There has been a lot of talk about what Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will do with the Apple tax case, but what should he have already done?
1. Find out what was going to be in the judgement
Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan often talk about the great relationships they have in Europe which begs the question as to why they seemed so surprised by the €13 bn decision. Mr Noonan met Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in July and seemed to come away thinking she was a friend of Ireland.
2. Prepare the ground
Instead of trying to convince themselves and everybody else over recent months that the judgement wouldn't have a major impact, Mr Noonan should have been preparing the public for a worst case scenario.
3. Agree a Government response
It’s astonishing to think that the Independent Alliance were (in their own words) “shocked” by the ruling. Were they not briefed in advance?
Mr Noonan and Mr Kenny should have ensured that their Independent partners were on board for a collective response before telling the world Ireland was outraged and would appeal.
4. Come out all guns blazing
With the full backing of Cabinet, the Finance Minister and Taoiseach should have gone on the immediate offence, invite the world’s media to Government buildings and fight back against the Brussels PR machine. Instead we saw a globalised press conference by an assured Ms Vestager,while Mr Noonan’s first port of call was to talk about “seed potatoes” on RTÉ radio.
5. Find Allies
We are small country on the fringes of Europe but we are not alone in resisting EU moves towards tax harmonisation. Our former allies in Britain have one foot out the door and nobody else put their head above the parapet to back us. Why?
'Simplify, then exaggerate". This is the advice that is often given to newspaper columnists. Few events show better than the Apple tax case how bad that advice can be, not because the matter cannot be exaggerated, but because it cannot be simplified in any honest way, at least not yet.