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Martin lays down red lines on business ahead of coalition talks


Micheal Martin at Dublin Chamber of Commerce

Micheal Martin at Dublin Chamber of Commerce

Micheal Martin at Dublin Chamber of Commerce

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has said "many" of his party's policies on entrepreneurship will be "red lines" in coalition negotiations after the next general election.

Martin told the Sunday Independent that he wants to put issues on the table in order to swing debate in his favour ahead of any talks that might take place.

On Thursday last, he told a meeting hosted by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce that his party is planning to cut capital gains tax from 33pc to 15pc for businesses sold up to a maximum of €10m; to allow the self-employed to opt in to Class A PRSI to receive jobseekers' benefit; and to set up a new "fully fledged" enterprise bank that Martin believes "would be a permanent solution to the lending gap that exists in the Irish banking sector".

Afterwards, he told this newspaper that he thinks "most people in the business community, particularly people involved in foreign direct investment, know that our heart was in the right place in terms of creating a strong business environment in the country.

"We're a centre-ground party that sees business as important in terms of job creation. We're pro-enterprise, basically," Martin said.

"And I think with the crash, I think many in the private sector would put their hands up as well in terms of the banking and financial collapse, that this was something both global and national.

"There's a lot of realpolitik in the industry and business community about what happened in terms of the crash, both in terms of the global dimensions and the national manifestations of that.

"Now there was a construction bubble here, allied to competitiveness issues, ultimately in terms of the level of expenditure and wages and so on.

"I think where the business community and others would obviously be concerned is in letting expenditure get out of hand. The tax base did get too narrow and in my view that whole idea of the structural deficit was not in debating circles at all at the time, as it is now.

"The whole area around expenditure went too high, we've acknowledged that with hands up.

"And I think in the aftermath of the general election, issues will be important. The type of policies that matter for the country will be important. And Fianna Fail will be strongly in the centre, pushing for sane, sensible, pro-business and pro-enterprise policies."

Martin also wants to phase out the 3pc USC surcharge on income from self-employment above €100,000 and reduce the premium charged on loans guaranteed under the credit guarantee scheme.

"We also need to explore ways of supporting the patterns of long-term ownership and development which have been the foundation of much of Germany's long-term success."

He has ruled out forming a coalition with Sinn Fein.

"I worked for four years as Minister for Enterprise. I got a great sense of the energy and the contribution of entrepreneurs and high-potential start-up companies.

"I've seen some of them grow from 20 jobs to 1,000 jobs. Sometimes it's something that gets lost in the national debate, but it's the engine of the future.

"By raising the issues that I've raised, you change debate anyway. You force the pace of public debate on to the issues that matter, and so I deliberately, provocatively in some respects, say we need to challenge anti-austerity.

"You go into the Dail, there are two to three parties very negative about corporation tax, so there's a need to resist that, there's a need to have a debate about that.

"You change debate, you put the pressure on people who say we should increase it or whatever like that. And you need to say to workers, well that has implications for you in terms of if you're working for a pharmaceutical company or a technology company, they may not invest here, they may go to Singapore, they may go to Switzerland, they may go elsewhere.

"Debate does matter, prioritising the issues matters, because it shapes what happens."

Enterprise Ireland chairman Terence O'Rourke attended the gathering and asked Martin what Fianna Fail plans to do to address funding issues in the third-level sector.

Martin said the affordability of college is a bigger issue on the doorsteps. He said his party is working on an Australian-style loan scheme to help families, but that he is not proposing the reintroduction of third-level fees. Such a move would be "politically impossible", he told the Sunday Independent.

Sunday Indo Business