Budget measures will ‘crush’ middle classes - Paddy Cosgrave

Web Summit chief accuses Fine Gael of ‘looting business people’

Measures introduced in Budget 2019 to deal with the housing crisis are going to "crush the middle classes", according to Web Summit co-founder and chief executive Paddy Cosgrave.

"I struggle to understand why Fine Gael is attacking its own electoral base and impoverishing the children of that base," he said, referring to a series of budgetary measures announced this week.

In conversation with The Irish Times after holding a press conference to discuss future plans for the Web Summit, Mr Cosgrave said he hoped the new measures were due to "blind idiocy,' rather than being the result of "someone getting paid off somewhere".

He criticised in particular the decision to give uncapped mortgage deductibility to landlords.


"Not even Donald Trump dared to go that far in his giveaway to the 1 per cent," he added.

Mr Cosgrave, a long-time critic of the Government’s attempts to resolve the housing crisis, said the mortgage deductibility measure was nothing more than a “tax break for the super rich.”

While the Web Summit founder has himself been criticised for his intervention into the housing crisis, he said it was amoral not to speak out on the issue when he was in a position to do so. He added that the housing problem was a sign of the State being run ineffectively.

“If you want to run a country efficiently then the last thing you want to do is to enable people to put their hands in the till,” he said.

“Fine Gael used to be the business party but now they are looting business people,” Mr Cosgrave added.

The Web Summit chief executive also called for reform of Irish libel laws, claiming that the regulations are outdated and are holding back journalists from reporting on critical issues effectively.

Lisbon deal

Commenting on the €110 million deal announced last week in which the Web Summit is to remain in Lisbon until 2028, Mr Cosgrave said Berlin and Madrid were also in close contention to be host cities for the technology conference.

He said that under the agreement, the Portuguese Government would build the equivalent of ten Dublin convention centres in addition to current facilities. This would enable the conference to expand further.

Mr Cosgrave, who has previously insisted that Web Summit is a technology, rather than just an events company, confirmed the it was considering selling its solutions into other industries.

“Every time we hold an event we are inundated with offers from others but my key priority is to stay focused and grow the company right now,” he said.

The company, which returned to its home city earlier this year with MoneyConf, would also consider hosting more events in Dublin in the future, he added.

Web Summit began in Ireland in 2009 with fewer than 400 attendees but left Dublin under controversial circumstances three years ago. The company, which now employs more than 200, most of them in Ireland, expects more than 70,000 to attend its flagship event in November.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist