ANY QUOTES USED MUST BE ATTRIBUTED TO MURNAGHAN, SKY NEWS

DERMOT MURNAGHAN:

Now then, the Irish economy shrank by an unexpectedly large 1.9% in the third quarter of this year, part of a litany of bad financial news across Europe that has renewed worries about the continent’s ability to survive it’s debt crisis and currency crisis. Well John Bruton is Ireland’s former Prime Minister and he joins me from County Mayo on the West coast of Ireland, a very good morning to you Mr Bruton and can we talk specifically first of all about the Irish economy because it was seen, and I know the phrase is overused, as a bit of a poster boy for austerity in terms of taking the medicine early on and taking it without too much social unrest and was showing signs of growth, has that now all been set back by these growth figures?
JOHN BRUTON:
Well I think the difficulty is that Ireland is an export economy, we are one of the most modern export economies in the world but if the markets into which we are selling are facing uncertain times, obviously that feeds back into Ireland very quickly. I think that‘s what we are seeing, a loss of dynamism. I think also the uncertainty about how the euro is going to be managed and about how the sovereign debt crisis in Europe is going to be managed and the failed attempts to deal with that, that’s hurting consumer confidence as well in Ireland and Irish people themselves are not spending as much in the shops as they might normally do because they are not sure how safe their savings are as long as the problems go on in the eurozone. I think it is very important that Europe’s leaders get their act together quickly and resolve this and resolve it once and for all.
DERMOT MURNAGHAN:
Talking about Europe’s leaders, one of the most powerful ones of course is David Cameron from the United Kingdom, what’s the Irish view on the use of that veto and should the British voice be at those tables?
JOHN BRUTON:
Well I think the people in Ireland would be of the view that the summit was rather hastily prepared in the end and people left their initiatives and their proposals to the last minute and they didn’t get the time even to listen to one another and negotiate properly because they were up against a self-imposed deadline and that’s no way to do business. We run the European Union unfortunately increasingly on the basis of the European Council which consists of, as far as Europe is concerned, are part timers, they are heads of government whose full time job is running their own countries and then they come together occasionally to run Europe on a part time basis. Well that’s no way to run something as complex as the European Union and I think it’s unfortunate that the heads of government didn’t leave more of the initiative to the Chairman of the European Council, Herman Von Rompuy, who is full time at this job, rather than having individual countries touting their own solutions and trying to impose those on others. That’s not the way to go forward in a situation as complex as the European Union’s problems are now.
DERMOT MURNAGHAN:
Mr Bruton, in terms of the structures going forward as the eurozone certainly moves towards some form of closer fiscal union, what about Ireland? How would that be treated there, a country which, as I say, has taken the medicine for nearly four years now, would there be those who say something as important as this, the idea of for instance eurocrats looking and having the power of veto over the Irish budget, we’ve got to have a referendum on this?
JOHN BRUTON:
Well we may have a referendum on this but already without any referendum, very substantial changes have been made in the governance of the eurozone within the existing treaties, which will make it much more severe for countries if they breach the targets that they have agreed for debts and deficits. I think we probably should be allowing those measures to work first before we contemplate further measures, those measures only came into force last week and I think it would be probably wiser to allow them to work rather than plunging forward as I think we are proposing to do in respect of treaty change which in my view probably isn’t actually necessary at all.
DERMOT MURNAGHAN:
Do you think the euro can survive in its current form, the eurozone can hold together? I mean there are those that feel a restructuring is coming round soon.
JOHN BRUTON:
Well I think Europe has a problem, and would have had a problem anyway, of sovereign debt because of the ageing of our societies and the gap between what we have to spend and what we can take in as revenue as our societies get older. We were going to face that, euro or no euro. I believe that the cost for any country of leaving the euro would be so high that nobody will actually do it and that we will find a way to keep the euro going. It is going to be difficult, there is going to be austerity, there are going to be moments of uncertainty but I think the euro will not only survive but ultimately it will prosper.
DERMOT MURNAGHAN:
Okay, Mr Bruton, thank you very much indeed for sparing the time to talk to us. John Bruton there, former Taoiseach, speaking to us from County Mayo, beautiful County Mayo this time of year.
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