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Sweetheart deal or just good business?

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Minister of Finance, Michael Noonan: "I remain of the view that there was no breach of State Aid rules."

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It sounds utterly bizarre, but the Government has this week ended up with a windfall of billions of euro that it just doesn’t want to take.

The money could be used as a once-off for capital spending to alleviate the housing and homelessness crisis, deficits in the health service, transport infrastructure, and to address a shortage of school buildings.

But no, the Government will tell the EU Commission ‘no thanks, it’s a kind offer, but we don’t want it. We’d rather do without the money, thank you very much’.

Of course, the windfall we are talking about is the EU Commission’s investigation as to whether Ireland’s tax arrangements with software and tech giant, Apple, were essentially a sweetheart deal.

Technically, the investigation examined whether a deal was struck with Apple that allowed it pay a ridiculously low percentage of tax. That, the Commission has found, constituted a State aid where the Government policy favoured an individual company or sector, with no similar deal being offered to rivals. In other words, it was inherently anti-competitive. And anything that distorts the market in Europe is completely verboten, as far as the EU Commission is concerned.

The whole arrangement came to light during Congressional hearings in the United States, where it was disclosed that Apple was paying a pitifully small amount of tax on the multiple billions of dollars of profit it was making in the EU each year – some claimed it was as low as 1%, but that was never verified.

It is a magnificent windfall. But the Government doesn’t want it. No sir. Not at all. Indeed, it will appeal the decision.

In a Dáil response to Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin in June, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said: “I remain of the view that there was no breach of State Aid rules in this case and that the legislative provisions were correctly applied.  In the event that the Commission forms the view that there was State Aid, Ireland is entitled to challenge this decision in the European Courts.  As the Government has already indicated, we will take that course of action, if necessary, to continue to vigorously defend the Irish position.”

In fairness, the deal was not struck by the present government but by a previous administration. To ordinary people – in other words, those who are not involved in the tricksterish world of finance – it would have come as a shock to learn about this situation.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

By-elections can only offer small insight into next Dáil

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Polling station....by-elections won't reflect General Election result.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Christmas is always a time for recipes – so here’s a political concoction to stick in the oven and see what fully or half-baked result emerges next April or May. First you help whip up endless speculation on when the next general election will be held – and then add 100 Boris Johnson lies if you can get away with it.

Sprinkle this with Donald Trump insults, add a pinch of Leo Varadkar self-congratulation; a soupçon of Micheál Martin faux outrage, and a dollop of Mary Lou McDonald even fauxer outrage.

Beat all these together until it’s a murky paste – and repeat ad nauseam until April or May before popping it into the oven.

If it rises, it’s probably the Greens.

If it fails to rise, it’s everybody else.

We might have stalemate, but I will tell you for free that the composition of the Dáil will change.

The recent by-elections were interesting as they always are – but they are not the ‘be all and the end all’. In other words they tell you a little, but are not conclusive.

If Galway has a good league campaign in hurling or football, that will mean not all that much in the championship.

Even before a vote was cast, or a poster erected, in all four by-elections, we knew that Dublin Fingal was a good constituency for Labour and for Fianna Fáil and for the Greens (it used to have a TD there).

Wexford was also good for Fianna Fáíl and Labour (its leader is a TD there). Cork North Central was a Fianna Fáil stronghold. And Dublin Mid-West was a place where Fine Gael and Sinn Féin were strong.

The part of that we all missed was Sinn Féin. They had done so poorly in the local and European elections that there was an assumption, that like Solidary-People Before Profit, the part was on a steep downward curve. We underestimated the impact of the party’s sitting Dublin Mid-West TD, Eoin Ó Broin.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Murphy’s Law strikes three times for beleaguered Leo

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Political car crash... failed Fine Gael bye-election candidate Verona Murphy with Minister Charlie Flanagan at the Wexford count

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It might have been Murphy’s Law or Murphy’s Stroke – but whatever, the Murphys added up to triple trouble for Fine Gael in the past week.  There was Verona singlehandedly destroying Fine Gael chances in the bye-elections with her ill-considered views on immigrants; double- jobbing Dara on his full Dáil salary and at least one foot firmly in Europe – and Minister for the House of Cards, Eoghan Murphy, who almost brought the government down this week with Tuesday’s vote of confidence.

Fine Gael;s bad week was brought sharply into focus when the four new TD’s Mark Ward, Joe O’Brien, Pádraig O’Sullivan and Malcolm Byrne were paraded into the House by their parties.

And while Government parties rarely win bye-elections, Verona Murphy’s capacity for self-destruction makes you wonder what kind of vetting Fine Gael did before choosing her.

She was a high-achiever with an interesting backstory and a prominent position as a spokeswoman for the haulage industry during Brexit.

But some of her views were bizarre. Her stuff about many migrants being Isis supporters, or of kids of two or three being indoctrinated, or of a need to ‘reprogramme’ them. These are the things you normally only hear at a Donald Trump rally.

And what about Dara? He announced his job in Europe two years ago and then announced in mid-2018 that he was not going to stand in the next election. Leo Varadkar wished him well and said he would be missed from the Dáil.

The problem was he wasn’t going anywhere. To quote the great Con Houlihan: “Forgotten but not gone”.

Murphy has held down what has been a full-time job with the European People’s Party (EPP) for most of the past two years. It has nothing to do with the Irish parliament or indeed the EU parliament.

In the meantime, the record shows that Murphy’s Dáil input has been reduced to near zero since the end of 2017, after he took up the role with the EPP.

However, he has still claimed his full salary of €94,500, as well as his full allowance of €51,600 per annum.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Britain’s dilemma boils down to who’s the least repellent

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Shake on it...Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn before their election debate on ITV.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

The British General Election may be unique on one overriding level in that it’s almost the opposite of a popularity contest. Voters go to the polls on December 12 to choose their new prime minister – and will do so on the basis of which is the least repellent.

The first televised debate last week was revealing. Sure, the audience is packed with partisan supporters. Still, it was shocking to hear open and loud guffaws when Boris Johnson (a practised liar) proclaimed that truth was important.

There were equally high decibels of laughter when Jeremy Corbyn began to say that his stance on Brexit was very clear (in fact it is a non-stance).

We live in an age or irreverence and cynicism; the lighter fuel that has blown up respect has been social media. Anyone forwarding a view and having the temerity (or stupidity) to put it up on Twitter or Facebook can brace themselves for a long thread of gratuitous insults.

Those making it are a teensy proportion of the population, made up of angry and bitter people – and still, their views are somehow taken as a yardstick for public sentiment.

It’s not that politicians (or the media for that matter) are victims in all this. They have taken that cynical approach and refined it.

Look at Donald Trump and his administration. They spray lies around like confetti.

Lots of American media organisations have ‘fact checkers’. It doesn’t matter. By the time they respond, another whole stadium’s worth of porkies have been sent out, or “alternative facts”, as Kellyanne Conway memorably called them.

Many people see this British vote as a rerun of the 2017 election – but it’s not.

Sure, the conditions seemed the same at the start. There was a big gap between the Conservatives and Labour at the start, 17 points. However, by the time of the election in early June that year it had been cut to seven points.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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