Kenny's proclamation on tax rate 'was very unhelpful'
Published 16/02/2011 | 05:00
FINE Gael's talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel were "very unhelpful" in the battle to protect Ireland's hallowed corporate tax rate, finance minister Brian Lenihan said yesterday.
The comments came the day after Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny claimed he had told the German premier that the 12.5pc corporate tax rate -- a key selling point used to lure businesses to Ireland -- was "non-negotiable" despite Ireland's dependence on international assistance.
Mr Kenny's declaration won him plaudits in Dublin but prompted fury from some in Ms Merkel's own government who were unhappy at Ireland dictating terms to a country that's bailing us out.
"I must say that I thought that Deputy Kenny's visit to Berlin was unhelpful, very unhelpful," Mr Lenihan told journalists in Brussels yesterday.
"In effect he has inflamed the opinions of certain backbenchers in the CDU [German political party] about the whole issue of corporation tax."
Mr Lenihan said that Ireland's corporate tax rate remained "on the agenda" in Brussels.
"What we're trying to do is skillfully move it off the agenda," he said.
"Irish diplomatic efforts are not helped by unilateral election strokes."
Asked whether the German representatives had raised concerns about Mr Kenny's proclamations at yesterday's meetings, Mr Lenihan said they had not.
"We've got very good working relationships with Germany," he said. "It's fair to say that they have an agenda around corporate tax but it's only one of a number of items on the agenda -- the main focus of German concern has been the fiscal correction in Ireland."
In a separate statement issued by the Fianna Fail press office, Mr Lenihan slammed Mr Kenny's trip to Berlin as a "high-profile photo op" and said the Fine Gael leader had "oversold his diplomatic prowess".
Mr Lenihan, who was making probably his last trip to Brussels as finance minister, said that he had been "amazed" at the "goodwill and support that had been extended to Ireland" by Europe throughout the crisis.
Asked whether he expected to win back his seat in the general election, he said he was heading straight back to the campaign trail in Dublin West.
"I'm fighting for my seat as all government candidates are and I've been getting a very good response on the doorstep."