Wednesday 16 October 2019

Burton begins push by targeting 'high earners'

Joan Burton: our tax system should be 'effective and fair'. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Joan Burton: our tax system should be 'effective and fair'. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

JOAN Burton has appealed to Labour members by suggesting she will clamp down on tax breaks for high earners if elected leader of the party.

Ahead of Alex White's official entry into the race today, Ms Burton attempted to steal a march by talking about asking high earners to contribute more to the Exchequer.

The Social Protection Minister warned that people on very large incomes should be forced to pay "a minimum amount in taxation".

"I don't think we need to increase the rates of taxation, but there are people in the Irish system, where there are some very attractive exemptions under certain conditions and that can result in people on very high incomes paying very little tax," she said.

Asked whether she wants to see changes in taxation in the upcoming Budget, Ms Burton said the system must be made fairer.

"I do want to see an effective and fair rate of taxation, for instance, that very high earning individuals would pay a minimum amount in taxation. I think that is important."

Junior minister Alex White will hold a press conference on the new Rosie Hackett Bridge in Dublin city centre today when it is expected that he will announce his challenge to Ms Burton.

Party sources believe Mr White waited until today to declare so that he was in a position to announce the suspension of the review process into discretionary medical cards.

The Dublin South TD is believed to have the support of Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte and a number of the so-called gang-of-eight including Waterford TD Ciara Conway.

But he faces an uphill battle to secure the leadership after the Irish Independent detailed his knowledge of the gang-of-eight's plan to submit a vote of no confidence in Eamon Gilmore.

Last night, Mr Gilmore publicly expressed an interest in becoming Ireland's next EU Commissioner.

He said that if Taoiseach Enda Kenny were to ask him to succeed Maire Geoghegan Quinn in the €250,000-a-year post he "would think about it".

Mr Gilmore said: "It is not an issue of being a candidate, there is not an election or anything like that. It is for the Taoiseach to make the nomination. If the Taoiseach asks me then I would have to think about it.

"But it is a long commute from Shankill to Brussels," he quipped. While the race to replace Mr Gilmore as party leader appears to be coming down to just Ms Burton and Mr White, the competition for deputy leader is wide open.

Three Labour TDs yesterday declared for the position of deputy leader of the party.

Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly was first out of the traps, followed by Cork West TD Michael McCarthy and Minister of State for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock.

Mr Kelly, a Tipperary deputy, said he wants to ease the burden on families through taxation measures.


"We need to talk to our coalition partners once this contest is over and look at areas that need re-emphasis," he added.

Mr McCarthy said the party needs to "regroup, refocus and renew".

"The people sent us a loud message last weekend and, for our own sake, we must listen. It was a bruising experience for the Labour Party. But we are still here. We must heed and act upon on the message that was roared at us from the ballot box," he said.

And Mr Sherlock said that the party needs to repair itself after the election defeat.

"I want to be part of the process of renewal for this party," according to the Cork East TD.

Other potential contenders for deputy leader include Ms Conway, Kerry North deputy Arthur Spring and Meath East's Dominic Hannigan.

Irish Independent

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