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Entrepreneur insists Ireland should not pay back its €180bn debt

Entrepreneur and businessman John Teeling believes that Ireland cannot, and should not, pay back its €180bn debt and that the euro cannot survive in its current guise.

Mr Teeling, who sold the world's oldest distillery, Cooley, to the American bourbon whiskey giant Beam for the dollar equivalent of €73m late last year says there is no ethical, moral or legal reason for ordinary working-class and middle-class Irish taxpayers to pay back the debt.

"I'm afraid of the euro, very much so. You will notice that the deal I did ( selling Cooley) was in US dollars. The euro cannot survive. it is not possible in its present form," he said in a radio interview.

The deal to sell Cooley brought a big pay day for its investors as well as Mr Teeling and his family, who owned about one-third of the firm.

But he is astonished the myth still exists that Ireland can repay its €180bn debt, of which €80bn is for the banks.

"If I live to be 180 years old it will not be repaid. Spain is in the same position, Italy probably, and Greece certainly," he said.

He said this money must be written off one way or another -- by way of negotiation or ultimately by default.

"The worry is that the IMF and the ECB don't do write-offs . . . but there is no economic reason this money can be paid," he said.

Mr Teeling, 62, who is the founder and chairman of African Diamonds, also lectured on business and finance in UCD for 20 years.

He said that if Ireland managed to scale back its debt, by way of a write-off, to €100bn

"It would mean we would not be paying back the €5bn a year in interest which is the amount the austerity programme is seeking to save.

"I think if the current situation continues we are, in a couple of years' time, going to be paying back €10bn a year in interest alone. That is complete nonsense. The austerity programme cannot work at that level. We cannot take another €10bn, €15bn or €20bn out of this economy," he told Marian Finucane.

He said Ireland should reschedule the debt as you would do with a company or a mortgage.

"We could start by looking for a holiday of five or six years to allow us to get back on our feet and then you would have a 30- or 35-year horizon during which inflation would wipe it out," he said.

Sunday Independent