Apple tax ruling: ‘EU sticking its nose where it shouldn’t be’

Opinions on tax ruling were evenly split among Athenry primary school students

Sixth class pupil Leah Glennon giving her opinion on the Apple tax ruling  at Lisheenkyle National School, Co Galway. Also present  is school principal Anne Keary and other 6th class pupils. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Sixth class pupil Leah Glennon giving her opinion on the Apple tax ruling at Lisheenkyle National School, Co Galway. Also present is school principal Anne Keary and other 6th class pupils. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

If Apple chief executive Tim Cook had strolled into a classroom in Athenry, Co Galway yesterday, he would have heard mixed views about his company’s €13 billion tax bill.

Lisheenkyle primary school is built next to a Coillte forest, where an €850 million Apple data centre is due to be built.

The school has an outdoor classroom in the forest, and the technology giant has promised to upgrade it as part of their plans. Apple has donated iPads to the school, which sixth-class teacher Patricia Dunne and resource teacher Eithne Archer have been using.

Still, a show of hands among Ms Dunne’s group was evenly split when asked if Apple should be liable for the unpaid tax.

“I think it should be made to pay up, as we need the money,” said Tommy Lardner (12).

Oisin Ruane (12) agreed: “Everyone else has to pay their taxes.”

“But the EU is sticking its nose in where it shouldn’t be,” observed Ruairí­ Mannion (11).

“If we did get some of that money, we could use if for healthcare,”pointed out Anna Healy (11), daughter of Irish Farmers Association president Joe Healy.

Second thoughts

Charlene Caulfield (11) did not think Apple should be liable now. Ryan Langan-Rabbitte (11) expressed concern that other multinationals might have second thoughts about coming to Ireland.

Whatever the outcome of the European Commission ruling, it will be closely monitored by the school of 231 pupils, said principal Anne Keary.

“Athenry really needs this Apple investment, as the town has not recovered from the recession,” she said.

Closed shops and shuttered windows are evidence of this in the medieval streets, which were almost deserted yesterday afternoon.

“I think Apple will liven up the place,” said town resident Kathleen Gardner. She said she had no view on the judgment.

In Athenry Heritage Centre, Carmel Barrett agreed that the data centre would be a fillip, and the European Commission ruling had been “ a topic of conservation here all week”.

“We get the impression that it won’t affect Apple’s investment, but at the same time €13 billion – or whatever bit of it we might get – could do a lot for our hospital services and for the homeless,” she said.

Closed businesses

“Just look at accident and emergency in University Hospital, Galway . . . it’s horrendous,” Ms Barrett said. She counted at least 10 businesses in Athenry that had closed since the downturn hit.

In The Fields of Athenry, a shop in Church Street that sells jewellery and gifts, proprietor Michael Melia said he believed the Government should not appeal the ruling on Apple. The multinational should pay its tax due, he said.

“At the same time, Apple will be a massive boost to this town,” he acknowledged. “And it’s what it will attract here, rather than the impact of the data centre itself.”

Mr Melia’s daughter, Joanne Costello, said the Apple investment could not come at a better time, and expressed hope that the judgment would not put the multinational off.

And if Tim Cook or any of his colleagues need a Child of Prague to weather the current storm, her father’s shop is happy to put one in the mail.