THE row over how companies use Ireland to avoid paying tax in the United States has been "regrettable" and ignores the main issues for US firms here, the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland said yesterday.
Earlier this month, the powerful US Senator Carl Levin repeatedly described Ireland as a "tax haven" and accused Apple in particular of using this country to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes to the US Internal Revenue Service.
That sparked a row between the two countries, with the Government stridently rejecting Mr Levin's description of Ireland.
Yesterday, the chamber's president Peter Keegan said the row over tax avoidance neglected the size of US firms' genuine presence in Ireland.
"It is regrettable that Ireland has been name-checked so heavily in the recent US Senate Hearings. The substantive nature of the operations that US companies have in Ireland and the longevity of their investment have been largely ignored."
Despite the problems, Mr Keegan said it was "important" to have a debate on international tax structures.
"This must ensure they are appropriate to the modern global economy in which we operate.
"Ireland should continue its constructive engagement in debates within the OECD, EU and others, with a view to realising greater transparency from international tax transactions.
"We must not, however, allow knee-jerk reactions to the current news cycle. And we must not act unilaterally or in any way that diminishes Ireland's attractiveness to foreign direct investment. Ireland does and should continue to compete on the same terms as everyone else," he added.
Mr Keegan was speaking as the chamber launched its new report, 'The Case for investing in Europe', which was compiled by all the American chambers in Europe to promote the continent as a destination for US investment.
Launching the report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it "highlights Europe's significant strengths as a location for investment".