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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Varadkar to axe tourist levy

The youngest Cabinet member will abolish a controversial travel tax in return for airlines opening up routes from tourist hotspots.

Leo Varadkar, who holds the merged tourism, transport and sport brief, said he wanted operators, such as Aer Lingus and Ryanair, to reopen services which have been shelved.

The 32-year-old said he wanted to remove the €3 visitor charge for coming into Ireland, roundly blamed by airlines for a huge loss in business.

Mr Varadkar said tourist numbers from the US and the UK in particular should be back to where they were.

"We are willing to reduce the tourist tax," he said.

"We are willing to do a number of things to make Ireland a cheaper, more attractive place for tourists but there has to be a quid pro quo for that."

Mr Varadkar said the tourism sector should be able to build on the visit by Britain's Queen Elizabeth in May and the rumoured trip to Ireland by US president Barack Obama around the same time.

He also defended the low number of women in the Cabinet - just three positions if the Attorney General's role is taken into account.

He said it was an issue of too few women in politics, with just 23 out of 166 TDs returned to the 31st Dail.

Mr Varadkar, a GP, also rejected criticism of the newly-created split in the Department of Finance where Fine Gael's Michael Noonan controls budgets and tax and Labour's Brendan Howlin oversees public expenditure and reform.

"The way this is going to work is not dissimilar to the UK," he told RTE Radio.

In Whitehall the UK Government's financial matters are split between the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

"There are always disagreements between ministers, even when they come from the same parties. It will have to be figured out," Mr Varadkar said.

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