less.

In stark contrast to the President's recent comments, Mr Bruton claimed borrowing more now to stimulate growth was "immoral and anti-social".

He said the country had to "change its economic model. Change, which people are calling as a term of abuse 'austerity', is always painful," he said.

His comments contrast sharply with numerous business and political figures, who have started to push for more measures to stimulate the economy.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said last month that austerity may have "reached its limits".

And Mr Higgins has publicly called for more growth measures from Europe, a sentiment that was backed by ministers including Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Mr Bruton's words will be an embarrassment for the Government as it pushes for more leeway from the troika to have a less harsh Budget this year.

Mr Bruton said: "I am not in agreement with President Higgins because it is not realistic nor moral to say that we're not going to face difficult issues now, but instead we're going to avoid them by borrowing money that our children or children's' children will have to pay.

"That is not moral, socially just or socialist. In fact it's immoral.

"It's anti-social for us to avoid our responsibilities and pass them on to the next generation. Yet that's the cry of the opponents of austerity," he said.

"We need to get used to doing more with less. Since 1990, the amount of arable land available per human being has halved, and that will not change," he added.

In an unusually pointed speech to an insurance event in Dublin yesterday, Mr Bruton – who now commands a reported six-figure salary as president of the Irish Financial Services Centre – went on to vilify John Maynard Keynes, the economist seen as the father of borrowing in tough times to create economic growth.

'Wrong'

"The assumption that you can borrow more now because in the good times you can save a bit more is wrong. In politics the last thing people will consider is cutting spending in the good times.

"Keynesian economics is completely unreal. It was the Second World War that got America out of the Great Depression, not Keynes," he claimed.

Instead, Mr Bruton insisted governments should take their cue from the economist Joseph Schumpeter, who saw recessions as a natural part of the economic cycle and viewed economic growth as a process of 'creative destruction'.

"You must change, do all the things (you need to stay competitive), never sit on your laurels," he added.

At the same time as pushing for more austerity, Mr Bruton demanded that regulation of the banking sector be "reined in".

He instead sought to persuade bank staff to "examine their consciences" before selling a particular product.

Irish Independent

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