Tag Archives: John Bruton

This morning.

Closet Brit amirite.

Also: Irish Prime Minister?

Earlier: “What We Won’t Be Doing, As A European Union, Is Renegotiating The Withdrawal Agreement”

 

Tonight.

Croke Park.

Former taoisigh Bertie Ahern, John Bruton and Brian Cowen during the World Meeting of Families concert.

Meanwhile…

Leave them alone.

They were only obeying orders.

Pic; Hetty/Hulton

00127288timpat

John Bruton (top) at last year’s Fine Gael Ard Fheis and (above) Tim Pat Coogan

Home truths?

Or revisionism of the most odious kind?

You must decide.

Former Taoiseach John Bruton appeared on RTÉ R1’s Today with Sean O’Rourke [presented by Keelin Shanley] this morning to clarify his position on the usefulness of the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence. They were later joined by author and historian Tim Pat Coogan.

Keelin Shanley: “Former Taoiseach John Bruton has called on the Government to commemorate the centenary of the Home Rule Bill coming into law on the 18th September 1914 rather than focus on what he describes as a completely unnecessary Easter Rising and War of Independence… can you lay out our basic argument here, can you say why you think that we’re focusing too much on 1916?”

John Bruton:
“Well, the first point is that I think it is important that we commemorate in September, that is next month, the 100th anniversary of the passing into law of the Home Rule Bill, an achievement of the Irish Parliamentary Party, something that Parnell didn’t achieve, something that Butt didn’t achieve, something that O’Connell didn’t achieve John Redmond and John Dillon did achieve and it happened one hundred years ago last month and I think it is very important that we celebrate and commemorate this achievement of parliamentary, peaceful, non violent politics. It wasn’t easy, there was huge opposition to Home Rule, there was a lot of anti-Catholic prejudice in both parties in Britain, the House of Lords had a veto on legislation and that veto had to be removed, which it was, thanks to the pressure of John Redmond and John Dillon…”

Shanley: “But wasn’t it also the fact that [Then UK Prime Minister] Asquith needed them?”

Bruton: “Yes. and that’s exactly what the lesson is, that you use your opportunities. Asquith needed them to avoid a general election and John Redmond and John Dillon played a very tough game and they forced the Liberal Party, which had abandoned the Home Rule policy under Rosebery, and didn’t implement it when it could have done so in 1906 under Asquith, it forced the Liberal Party to reinstate Home Rule as its policy, not only that but to remove the veto of the House of Lords and to run the risk of General Election, and even, the Irish Party even succeeded in forcing the King to say he would appoint a large number of members of House of Lords to change the majority of the House of Lords to overcome or to remove the veto, all that was done by Irish politicians without firing a shot, simply by using democratic parliamentary leadership, and I think that commemorations should be about lessons that are relevant to today, the relevance of parliamentary tactics, the ability to achieve things democratically without threat or use of force, that’s what’s relevant, and we must not miss the opportunity of having a commemoration on the 18th of September and I think I’d like to see the Taoiseach involved, for example, and the Tanaiste…”

Shanley: “But going back to John Redmond and Dillon’s achievements there, but what guarantee, Asquith, as you say yourself, he was formally opposed to Home Rule, he was only doing this because he was under political pressure, he was about to embark on World War One, what guarantee did anyone have at the time that he would deliver on his commitment to Home Rule, isn’t that the kind of key issue here?”

Bruton: “Well I think John Redmond probably could have actually got Home Rule into operation earlier before the War broke out if he had not been holding out for a United Ireland, well as you know we have not got a United Ireland now by other methods, they didn’t achieve more than his peaceful methods achieved and we could perhaps have got Home Rule for even 28 counties into force before the War, and I think it is regrettable that that didn’t happen and I think that if if we had got that we would have eventually ended up with dominion status and ultimately complete independence like Canada, India and all the other…”

Shanley: “Without the violence.”

Bruton:
“Without the violence. Violence was not used to achieve Indian independence, Gandhi’s policy was the right one…”


Shanley:
“He could have done that if he had been willing for instance to let Northern Ireland go but, going back to that, what guarantee did he have that Asquith would give him or whoever was leader of Britain after World War One?”

Bruton: “Well I think, in the paper I have submitted to the Taoiseach, I gave two very concrete examples of the evidence that Home Rule was going to come into effect anyway. In the Coalition Manifesto of Lloyd George, the Conservative/Liberal Coalition Manifesto in the December of 1918 election they said explicitly, Home Rule is on the Statute Book, in other words they weren’t going back on it. In that same election, the Labour and the Asquith Liberal Party were in favour of Dominion status for Ireland as was the Irish parliamentarian John Dillon at that time. Furthermore Andrew Bonar Law, who was the most resolute conservative opponent of Home Rule, said well, once there’s a possibility of any Ulster county being able, if they wish, to opt out of Home Rule he wouldn’t object any further and that’s quoted in a booklet that I’ve read recently so I think that Home Rule would have come into effect and if Home Rule had come into effect and if some Ulster counties had been excluded, maybe four, maybe six, they would have been under direct rule, there would have been no Stormont administration, so in other words there wouldn’t have been a possibility of the sort of deeply discriminatory policies that were subsequently introduced when the Stormont administration came about and furthermore under Home Rule there would have been continuing representation from the South of Ireland in the House of Commons, reduced representation but continuing representation, so any attempt to introduce any anti-Nationalist or anti-Catholic measure in whatever part of Ulster that was excluded from Home Rule, there would have been a means of stopping that, which unfortunately wasn’t possible afterwards when, in fact, I’m afraid, the South of Ireland turned its back on Northern Nationalists for a long period.

Shanley: “So can I ask you, John Bruton, do you then think, I suppose many people have the view of Redmond and Dillon as having been a little ineffectual, you know, when they asked Irish people to consider going to fight for the British in the War, that we need to rewrite history, that would be your view?”

Bruton: “Well we always need to rewrite history and I have no doubt people will be rewriting what I’m saying today and what I did but that’s the fascination of history. John Redmond at Woodenbridge urged people for the first time to actually join the army two days after Home Rule went on the Statute Book, it was a direct response to fact that Britain at last, after 80 years of agitation had finally agreed that Ireland would have legislative independence, it was in that context and in the hope that by saying we are on the same side as the Ulster Unionists he could have persuaded them to come in under Home Rule too, now I don’t think he would have succeeded in that but that was his goal and his intention and nothing that anyone else has tried since including violence has changed the mind of Ulster Unionists.”

Shanley: “If you look back on the role that Redmond played and maybe reassess it what would you say about role of the people who were the heroes of the 1916 rising had to play, how would you assess their role in Irish history”

Bruton: Well first of all I don’t question for one moment their sincerity or self-sacrifice…”

Shanley: “Were they misguided in your view?”

Bruton: “I think they made a mistake.
What they did when they occupied the GPO and other strongpoints in Dublin and they set themselves a Proclamation, they were aligning themselves with the Kaiser, with the Kaiser’s Germany, with the Ottoman Empire and with the Austrian empire against the French Republic and against the United Kingdom in whose armies many other Irish people including perhaps brothers of those who were going out in 1916 were actually fighting, now taking sides in that war meant Ireland wasn’t neutral, it was taking sides, I think they needn’t have done that.”

Shanley: “Okay well on that note let me bring in Tim Pat Coogan, author and historian. Tim Pat Coogan, you’ve been listening to what John Bruton has had to say there, what is your overall take on this?”

Tim Pat Coogan: “Well, I don’t think there was a hope in hell of Home Rule ever coming into operation, I mean it was only a paper thing, they passed it into law but it was never going to be actually acted on.”

Shanley: ”Why do you think this? On what basis?”

Coogan: “Well, because of the course of events at the time. Randolph Churchill coined the phrase ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right’ when Gladstone first introduced Home Rule in 1886 and that that phrase is why the Six Counties are no longer part of Ireland, that is acknowledged in Churchill’s biography…”

Shanley: “What about the notion of Home Rule without Ulster, that could have gone ahead?”

Coogan: “Well honestly, really, this kind of thing is on a par with, saving your presence, saying if one were gifted with male appendages my aunt would be my uncle. The fact is that the British army mutinied with the support of the British Navy and said that they would not allow Home Rule to be introduced to Ulster and it was because of that, that on the eve of the war they couldn’t go ahead with it, and, talking about Germany’s involvement, there was a very strong feeling in Germany and it was one of the causative factors in the Kaiser’s decision to go to war, that Britain was so tied up with Ulster that they wouldn’t be able to fight and there was a lot of talk about the Kaiser’s Irish friends, by whom they meant the Unionists, not the nationalists, the question of independence was paramount in their minds and the 1916 leaders by their deaths and by their sacrifice… there were three factors, one was the different treatment that Home Rulers got and the Nationalists got to the Unionists who ran in guns under the nose of the police and the British navy and were regarded as heroes for doing it, with the connivance of every form of authority in England, which was pure fascism,
The second thing was of course the executions and the third thing was Redmond’s misguided effort in sending all these young men off to the War. By the time the khaki election was held Sinn Fein had arisen and they had aborted the effort to introduce conscription, people forget that people really voted for Sinn Fein in the first place certainly out of sentiment but also out of gratitude for peace, for keeping them out of the war and that really copper-fastened the division between the two sides of the island.
Just to give you one indication of the absolute impossibility of Home Rule coming in before the War broke out, Lloyd George sent a letter to Carson to show to Craig saying we must ensure that Ulster will not come into a United Ireland whether she wills it or not, yours sincerely, at the same time they’re telling poor Redmond you’ll get a united Ireland and so on. Even his close friend who was the Chief Secretary for Ireland Augustine Birrell, when he wrote his very affectionate obituary of Redmond in the Times in the London Times said he had misjudged the moment and it was wrong of him to do as he did at the time and advocate the Irish joining up.”

Shanley: “Let me ask John Bruton to respond to some of your points there. First of all the idea that the army mutinied on the basis that it would not allow Home Rule…”

Bruton: “That’s true and it indicated what a great achievement it was to get Home Rule onto the Statute Book while the War was already on and despite what had happened in the mutiny in the Curragh, which was a disgraceful event, I mean the idea that General Sir Henry Wilson in the British Army was conniving with the Opposition to undermine the policy of the then Liberal Government was something which wouldn’t be permissible in any democracy.”

Shanley: “It shows the strength of resistance to Home Rule…”

Bruton: “Indeed it does and that is why the achievement which needs to be commemorated on the 18th September was so great because it overcame all of that.”


Shanley:
“It was just a commitment to it, it wasn’t Home Rule…”

Bruton: “Indeed it was. That legislation had been passed three times in the House of Commons and was finally signed into law having been put through the House of Lords…”

Shanley: “Signed into law but not enacted

Bruton: “Yes, enacted but not put into implementation because the War was already on and they felt, I think, mistakenly that they should hold out for bringing into being a united Ireland…”

Coogan: “If the British government had decided not to enact it I don’t think there was anything the Irish Parliamentary Party could have done to enforce it.”

Bruton: “Yes, there was nothing Redmond and others could have done to bring into force a united Ireland the IRA tried to enforce a United Ireland, the IRA tried to invade the North in 1922, people have been trying to coerce Ulster for a long time, it’s not going to work and I think we should realize that John Redmond tried persuasion, he didn’t succeed, the IRA and others tried coercive methods and they didn’t succeed…”

Coogan: “…. the leader of the Conservative party in the period you’re talking about was standing before thousands of Unionists in Balmoral and he was telling them there was no length to which they could go to which they would not be supported by the British government and the British people…”

Shanley: “Tim Pat Coogan, could I ask you about that point that John Bruton made there, that had John Redmond gone ahead or had, you know, we all trusted, if you like, that Home Rule would be enacted after the War, that much of the violence that Ireland has gone through could potentially have been avoided with pretty much the same outcome?”

Coogan: “Well it’s a ‘what if’, this was a question at the time, the famous Yeats poem, ‘what if England had kept faith’ [Easter 1916 ‘England May Keep Faith], but, as he went on to say, this is all irrelevant after 1916, and it wasn’t just a tradition of invading the North they left us with but violence, I mean the country was like an armed camp with 30,000 British soldiers, all the Ulster guns they had, the armed police force, the Irish Citizen Army and so on, so the idea that the gun was introduced by 1916 into Irish politics is ludicrous, they left us with some very good ideals, the lengths to which our country has fallen from them is what’s given us the banking crisis and suicide and emigration and debt, when they said that their aim was to cherish all the children of the nation equally, and it’s the extent of our retreat from those ideals that is the measure of our present day problems, and they were just disgusted and the people at the time who supported them, and remember that John was talking about parliamentarianism and I agree with him with a lot of what he was saying, the value of Parliament and so on remember that the people voted for Sinn Fein…”

Shanley: “OK, we have had a lot of response on this, listeners getting in touch with us…. another question here for you, John Bruton, ‘Bruton wants us to celebrate a second-rate sort of Vichy Ireland and Home Rule was an insult to an independent nation’”

Bruton: “Ireland had been fighting for Home Rule for the previous eighty years and it wasn’t enacted into law by anybody other than John Dillon and John Redmond on the 18th September 1914 and it needs to be celebrated. I think we should also put in the balance on the other side the lives that were lost, 253 soldiers were killed in British army uniforms in 1916 of whom 52 were Irish, 253 civilians most of whom did not volunteer to be killed, were killed in 1916 they deserve to be remembered, during the War of Independence 1200 people were killed many of them civilians who did not volunteer to fight, they deserve to be remembered, likewise up to 4000 people were killed in the Civil War, a civil war that was inspired in part by the intransigence that 1916 created, the people felt that they had to go all the way for a 32-county Ireland and that anything less than that would be betraying the dead and that, I think, cult of the dead and the intransigence that it brings about is something which has caused damage to Ireland and made compromise, which is the way forward, more difficult.”

Shanley: “Now you’re asking for this to be remembered do you believe that it will be remembered you’re talking about September 18th which is very close, why so late, if you will?”

Bruton: “Well the first question I ever asked in the Dail in 1969 was a question of the then Taoiseach Jack Lynch asking him to remember John Dillon, Joe Devlin and John Redmond so I’ve been at this for a while, but I’d like to see the Taoiseach lay a wreath on the grave of John Redmond in Wexford, I would like to see that Tanaiste lay a wreath on the grave of John Dillon I would like to see a commemoration of those who lived for Ireland, lived their lives peacefully for Ireland so that we can then celebrate other people in a proper context and with a proper balance.”

Shanley: “Celebrate it in its entirety, I suppose. Tim Pat Coogan, your reaction to that?”

Coogan: “Yes. Two separate things. John would like to see Dillon and Redmond commemorated. I see no objection, these are honourable and good men, I see no objection to commemorating them, but Home Rule was a non-event, the Irish people had voted for it in some of the elections, by the time it came it was shelved and aborted, if it’s on the shelf, it’s not a law. During the period after the introduction of the Home Rule thing, from 1886 to 1916 there were several general elections. In some of these elections Home Rule was voted for by a majority of 5 to 1, 5 to 1 and it was aborted by the combined pressure of the Conservatives who were using the Unionists as very willing tools, there was no hope with that opposition, the opposition of the Services, the opposition of all the younger sons of Protestant families in Ireland who were in the navy, the army, and certainly the fox-hunting gentry, the landowners, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance of them allowing Home Rule to come in at all…”

Shanley: “But, Tim Pat Coogan, would you support John Bruton in his basic request here that these people should be marked…?”

Coogan: “John has a particular affection for Redmond and for aspects of the British aristocracy, I mean he had a portrait of Redmond in his office and I remember he was saying too, John, when Prince Charles came to Ireland, that it was the happiest day of your life…”

Bruton: “No I did not say that, I had my wife sitting beside me and I wouldn’t possibly have dreamt of saying that, the happiest day of my life was the day I got married, what I said was that that time, that visit marked the best point in Anglo-Irish relations in my lifetime which is true but I’m glad to say that Anglo-Irish relations are much better now than they were even then thanks to the work of others including Bertie Ahern…”


Coogan:
“With Martin McGuinness sitting down…”

Bruton: “Yes, all those people. I didn’t say that. My wife is listening and I want to say that I didn’t say that, that it was the happiest day of my life… It was a happy day, it was a happy day and it was good to have Prince Charles in Ireland…”

Shanley:
“Well we’ll have to leave it there but thank you very much, both of you, for joining us this morning, John Bruton and Tim Pat Coogan.”

FIGHT!

Listen here

Pic via irish Central

brutal

Former taoiseach and austerity cheerleader John Bruton appeared on Newsnight last night to tell the British public how great we’re doing in Ireland as we exit the bailout.

He was joined by Ann Pettifor, Director of Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME).

And she was having none of it.

Jeremy Paxman: “John Bruton what do you think is the lesson of the Irish experience?”

John Bruton: “Well, I think the lesson of the Irish experience is that you have to invest in the long term. We have over the last 30 years developed a very strong foreign direct investment sector, you have mentioned technology, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, financial services. Also, we have made this a country where it’s very easy to set up a new business – the bureaucracy involved in establishing a new business is quite small – and that has encouraged a lot of Irish people to set up businesses, spinning off from the hi-tech sector and has enabled us to be in a situation now, where our services exports actually exceeds our goods exports. So we are a very dynamic economy, and we’re also an open economy – in contrast to say Greece, Portugal or Spain – where they basically trade within their own nation. We import and export much more…”

Paxman: “Ann Pettifor’s here, if I may, sorry to cut across you there. Ann Pettifor, it’s a very mixed picture, when you see a lot of young people emigrating, a lot of people have had to take serious cuts in their living standards and worry about making ends meet – according to the IMF and the European Central Bank, this is an economy that’s resurgant?”

Ann Pettifor: “And I heard Joe Lynam say that as well, and actually there’s been an up tick in the quarterly numbers on GDP, but the European Commission says that the economy continues to contract – on an annual basis. So we have very high levels of unemployment, we have incomes falling, we have households with 200% of their debt to disposable income and we have a country that is effectively evicting a whole generation of its people, 1,000 people a week – and it’s a tax haven. So I mean, really to talk, or to think…”

Paxman: “You wouldn’t think you were talking about the same country?”

Pettifor: “Well exactly. I think that there’s a lot of spin going on about Ireland and I think that really, the economy has not been restructed – not a lot has changed since the crisis.”

Paxman: “John Bruton, do you…”

Bruton: “Well I’d just like Ann to know that at the height of the crisis, we were losing jobs, numbers employed were being reduced by 8,000 a month – we’re now adding jobs at a rate of 3,000 per month – and that has changed completely. And Ireland is not a tax haven – Ireland has made a deliberate decision to have a low corporate tax rate, but that’s a transparent system of taxation with no special deals for individual companies like you see in certain continental european countries. Of course we do have a problem with personal debt, that’s how we got into the difficulty we’re in – but the level of personal debt is being reduced and the Government has, on every occasion met the fiscal targets that it set for dealing with its own financial problems.”

Pettifor: “But John, you must admit that one of the reasons why Ireland is having trouble accessing the ESM, is that Ireland’s European partners are really quite angry about the corporate tax levels – the fact that they are effectively subsidising Ireland.”

Paxman: “This is another argument entirely, altogether?”

Bruton: “No, no, we are being lent money by our European partners, upon which we’re paying interest. That’s not a susbsidy. What that is, is a deliberate decision by our European partners that they want to keep the European Single Currency together – they do not want Europe going down the route of devaluation and inflation of the sort of kind that we saw during the ’70s and ’80s. They are building a single currency which involves a measure of solidarity – and that solidarity is being shown to Ireland, and we appreciate it, and hopefully, in due time, we’ll be able to repay it.”

Pettifor: “My point was that Ireland was doing the reverse (of building solidarity with its European partners) by undercutting her partners in tax terms on her corporate tax levels, this is causing quite a lot of anger not just in Europe but also in the United States.”

Bruton: “No that’s simply not true. Ireland has had this tax rate since 1956.”

At which point Jeremy Paxman cut to an interview with Lady Gaga.

Previously: Who Are We Trying To Kid?

00127288This time?

Business folk.

Former taoiseach John Bruton (above), chairman of the IFSC, co-authored an article in today’s Wall Street Journal defending Ireland’s loosey goosey corporate tax arrangements.

It’s had them laughing in trading floors and offices from here to Bermuda (via the Netherlands).

A flava:

…global tax principles are very clear. If there are no profits in a country on which to pay tax, you do not have to pay. In the same way, if an American had bought a product 30 years ago by mail order from Ireland, the Irish company would not have incurred U.S. corporate tax on the profit from that sale.
The same principles apply in almost every developed country: The profits lie where the activities, functions, risks and assets are located, and that profit must be commensurate with those activities. This is an accepted global concept.
Another problem is the complexity of the 74,000-page, four-million-word U.S. tax code. According to the PwC/World Bank’s “Doing Business 2013” report, the U.S. ranks 69th in the world in ease of paying taxes, while Ireland ranks sixth.
…Multinational companies typically set up in Ireland for a number of reasons. Granted, the tax certainty around Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate is a consideration.
But Ireland’s young, adaptable and well-educated workforce is probably its single biggest attraction.

 

Adaptable, eh?

Don’t Blame Ireland for America’s Tax Blunders (John Bruton and Kevin Murphy, Wall Street Journal)

(Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)

Former taoiseach and Fine Gael leader John Bruton has created a political headache for his successor, Enda Kenny, by declaring the Government’s planned abortion legislation is contrary to the Constitution.

Mr Bruton claims it is “not consistent with the plain words of the Constitution” to include the threat of suicide in the terms of the legislation that will permit abortion where a woman’s life is at risk.

The Coalition has committed to introducing legislation to give effect to the Supreme Court judgment in the X case which found that a threat of suicide constituted a threat to a mother’s life.

Minister for Health James Reilly is due to bring the draft heads of the Bill on the subject to the Cabinet shortly.

‘Fresh divisions within the coalition’ ahoy.

John Bruton says Government abortion legislation contrary to Constitution (Stephen Collins, Irish Times)

(Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)