Sunday 11 December 2016

Gerry Adams plans to double the cost of workers' pensions

Cormac McQuinn, Kevin Doyle and John Brennan

Published 19/02/2016 | 02:30

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. Photo: PA
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. Photo: PA

Sinn Féin will double the cost of middle-income earners investing in a pension if elected to power.

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Gerry Adams's party has proposed to massively reduce tax relief on private pensions - at a time when experts are warning of a looming crisis because not enough people are saving for their retirement.

An average worker on an income of €40,000, who pays 10pc into a pension pot, could lose out on as much as €800 annually as a result of the move.

The revelation came on a day when Mr Adams's grasp of financial issues took a major battering over the course of two 'car crash' interviews.

The Sinn Féin leader floundered as he came under intense questioning on his party's plans for taxing the rich, water charges and healthcare.

Mr Adams repeatedly claimed that nobody earning under €100,000 would see their income damaged by his party's policy.

However, their manifesto commits to halving the existing 40pc tax relief on pensions for ordinary middle-income workers.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan described the move as "the nastiest little change of all and it's not even little".

"What that means is the doctor, the nurse or the guard, or the private sector worker paying 10pc into a pension contribution on €40,000, that'll cost you €800 a year. It's the equivalent of a 2pc reduction in your gross wages.

Read more: Watch: Gerry Adams flounders under intense questioning on Sinn Fein plans for additional tax on salaries over €100k

"That's a long way away from people on €100,000. That's a very nasty little one that Gerry Adams has slipped in," Mr Noonan said.

Under pressure on RTÉ's Six One News, Mr Adams insisted "most people" can't avail of the relief because they can't afford "the big accountants".

However, experts told the Irish Independent that the vast majority of middle-income workers would be claiming the relief if they were paying into a pension.

Sinn Féin's finance spokesman Pearse Doherty was forced to deny Mr Adams's understanding of economic matters is becoming a liability to the party.

Mr Doherty said: "I don't believe my party leader does find difficulty in explaining it [Sinn Féin's tax policy]."

At one point during an interview with Sean O'Rourke (inset) on RTÉ Radio One, Mr Adams claimed he decided not pay water charges on his holiday home in Donegal to show "solidarity" with his constituents in Louth.

Salesman

He had previously said he would pay the charges but said yesterday: "It was then when I reflected when I went back into my constituency, talked to people there and saw the dire straits that they were in that in solidarity with them that I took up the position [of not paying]."

During the bizarre interview, Mr O'Rourke put it to Mr Adams that a car salesman earning €110,000 would end up paying 59c on every euro above €100,000 while the Sinn Féin leader repeatedly said it was 7c on the euro.

"That is not the case," Mr O'Rourke said.

"That is the case, Sean," Mr Adams replied, later saying "let's agree to differ" as the exchange continued for some time.

As the discussion continued, Mr Adams did seem to concede it would be 59c - before returning to the 7c figure.

Read more: Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty defends Gerry Adams following difficult Sean O'Rourke interview

"You seem to be suggesting two different things," Mr O'Rourke said.

"No, I am sorry, I am not Sean. You're the one that's confused. I'm not the least bit confused," Mr Adams replied.

"I'm not in the slightest confused," the presenter said, before adding: "Perhaps our listeners might be."

Fine Gael's junior finance minister Simon Harris yesterday said Sinn Féin would drive workers out of the country.

"We have a battle for talent in this country. We have a battle to retain talent and skills.

"How are Sinn Féin going to get more doctors to work in our hospitals when they are proposing a marginal tax rate in this jurisdiction that would be in or around 20pc higher than the marginal tax rate in the Northern Ireland or the UK?" he said.

Gerry Adams on...

... Sinn Féin’s tax plan: “An individual earning over €100,000 will pay no more than 7c in the euro for every Euro earned.”

... and the reality: The rate will be closer to 60c on the margin over €100,000. What Sinn Féin’s plan says is earners over €100,000 will pay an additional 7 cent on the euro.

... on Water Charges: “We will if we get a mandate remove water charges as a matter of urgency... We will remove the family home tax as a matter of urgency and that would for the average family give them €500.”

... and the reality: €260 of that is the water charge and Mr Adams is not taking into account the €100 water

conservation grant householders can avail of. He later said the changes would give families “between €400 and €500”.

... on the reduction of tax relief for pension contributions:

“No one below €100,000 will have to pay one extra penny or will lose one extra penny because of the policies that Sinn Féin are bringing out.”

... and the reality: An average worker on an income of €40,000 who pays 10pc into a pension pot could lose out on as much as €800 annually as a result of the move.

...And finally

... on his holiday home water charges flip-flop:

“I accept I was going to pay...It was then when I reflected when I went back into my constituency... in solidarity with them (his constiuents) that I took up the position.”

... and the reality:

Mr Adams denies that he changed his mind only after Sinn Féin lost the October 2014 Dublin south west by-election to anti-water charge candidate Paul Murphy but it is a fact that the change in position took place after that date.

Irish Independent

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