Parliamentary accountability: a nefarious British plot
Have they thought that it might be a public service to ask Google, Amazon and the rest to come into Leinster House and answer questions about the allegations that have been flying around in the US and Europe that Ireland is a tax haven?
Of course not. Government backbenchers and the main Opposition party seem to be entirely of one mind in relation to the work on tax avoidance of the public accounts committee at Westminster. They are not fooled for a second. They know what Hodge and her fellow conspirators are up to – a nefarious plot against Ireland by the dirty Brits.
I kid you not. Recently, on Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3, Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin suggested the Oireachtas select subcommittee on finance should invite the Revenue, the OECD and representatives of some of the multinational companies to answer considered and respectful questions about how the corporation tax system works here.
Two highly ambitious politicians – Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien, both men who would see themselves as future cabinet ministers – spoke with one voice: the whole thing is a British conspiracy against poor little Ireland.
Here’s Ó Ríordáin: “It’s all centred around an agenda to criticise our corporation tax rate. That’s the whole point of why they’re doing it . . . This suggestion that we would have this investigation is coming as a result of those [Westminster] hearings. We have to be very careful. Either, one, people are being incredibly naive and don’t realise what’s happening or, two, people are playing politics with people’s jobs.”
And here’s O’Brien: “Where I would agree with Aodhán , and I don’t often, is that this is being driven by the British parliament, British MPs, and I won’t take any lectures from the UK and nor should Ireland by the way . . . So why are they doing this? They’re doing it to undermine us.”
Never mind that the allegation of an anti-Irish plot is patently nonsensical: Starbucks, for example, was operating its tax avoidance through the Netherlands. (Maybe Hodge is a secret Jacobite with a grudge against the House of Orange.) Never mind that our model of development based on tax incentives is in obvious trouble. Never mind that many heads of multinational corporations might actually welcome the chance to explain what they do. Our parliament knows that, when faced with British plots, the best thing is to keep schtum and carry on.