Irish president attacks elites, regulators, lawyers

Irish President Mary McAleese has launched an extraordinary attack on financial regulators, lawyers and economists she says are responsible for much of the downfall of the Irish economy.

It is highly unusual for the Irish president to make political attacks as the office is considered non-political.

McAleese was speaking in Russia at the end of a five day trip there.

“It was long argued that heavy, strong-handed regulation was not the most conducive environment for business, yet as we now know to our great cost, that light regulation was a recipe for trouble,” she told an audience at St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance.

“If in the future we are to avoid the extremes of economic boom and bust scenarios, we need not only smart and rigorous regulatory systems that allow commerce to flourish, where the regulator has all the powers and competences, but we need professionals who are hard-wired to behave ethically, to think ethically, to act ethically, to respect the requirement of compliance, to understand and see themselves as operating in the broad public interest.”

McAleese, who is a lawyer by profession, also attacked the legal profession, saying they kept their knowledge for the privileged few.

She stated that children should be taught the law and legal rights and information not kept like “vintage wine” for the elite.

She stated that lawyers should stop making contracts “deliberately” complicated. Economic experts had to be trained to “think ethically” and regulators had to develop better skills  to oversee financial markets.

McAleese has met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during her five-day state visit.