"Ireland is struggling to convince money markets and the EU that it can avoid financial collapse" was how Stephen Sackur introduced this interview with Eamon Ryan on BBC's HARDTalk programme over the weekend. Sackur goes on to ask "What will it take to save the Irish economy?"
Ryan was asked what it was like being in a government that was "wresting with arguably the worst budget deficit in the industrialised world".
Sackur challenged Ryan asking about the Irish budget deficit representing 1/3 of GDP - Ryan replied by saying that Ireland had experienced "common-or-garden" property bubble. Ryan said Ireland has to make sure the property bubble doesn't happen again.
Ryan said that Ireland had a balance of payments surplus. Ireland is now in "cash positive" position he says.
Eamon Ryan told Sackur that one of the "benefits" is that the property market is now "saner that makes it easier for people to get rental, get a property".
Sackur quotes Nouriel Roubini who in reference to Ireland (as well as Portugal and Greece) says that "debt restructuring may be necessary" - Ryan responds by saying he believes that Roubini has been proven to be true in the past but he (Ryan) doesn't believe that Ireland will have to "avail of such facilities" such as the EU and IMF for a bailout.
Ryan talks about Ireland's cash reserves, referring to the 25bn in the Pension reserve fund as money for a "rainy day" calling it "real money" which has allowed Ireland take the hit from Ireland's banks.
When asked about the plans for the budget, Ryan talks about the need to increase taxes and implement cuts to spending, adding that the "economy is starting to turn anyways".
On the topic of "fairness", Sackur challenges Ryan on public spending cuts and whether it's fair for the people of Ireland to be bearing the brunt of the state of the economy, Sackur asks why bankers and property developers aren't being held to account for causing the crisis. Ryan says he would love to see bankers pay "in their own way, but that's not a realisitic solution". Ryan says changes to the banking system are ahead to ensure people don't think that bankers are seen to get away with it.
Sackur raises Sean Quinn's debts being written off by Anglo querying if that's what can be defined as "fair". Ryan says no person will get special treatment. Sackur challenges that assertion and says he can't find any evidence of any punishment or suffering of bankers or developers, and can't see how they're impoverished. Ryan says the courts and legal system will take action on debts and crime - saying it's the job of the judicial system, not the political system.
Ryan says towards the end of the first half of the interview that the Irish political system is "coming together" to deal with the problems.
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNCdqip_PTo]YouTube - Eamon Ryan HARDtalk Part 1/2[/ame]
The second part of the interview focusses on the Green Party's role in Government, the failure to hold the by-elections in order to "thwart" democracy and the issue of net emigration by Irish nationals from the country.
Sackur asks if Ryan belives it was such a good idea to go into Government with Fianna Fail now that the Greens are "propping up the party and many of the individual people that got Ireland into this mess". Ryan says he was glad that the Green Party went into government to be able to set Ireland in a "greener direction".
Sackur quotes Trevor Sargent who called the merger "an unbelieveably bad decision", Ryan says that Sargent works with him (Ryan) and the 85% of party members who agree with what the party is doing in Government who he says are "operating in the best interests of the country".
Ryan agrees with Sackur during the interview that the Greens are "propping up" Fianna Fail who didn't listen to issues of concern raised about the Irish property market.
Ryan talks about achivements that his role in Government has made, Sackur goes on to challenge him about energy price increases at a time when "the irish economy is on it's knees". Ryan effectively ignores the question, to say that Green policies are working.
Challenged on the by-elections and the delay in them taking place, Sackur says the Government is thwarting the law in avoiding the byelections which should have been run "months and months and months ago" saying that the Government is scared of losing all three byelections and having a wafer thin majority. Ryan says the Government has been a bit busy and distracted with the economic situation.
The end of the interview concerns emigration by irish nationals, Sackur says 25,000 irish people "net" have left the country - Ryan responds by saying Sackur should be "careful" with his figures, saying they're not very clear.
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vTPDynVNqw]YouTube - Eamon Ryan HARDtalk Part 2/2[/ame]