Apple verdict is a complete game-changer in Brussels
Opinion: Downing on politics
Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30
Throughout Ireland's 43 years of EU membership, the Government could always rely upon a level of trust in the European Commission.
One of its roles was as guarantor of the smaller states' rights. The Apple tax finding that Ireland must claw back €13bn in back taxes raises doubts about that trust. It may well be the start of a new and more confrontational relationship between Dublin and Brussels.
The brutal reality is that since the economic crisis erupted in late 2008, there has been a growing body of evidence that bigger countries can bend the EU rules. By contrast the smaller states are treated much more harshly.
The Dublin Government's frustration erupted in the wake of the Apple verdict. Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, harked back to 2011 when the then French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, said Ireland should increase its corporation tax from 12.5pc as a condition of the bailout.
The Taoiseach, who has been very sparing in his public appearances around Apple, said something even more explicit when he was interviewed on RTE news on the issue.
"This is about the right of a small nation. I'm not sure whether the European Commission wants to ingratiate themselves with more powerful countries than ours, but this is a small country," the Taoiseach said.
Let's not forget that Fine Gael has long been the most pro-European of the Irish parties. Some of its members will tell you that this was what attracted them to the party on day one.
When Ireland entered the bailout in November 2010, the country had to submit to an intensive regime of economic supervision. The same happened to Cyprus in 2013.