herald

Saturday 24 September 2016

Apple ruling is driven 'by envy', says Noonan as he vows to fight EU

Michael Noonan
Michael Noonan

Ireland's ability to attract investment from major corporations is the "envy" of other European countries and the reason they attack our tax rates, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has claimed.

The minister launched a stinging assault on our bigger EU colleagues, alleging that the decision to force Apple to pay €13bn in back taxes is part of a plan to force changes to the Irish tax system.

Mr Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny suggested that Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager's judgment was driven by malice.

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

He cited the Taoiseach's first EU meeting after taking office in 2011 when 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," said Mr Noonan.

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

"I would like to say to international 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."

During a press conference at Government Buildings, Mr Noonan told reporters he has "heard comments" from the US in recent days that Ireland is "pro-business", unlike Europe.

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

Demands

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

As part of the deal, the Dail will be recalled from its summer break next Wednesday to debate the EU ruling.

Fine Gael sources told the Herald that Ms Zappone took a particularly hard line during the negotiations, making a series of demands concerning tax justice.

Afterwards, she said the arrangement between Apple and the Revenue Commissioners was "unethical", but praised the European Commission, which had "acted in the public interest by bringing this issue into the public, media and political spotlight".

However, she agreed to the appeal on the grounds that it would be an opportunity for tax justice for those who have "been denied money as a result of Ireland's past actions".

"Countries who feel robbed or cheated can use this appeal to make their case," she said.

Minister for Disability Iss-ues Finian McGrath said the Independent Alliance was "satisfied" with the outcome and "everybody has to pay their fair share of tax".

Asked about the division in the Government over the issue, he said: "A lot of people have to get used to this."

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

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