Brexit not adequately discussed, Calleary tells Ibec debate

Damien English, Ged Nash and Lucinda Creighton appear at business leaders debate

Fianna Fáil enterprise spokesman Dara Calleary told the Ibec business debate political parties are not debating the serious effects a Brexit could have on Ireland.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil enterprise spokesman Dara Calleary told the Ibec business debate political parties are not debating the serious effects a Brexit could have on Ireland. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

The Irish political system is not adequately debating the potential consequences of a British exit from the European Union, an election debate for business leaders has been told.

Fianna Fáil enterprise spokesman Dara Calleary told the Ibec business debate political parties are not debating the serious effects a Brexit could have on Ireland.

Also taking part in the debate moderated by The Irish Times Economics Editor Arthur Beesley were Damien English of Fine Gael and Ged Nash of Labour, both Ministers of State at the Department of Enterprise, Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton and Stephen Donnelly of the Social Democrats.

Sinn Féin were due to send a representative but pulled out at the last minute.

Opening the debate, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy called for clear and specific future infrastructural plans instead of vague spending commitments laid out as percentages of GDP.

Mr English said the Fine Gael plan for the election is about about “making work pay” through lower taxes and changes to the welfare system.

“We cannot take for granted that stability and recovery will continue,” Mr English said.

“We will continue making responsible and sensible decisions.”

A number of speakers addressed the issue of tackling an emerging skills gap in the Irish economy.

Universal Social Charge

Mr Calleary also said his party will reduce capital gains tax in line with the United Kingdom and that changes to the Universal Social Charge will be focussed on reductions for middle and lower earners to encourage people to spend more.

Fine Gael’s policy is to abolish the USC in its entirety but introduce a clawback mechanism for those earning over €100,000, while Mr Nash said Labour will abolish USC for those earning less than €72,000.

Ms Creighton said the outgoing government parties must be challenged on the claim that only they can provide stability, and the notion that both stability and growth will come from “serving up more of the same”.

She claimed the Government has failed to foster an entrepreneurial culture in Ireland and has specifically failed to promote and develop the self employed.

The Dublin South East TD said it is a “bit rich” that Fine Gael and Labour are only talking about capital gains tax and tax equalisation for the self employed on the eve of an election.

Mr English defended the stability argument being made by the Government. “It is a key word guys — stability was the first job we had to do. If you haven’t got stability, you won’t get investment.”

Ms Creighton also defended her party’s policy of a flat tax of 23 per cent, and said such a move would make Ireland the Hong Kong or Singapore of Europe.

“If Renua is part of the next government, which we will be, we will be an unashamedly pro-business party.”

Mr Donnelly said the same priority must be given by the next government to small, indigenous Irish businesses that has been afforded the foreign direct investment sector in the past.

The Wicklow TD said he recently met a business owner who employed 80 staff and made the false assumption that ministers had visited the business.

He compared this to the welcome given by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to Donald Trump, when a red carpet and harpists were laid out for the now US presidential candidate when he bought a “golf course in a firesale”.

Mr Donnelly repeated the position of the Social Democrats that the party will not cut or increase any taxes.

“No country on earth has ever achieved US style taxes and European public services. It cannot be done. We will absolutely not raise taxes. We will absolutely not erode the tax base.”

He said the idea that “says you cut taxes, and it’ll be great” is a “failed Thatcherite ideology” and said investment is needed in world class innovation to compare with US hubs such as Boston or Silicon Valley.