Friday 31 October 2014

Politicians revolt against 'evils of subsidised lattes'

Published 31/08/2014 | 02:30

Private sector coffee shop owners in the area had objected to the plans
Private sector coffee shop owners in the area had objected to the plans

Leinster House chiefs have finally admitted defeat in their attempt to re-open the controversial former Rehab Dail shop, An Siopa, as a coffee house after a ''politicians' revolt against the evils of subsidised lattes".

Proposals to turn An Siopa into an upmarket coffee outlet sparked concern and fury amongst local private sector coffee outlets when they were first disclosed in the Sunday Independent last March.

It was initially thought the plans to turn An Siopa into a "gourmet Barrista coffee shop" had been stymied by public and political concern. But Leinster House authorities came back for a second sip from the coffee pot, via a separate attempt to turn the politically embarrassing white elephant, into a combined souvenir and coffee shop.

However, in the wake of a blistering critique of their plans by the Petit Cafe owner, Carol Treacy, the Sunday Independent has learned that the ambitious plans have been definitively scuppered.

In a letter sent to the Oireachtas Commission and the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Barrett, Ms Treacy warned that up to 130 jobs amongst the mix of small cafes dotted around Leinster House would be endangered by the plan.

She also noted that the proposed "use of tax-payers money in the form of a subsidy from the OPW is exceptionally unfair and unbalanced".

In an indication of the penal tax rates small businesses face, Ms Treacy also warned that if local hotels and cafes closed, the State would lose vital funds from corporation tax, VAT, PRSI, employers PRSI, rates, water charges, grease trap and furniture licence revenue.

Ms Treacy, who has led the resistance of local small traders, also noted there is already in Leinster House "five different outlets to get coffee all being subsidised to the tune of €1.4m".

She also challenged the Oireachtas to justify the throwing of more "taxpayers' money to fit out a building that has already cost the taxpayer €1.23m".

A day after the sending of the letter, at the final meeting of the Oireachtas Commission before the Dail broke off for summer, it was agreed to terminate the ill-fated project.

One Commission source told the Sunday Independent: "That coffee shop was never going to happen - there was a politicians' revolt against the evils of subsidised lattes.

"We are not as separate from the real world as to not realise it would have looked appalling; TDs and Senators sipping subsidized lattes while struggling small shop owners attempted to compete - it's not the message a Government prioritising job creation would want to be sending."

Commission member Senator John Whelan echoed the sentiments, "Thankfully, after much struggle, common sense has prevailed," he told the Sunday Independent.

Sunday Independent

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