Saturday 22 October 2016

We cannot accept this affront to sovereignty

Published 02/09/2016 | 02:30

Education Minister Richard Bruton Photo: Tom Burke
Education Minister Richard Bruton Photo: Tom Burke

When you are being hit over the head with a hammer, it is not the most opportune time to indulge in an existential crisis. The slowest of slow political learners must by now appreciate that the EU Commission's finding on Apple is a hammer blow to the State's foreign direct investment policy. They should by now also be aware that this same policy is responsible for 150,000 jobs here.

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For such reasons, the agony and anguish being endured by members of the Independent Alliance are difficult to accept. For the past two decades, governments here have followed a strategy that has brought the world's biggest multinationals to Ireland and the country has become the envy of Europe.

Let us not also forget that these same firms yielded incomes totalling €9bn last year.

Our low-tax policies, coupled with a skilled and extremely flexible and well-educated workforce, have made Ireland a go-to destination for global business leaders.

That our tax policy was fluid and adaptable is something to be admired, not attacked. For the Commission to launch an all-out assault on the success story of one its members is unparalleled. To accept a retroactive decree that our State aid programme was "illegal" would be to taint the financial integrity and reputation of the country.

Education Minister Richard Bruton is correct to insist that the Government must stand by the independence of the Revenue Commission. He is equally right to claim that the Commission has set itself up as prosecutor, judge and executioner.

The surprising thing was that it was the Minister for Education and not the Taoiseach or Minister for Finance, who made this case. The Independent Alliance wants the Dáil to vote on the matter, but the case could hardly be clearer. The Commission is surreptitiously using competition law to target our corporate-tax regime. To let this go unchallenged would be to submit to a power grab and a surrender of sovereignty to unelected officials.

This Bill will be a legacy of the Berkeley disaster

It is beyond tragic that it took the deaths of six students to introduce new US laws aimed at preventing another Berkeley. Bill 465 was adopted unanimously yesterday by a sombre California State Senate. Had stricter building standards been in place, the terrible events of June 2015 may not have happened.

Aoife Beary's courageous recall of the heartbreaking moments during her 21st birthday celebration was a touching testament to her lost friends. That their deaths have been given meaning by these laws, which should help make sure such a catastrophe could not happen again, will be some small comfort.

In the run-up to the passing of this vote, the mother of one of the six students appealed to legislators to pass the measure. Jackie Donohoe, whose daughter Ashley (22) died in the balcony collapse, put it plainly: "That balcony should have not went down. My daughter and the rest of these kids should be alive today."

It emerged after the tragedy that Segue Construction, the California firm that built the Library Gardens apartment block at 2020 Kittredge Street where the accident occurred in June 2015, had paid out €23m to settle legal actions relating to construction defects over the previous three years. This Bill will be a legacy of the Berkeley disaster.

But it is a painful one which came at far too high a price. As Aoife Beary told the legislators earlier this summer: "None of this needed to happen. I cannot believe why you are even debating this Bill. People died."

Irish Independent

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