Tuesday 20 March 2018

McDonald: 'Anyone can fumble a figure'

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Tom Burke

Cormac McQuinn, Barry Lennon and Niall O'Connor

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald has been forced to defend the party's tax policy in the face of accusations that it is "crazy" and "built on slogans rather than thoughtfulness".

The deputy leader also insisted the party will not be changing its policy of halving tax relief on middle-income earners who put money into a pension.

It was revealed yesterday that a worker earning €40,000 and who uses 10pc of it to save for their retirement will lose up to €800 under Sinn Féin's reform plan.

Experts have warned that a pension crisis is on the horizon unless more people start to invest but Ms McDonald said the proposal was justified because almost 900,000 workers have no private pension.

She also said party leader Gerry Adams was not under pressure because of two broadcast interviews that were widely perceived as 'car crashes'.

On six occasions over the course of the two interviews, Mr Adams insisted higher earners would only pay 7c on the euro over the €100,000 mark when under Sinn Féin's plan it will be 59c.

And he also said that no one earning less than €100,000 will be affected by his party's tax plans - seemingly unaware of the changes to pension tax relief.

But Ms McDonald said "anybody can fumble a figure" and it would be "slightly odd if any leader was going on and getting plain sailing".

"I'm sure no broadcaster would tolerate or consider that. I mean, our manifesto and our tax position has been set out. It's been fully costed by the Department of Finance. All of it is deliverable," she said.

Both Tánaiste Joan Burton and Jobs Minister Richard Burton attacked the Sinn Féin tax plan yesterday.

The Labour Party leader said Mr Adams "doesn't get it" when it comes to the economy.

"He's famously said he's not really into things like sums and told the Troika to b****r off. He seems to have the same approach to managing the economy," she said.

"How it adds up doesn't make any difference. Sinn Féin's economic policy is built on slogans rather than thoughtfulness."

And Mr Burton described the entire Sinn Féin tax policy as "crazy".

"They want to load more taxes on employers, they want to make it harder to run a business and realise gains from their business, harder to transfer your business.

"So it's sort of out of the same stable, to make it harder for people to set aside some money for their pensions. I'm not surprised by it, but it's completely the wrong thing to be doing at this stage," he said.

Asked if Mr Adams found it difficult to articulate the Sinn Féin position on tax, Ms McDonald said: "I was on our battle bus yesterday - a discreet little vehicle that you may have seen. So I was in Tullamore, I was in Roscrea, I was in Nenagh. I actually have to say I didn't hear the interviews.

"I heard snatches of them and they were combative and they were challenging and they were searching and probing, but the policy set out as it is; and I'll be honest with you - anybody can fumble a figure on an interview.

"I thought listening to the issue around the third tax band - I think it's very clear what Sinn Féin's position on it is."

She also defended the party's plans to reduce tax relief on private pensions.

Mr Adams got increasingly frustrated during his interview with RTÉ's Sean O'Rourke, at one point complaining: "So we turn this into an interview about accountancy, not about the human stories."

Irish Independent

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