John Bruton: prime minister to puppet -

One of Dublin’s quirks is that its banking district sits beside a harrowing memorial to those who perished in a nineteenth century famine.


Ireland’s International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) hosts offices for banks and hedge funds whose feckless behaviour has caused not one but several crises.

The effects of one crisis remain palpable. Mass emigration is haunting Ireland again like it did at the time of the Great Hunger, as the famine of the 1840s is known. Our ability to keep in touch via Skype and Facebook doesn’t make the fact that young people can’t find decent jobs at home any less scandalous.

But there is another crisis with which we are less familiar. JP Morgan and HSBC are both present in the IFSC. These two banks have been involved in a frenzy of speculation on basic foodstuffs. The consequent increase in grocery prices has exacerbated the problem of global hunger. It is partly because of this speculation that the extreme poverty we, Irish, associate with the time of the great hunger is a daily reality for 1 billion people worldwide.

Revolving door

John Bruton, the IFSC’s president, epitomises the phenomenon of the revolving door between big business and politics.

Bruton is a former taoiseach (Ireland’s prime minister), who went on to become the European Union’s ambassador in Washington. Since stepping down from the latter post in 2009, Bruton has not been short of job offers. He has signed contracts to work for the Brussels-based consultancy Cabinet DN and for several other firms.

Cabinet DN has a number of large companies on its roster. They include the New York Stock Exchange and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Broadcasting Group.

When Bruton writes opinion pieces for newspapers or takes part in TV and radio broadcasts, he gives the impression that he is now an independent thinker. Yet the arguments he makes generally chime with the interests of those captains of industry for whom he has become a puppet.

Bruton, for example, is a staunch supporter of the proposed trade and investment agreement which is under negotiation between the European Union and the United States.

According to Bruton’s website, such a deal is necessary to “remove barriers and inefficiencies that prevent Americans and Europeans from realising their full economic potential.”

Bruton has not bothered to explain that the “barriers and inefficiencies” he wants to remove can be essential to protect human health and the environment.

The trade negotiators from both sides of the Atlantic scheduled to meet for a new round of talks on the planned agreement next week are pursuing an agenda drawn up for them by major corporations. A core objective of that agenda is to achieve “regulatory convergence”.

Regulatory convergence is a fancy term for destroying the things that distinguish Europe from America.

For example, we have stronger food safety standards on this side of the Atlantic than they have in the United States.


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