Disgraced Prime Ministers Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen have been accused of handling Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economy like ‘intoxicated joyriders’ by a leading academic.
University of Limerick founding president Dr Ed Walsh has slammed the former Fianna Fail leaders for their part in Ireland’s fall from the world’s fourth most competitive economy to its current ills.
Speaking as he delivered the annual Michael Collins oration at Beal na mBlath in Cork, Dr Walsh slated the pair for their part in the Irish economy’s downfall.
He also criticized the public sector as ‘flabby and over-paid, antiquated and dysfunctional’ and urged the government to sort out the welfare state.
“The crisis that is convulsing Europe has its origins in the partisan management of the euro currency from the outset,” claimed Dr Walsh.
“Sustained low interest rates to facilitate a dominant Germany in the process of reunification were exactly what the overheated economies of Ireland and many other countries did not need.
“Bertie Ahern, Charlie McCreevy and Brian Cowen, with the economic insights of intoxicated joyriders, made no attempt to counteract this; but perversely poured fuel on the flames by incentivizing speculative building and borrowing.”
Dr Walsh claimed that Ireland was wrong to join the Euro in the first place as it immediately ‘lost control’ of its interest and currency-exchange rates and also opened the economy to a wave of cheap credit that has had disastrous consequences.
Now, he warned, Ireland has: No choice but to lower the standard of living, balance the national budget and try to negotiate concessions to the harsh and unfair terms imposed by the EU.
“I lay the blame on successive governments who, for electoral gain, undermined the fundamentals of the economy.
“They permitted uncontrolled expansion of the public sector, doubling the cost to the taxpayer. They dislocated central government by attempting to dispatch parts of it to favored regional constituencies.
“They eroded the tax base, appointed people of doubtful competence to public bodies, and ceded control in key areas to social partnership, resulting in public-sector wages rising to the highest levels in the EU.
“As a consequence Ireland is now on its knees just 11 years after it was ranked the fourth-most competitive economy in the world.
“Without a fair and restructured Eurozone deal, Ireland will inevitably slide into default.”