Former Fine Gael leader and arch Euro-federalist John Bruton is generally regarded as the most economically right-wing Taoiseach Ireland has had in living memory. His term of office in the mid-1990s was pretty poor even by the mediocre standards of Irish politics, not helped by his obvious pro-British sympathies and antipathy to the emerging détente in the in north-east of the country (meeting a member of the British royal family while serving as Taoiseach na hÉireann was the “greatest day of my life” and the effort to facilitate negotiations between the British government and the (Provisional) Irish Republican movement was characterized as the “fucking peace process”). Since retiring from Irish politics he has become safely ensconced in the world of international diplomacy, think-tanks and non-executive company boards – while serving as a high-profile, corporate lobbyist with considerable (and frankly inexplicable) clout both in Ireland the EU.
Recently he has gained further notoriety by (again) criticising the events of the 1916-23 Irish Revolution in a number of speeches for British audiences, claiming, against all factual sense and reason, that Ireland could have regained some form of limited autonomy from Britain without a military struggle by the Irish people. It’s not often that a former head of government will attack the foundation of the very state he governed. Such is the inferiority complex of Ireland’s overclass: former slaves seeking the protection of the old master (Britain) or in the case of Bruton and company, new ones (the European Union).
So when someone who generally had a sympathetic opinion of “Brutal Bruton” throws up his arms in despair you know our former Taoiseach has completed the transition from man of the people to man of the Big House. The view of the former Labour spin doctor Fergus Finaly in the Irish Examiner:
“Is he naïve? Stupid? Unthinking? Callous? Some combination of all of those qualities?
Or is he some kind of visionary, a prophet determined to speak truth to power?
Actually, John Bruton is none of the above. For all sorts of reasons though, he’s a million miles removed from the ordinary struggles of people’s lives. And that removal from other people’s realities has produced a leading public figure who seems incapable of genuinely understanding how most of the world around him lives. He has arrived at the point where it really is impossible to take him seriously any more.
…I read in the Sunday Independent newspaper a speech given by John Bruton in which he asserted that there were credulous people in Ireland who believed that bankers were in some way responsible for the austerity we’ve had to endure — just as in the 17th century people blamed witches for everything that went wrong.
At first I thought it was a joke.
…he’s also on the record as saying that it’s long past time that we stopped asking banks and financial service companies to invest in the tiresome business of complying with regulation. He recently said that we needed to accustom ourselves to ten more years of austerity…”
Interesting use of the word “ourselves“, no?