Saturday 16 December 2017

'Larger European countries are jealous and out to get us' - Noonan

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Finance Minister Michael Noonan speak to the media outside Leinster House yesterday Photo: Tom Burke
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Finance Minister Michael Noonan speak to the media outside Leinster House yesterday Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Larger European countries are jealous of Ireland's ability to attract investment and are trying to undermine our tax system, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has claimed.

Three days after the European Commission ruled that Apple was given a sweetheart deal worth €13bn, the Government has gone on the offensive.

In an unprecedented assault on Europe, Mr Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny both suggested that Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager's judgment was driven by jealousy.

"There is a lot of envy across Europe about how successful we have been in putting the headquarters of so many companies into Ireland," Mr Noonan said.

Read more: Ireland to fight European Commission over Apple tax bill

As the row over the Apple taxes grows increasingly bitter, he cited the Taoiseach's first EU meeting after taking office in 2011 when the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy made "an attempt to bully" Ireland into raising corporation tax to 15pc in exchange for a bailout programme.

"I think that was a dreadful thing to do at the time," he said.

"There are people still of the same view that Ireland is doing too well in terms of investment and that would like to change the 12.5pc.

"And I would like to say to international investors and to the Irish people that there will be no change in our 12.5pc.

"We stand by the treaty. It's in our competence to set the rates and no bridgehead by any commissioner is going to change that. We'll fight it at home and abroad and in the courts."

At Government Buildings, Mr Noonan said he had "heard comments" from the United States in recent days that Ireland was "pro-business", unlike continental Europe.

"We'll reinforce the attractiveness of Ireland as a location by lodging an appeal," he said.

Cabinet agreement on an appeal came after intense talks involving Children's Minister Katherine Zappone and the Independent Alliance.

As part of the deal, the Dáil will be recalled next Wednesday to debate the EU ruling. Fine Gael sources told the Irish Independent that Ms Zappone took a particularly hard line.

Afterwards, she said that the arrangement between Apple and the Revenue Commissioners was "unethical" and praised the European Commission, which she said had "acted in the public interest."

Read more: Blow for Kenny as ally backs EU in Apple tax row

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath told the Irish Independent that the Alliance was "satisfied" with the outcome and "everybody has to pay their fair share of tax".

Waterford TD John Halligan, who had been the most likely to quit the Government over the issue of an appeal, said: "I believe Apple should have paid the money but I also think the Government shouldn't be destabilised or brought down on this issue."

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor said the 12.5pc corporation tax rate was "written in stone".

"We will defend our sovereignty and devise our own tax code," she told a meeting of Irish and US business leaders at Dublin's Mansion House. The comments were greeted by applause.

Read more: The Government's failure to prepare for this made jaws drop in Brussels 

At the same event the global chief executive of Coca Cola praised Ireland's business environment and the success of the IDA.

The compromise agreement includes an independent review of our corporation tax code, a high-level conference on tax justice and greater openness on tax rulings with time limits of five years.

Irish Independent

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