PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has said the European Union is facing a "moral crisis" and will become illegitimate without economic reform.
In a frank newspaper interview, the President warned that the EU must radically overhaul its economic model and reform the European Central Bank – or face the loss of its legitimacy.
He also said that the European Union faced not only an economic crisis, but a moral one – and remarked: "You are either a union or you are not."
His criticism of European leaders and their response to the debt crisis are some of his most forthright remarks since taking office.
In an interview with the Financial Times, President Higgins added that European leaders need to make up their minds on the type of union they want or risk social upheaval and a loss of popular legitimacy.
"What we really need now is something that goes beyond outrage and recrimination," the President said.
"There is a real problem in what was assumed to be a single hegemonic model," said Higgins, saying a one-size-fits-all policy would not work for every country given how the profile of the unemployment bases for different countries could vary.
"The unemployment profile in Greece is different from the unemployment profile in Ireland. You need a pluralism of approaches," he said
He also argued that an early separation of banking and sovereign debts, as European leaders had agreed last June, could have spared Ireland the need to enter the EU-IMF bailout.
"It would have been of immense benefit naturally to growth, employment creation and investment if the... commitment of separating banking debt from sovereign debt had in fact been implemented.
"It would give you the opportunity to breathe and create growth in the economy."