Wednesday 18 October 2017

Like the Bahamas, Ireland's tax policy is coming under a global spotlight

UN special rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Professor Philip Alston
UN special rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Professor Philip Alston
David McWilliams

David McWilliams

I realise it's a bit odd to be writing about the Irish tax system while eating grilled fish at a beach shack in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. I'm in this tax haven to give a speech about the economic challenges facing small countries when old certainties start to crumble. Specifically, in the case of the Bahamas, this has to do with changes to global tax conditions and the likely impact on the economies of the region as the giant in this part of the world, Cuba, opens up to commerce.

These people know all about commerce because it was a cornerstone of the unspeakable "Atlantic Triangle" trading regime of the 17th and 18th century. Guns and basic machinery were exported from England to Africa in exchange for humans (slaves). It is difficult to know how many fortunes of so-called "respectable", old mercantile families were made from this ghastly trade.

When you walk around Nassau, there are echoes of Dublin everywhere. Not Dublin as we know it - but colonial Dublin, evident in our architecture, public buildings and churches. In Nassau's old Anglican graveyard it is noticeable just how many early settlers were born in Ireland and how many Irish Anglicans with typical Catholic surnames are buried in the early Protestant churches here.

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