Ross blames hotel 'price-gougers' as Vat remarks heckled at awards
Transport Minister Shane Ross has hit out at the "big hotel price-gouging brigade" after remarks he made about the 50pc Vat hike for the tourism sector were met with a frosty reception at an industry awards night.
Mr Ross raised the issue of the Vat increase during a speech at the Irish Tourism Awards on Friday, where airline boss Willie Walsh was being honoured for his contribution to the industry.
Representatives of hotels and restaurants were left furious when the hike was announced in last October's Budget in a bid to raise €466m.
Mr Ross praised those present at the event on Friday for using the reduced 9pc Vat rate, introduced during the economic crash, to the benefit of the industry and jobs.
The rate has now been raised to 13.5pc - a hike of 50pc - and Mr Ross said: "Your greatest success will be proven when you can - and you will - cope with the Vat increase."
In remarks greeted with vocal disapproval by many in the room, he argued the hike was "a vote of confidence in yourselves rather than anything else".
Last night, Mr Ross said his remarks resulted in a "buzz of barracking from the big hotel price-gouging brigade at the dinner".
He blamed them for provoking the Vat changes "by their opportunist high charges", arguing Ireland's reputation had suffered as a result.
He said "it is a pity that small tourist enterprises have been caught in the same net".
At the event, Mr Walsh said he disagreed with Mr Ross on the tax increase.
He relayed an anecdote about a linguistics professor telling students that there is "no known language in the world where a double positive made a negative until the Irish guy at the back stood up and said 'Yeah, right'."
Mr Walsh added: "So I feel like I'm speaking on behalf of everyone in the room when I say, minister: 'Yeah, right'."
Mr Ross told the Irish Independent that Mr Walsh's point was "humorous, after-dinner banter and well made".
He suggested Mr Walsh didn't know that he himself had opposed the Vat increase.