Varadkar warns on cut to 9% tourism VAT rate

Minister for Tourism says lowered VAT rate had helped tourism industry and sudden removal could ‘cause harm’

Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar speaking about the success of the Gathering at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Castle yesterday. Photograph: Frank Miller

Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar speaking about the success of the Gathering at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Castle yesterday. Photograph: Frank Miller

Fri, Oct 4, 2013, 22:00


Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar has said he would be fighting for retention of the 9 per cent VAT rate for tourism-related goods and services in budget negotiations.

Speaking on the opening day of the Global Irish Economic Forum at Dublin Castle, he acknowledged the VAT rate was only meant to be a temporary measure, with the 13.5 per cent rate due to resume in January. But he said it had helped the industry and “if you remove it too suddenly it can cause harm”.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Dáil this week that maintaining the rate would be costly and require an increase in taxation or a reduction in expenditure elsewhere.

Mr Varadkar ruled out a continuation of the Gathering into next year, saying the idea could be revived “in seven or 10 years’ time”. Instead, the tourism strategy would focus on outdoor experiences in Ireland, especially the Wild Atlantic Way, the touring trail from Donegal to west Cork, which “could be our answer to the garden route in South Africa”.


Gathering a success

Figures show that the Gathering, the main initiative of the 2011 global forum, attracted 291,000 extra visitors to Ireland by the end of August, 90 per cent of the target figure for the year of 325,000.

Almost 300 members of the forum, which first met at Farmleigh in 2009, reconvened for meetings with the aim of drafting policy initiatives to increase job creation. This is the third time the forum has met, its members travelling at their own expense under the banner of the Global Irish Network.

Opening the conference, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the Government was reviewing its “diaspora policy” as part of which it was creating a “disapora advisory group” to advise it on how best to strengthen links with Irish overseas. It was also working on the creating of an ambitious Irish diaspora data base.


Paths for recovery

The 2009 forum was “a call for help at a time of crisis”, Mr Gilmore said. Two years later, it was looking at paths for recovery, while this year the focus was on job creation and also “to create a vision of post-recession Ireland”.

Author Colum McCann told the opening plenary that Irish people needed to reclaim patriotism and volunteerism as part of that recovery.

“Patriot is almost a dirty word these days as has been for some years. I suggest that we could reacquire the word patriot.”

Among the patriots he identified were Mary Robinson, Gabriel Byrne and even Ian Paisley – “because he learned how to change”.

The meeting heard not only about new Irish entrepreneurs around the globe but also “the forgotten Irish” living in poverty or unemployment overseas.