TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar took up where his predecessor Enda Kenny left off, swanning around the World Economic Forum at Davos last weekend and telling anyone at this annual circus in the plush Swiss ski resort who would listen what a great little country Ireland is to do business in. However, the arrival of US President Donald Trump in a fleet of helicopters somewhat overshadowed our glorious leader.
Ireland shipped some more of the usual criticism about our low corporation tax regime, with Finance Minister Paschal Donohue having to robustly defend it and re-assert Ireland’s right – and that of all other countries – to fix their own tax rates.
This was against the backdrop of the ongoing saga of the disputed €13bn tax bill the European Commission feels that Apple owes us and that our government does not seem to want, even though such an amount would go a long way towards providing extra social housing and hospital beds. However, it is not quite as simple as that and the Irish government seems to be looking at the bigger picture of keeping the likes of Apple onside, given the amount of foreign direct investment and employment they provide in this country.
Rightly or wrongly, Ireland has acquired a reputation as a tax haven for multinational corporations, but apart from the attractiveness of the corporation tax rate, being the only English-speaking country in the European Union after Britain leaves – assuming they do – is an added advantage for us, especially in the eyes of American companies. However, The Donald has them in his sights too and god only knows what he might do!
Also, in recent weeks, Taoiseach Varadkar gave quite a slick and stylish address to the European Parliament, setting out where Ireland stands in the greater scheme in his eyes and impressing our EU masters with his youthful enthusiasm and willingness to buy into their vision. However, this and the impression given at Davos mask the myriad problems at home, including our housing and healthcare crises, and he’d be better employed prioritising these.