Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Different strokes

In Irish politics, a "stroker" is a person who is able to carry out secretive, illicit or underhand deals. And this week it felt as though our whole economy was based on "strokes".

It’s not every Government that threatens to take legal action because it does not want to take up a €13 billion windfall.

Especially one that was in the midst of a grave recession just a few short years ago.

But, then again, the Irish Government does not seem to be the same as any other Government on the planet.

To judge by this week’s events, they don’t really believe in the long-term viability of their economy. A small island, on the edge of Europe, clearly needs to offer generous incentives if it is to attract big business.                                                                                        

So when the European Commission declares that Apple owes Ireland €13 billion in back taxes, the first reaction of the Irish Government is to express dismay. The second is to threaten legal action against the European authorities.

In the year in which we have celebrated the centenary of the Easter Rising, which ultimately led to Irish freedom, there is an awful lot of soul-searching going on.

Perhaps it’s time to take stock and to re-evaluate our rightful place in the world.

Saying 'no' to a €13 billion windfall:
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.

What would the men and women who gave up their lives for Irish freedom make of it all if they could see the Republic right now?

It’s been one hell of a summer. Baffling and bizarre, as the nation of ‘Saints and Scholars’ suffered two major embarrassments on the international stage.

It took the Brazilians, the people who have just impeached a president, to teach us a thing or two about how to deal with corruption.

They arrested two Irish men for the type of “ticket-touting” which seems to be taken for granted at the top of some Irish sporting organisations.

Indeed, despite some heroics on the water, the Irish made more headlines for alleged corruption by officials than the quality of the athletes who represented the country at the Olympic Games.

Barely had the country recovered from the shock of seeing two Irishmen being taken to Brazilian jails when the European Commission exposed Ireland as a ‘dodgy’ tax haven which provided “illegal” State aid to Apple for the past 25 years.

It seems that Apple, with the full blessing of the Irish Government, set up a "ghost" company to avoid paying tax in a country which is already famous (or notorious, depending on your point of view) for its low corporation tax rate.

Ireland is now known throughout the globe as the country where Apple should have paid €13 billion in back taxes, but where the Government does not want this sudden windfall which could pay for the Republic’s health service for a year.

The country is now known as the place where a global multinational corporation was able to take advantage of “incentives” or “tax breaks” which were not available to others.

The company paid just €50 in tax for every €1 million in profit it made after setting up a HQ in Cork.
According to the European Commission, Apple owes the Irish €13 billion because it has evaded paying tax under two agreements which date back to 1991.

That’s a lot of money for a country in the midst of a homelessness crisis, a hospital waiting list crisis, and where refugees are living in inhumane conditions for months or even years on end.

€13 billion would go a long way towards building social housing, taking patients off trolleys in overcrowded A&E departments, or tackling the mental health crisis which has seen so many of our young men take their own lives.

The Government should be ecstatic, you’d imagine. And yet they have spent more than €670,000 in legal fees to try to stop the EC from awarding it this €13 billion windfall.

Apple employs 5,000 people in Cork and has plans for a massive new data centre in Athenry, Co Galway.

It’s no wonder our Government wants to keep the company happy, in a country which has relied so much on FDI (foreign direct investment) to get over the recession.

There are 200,000 people employed in FDI companies across Ireland and Government Ministers are clearly spooked by the prospect of multi-nationals moving out of the country if they were faced with demands for back tax or a stricter tax regime.

Apple, hit with an unwelcome €13 billion tax bill
The EC ruling has caused some uproar, particularly among those who believe that there is one set of laws for the rich, or for global corporations, and another for the poor in the Emerald Isle.

In February of last year, for example, a young single mother from Co Donegal was awoken from her bed at 7am on a Monday morning and transferred to Mountjoy Prison for the terrible crime of not paying her TV licence.

She had not paid the €160 fee which state broadcaster RTE collects from every householder who owns a TV across the country.

The payment is compulsory, to fund a TV station which lost €2.8 million last year, despite a funding model which includes advertising revenue and the annual licence fee.

In contrast to the single mum, RTE employs a chat show host who earns €495,000 per year and a radio presenter who rakes in €416,000 to moan on behalf of the “little people” on national radio every weekday.

The single mum had managed to repay just under half of the €450 fine which had been imposed on her at Letterkenny District Court, but she found herself being hauled off to jail – by taxi.

She ended up spending just three hours in jail.

Countless people like her around the country must be baffled this week, that a corporation can get away with paying 0.0005% in tax while people who are struggling to pay the bills can be whisked off to jail for owing the State just over €200.

The message is simple, really . . . If you don’t pay your taxes you will go to jail, unless you’re a multinational corporation!


  1. Mrs Brown Boys, Fr. Ted, Friends sport that's Bout it. Repeats over and over. Is that value for money?

  2. Mrs Brown Boys, Fr. Ted, Friends sport that's Bout it. Repeats over and over. Is that value for money?

  3. License fee, for what ? State propaganda, delivered by over paid individuals who operate under as company to avoid paying tax. Tubridy and others are not employees of RTE, they are employees of contractors who provide services to RTE ! It seems that the more people get paid in this country, the meaner they get.

  4. I think the RTE loss of 2.8 billion might be a tad exaggerated !