Minister says small towns should get tax breaks

Michael Ring says measures needed to revitalise coastal and rural towns

Minister of State Michael Ring: “This is going to be the best year for tourism if it continues. It won’t be the best year since the recession – this will be the best year ever.”  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister of State Michael Ring: “This is going to be the best year for tourism if it continues. It won’t be the best year since the recession – this will be the best year ever.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Tax breaks to revitalise small coastal and rural towns, such as deductions for businesses which freshen up their premises, should be included in next month’s budget, a Fine Gael Minister has said.

Minister of State for Transport, Tourism and Sport Michael Ring said he had been lobbying Minister for Finance Michael Noonan for such a tax break to be included in the October 13th package. Mr Ring said towns along the western seaboard in particular had experienced “harsh winters” and needed to be “freshened up”.

“What I would like to see a tax break for – and I’ll be talking to Michael Noonan again about this – I want to see these coastal towns freshened up and I’d like to see some initiatives to try and do something with them,” the Mayo TD said.

“You take towns in west Cork, west Kerry or west Mayo. They get very harsh winters and they need to be freshened up. I have spoken to Michael Noonan. I’m not saying it is going to happen. He has 100 requests a day, but he does realise that this has come up with the parliamentary party. I hope to see something small in this budget.”

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Ring also said holding that the general election next spring was preferable to having it in November, following the budget, because people would have money in their pockets.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has repeatedly said the election will be held early in 2016 and Mr Ring said hanging on until spring would also allow for increased activity in the tourism sector, which he said was having its best ever year in 2015.

“People will have more money in their pocket. It would be better for tourism. More people will be holidaying at home. This is going to be the best year for tourism if it continues. It won’t be the best year since the recession – this will be the best year ever. It will be four years of continual growth in tourism. We had over 7.5 million people in the country last year; we are up 600,000 people in the first seven months of the year. There will be over 8 million people in the country this year.

“If we have an election in March next year, people would have three months’ wages in their pockets, with the USC changes and all that. There will be more domestic tourism, too, and domestic tourism fills two out of three beds in this country.”

He said there were a number of reasons for the strong tourism figures, including interest generated by the Gathering, the weakness of the euro against sterling and the dollar, the 9 per cent VAT rate for the hospitality industry, the abolition of the airport travel tax and the scheme to allow a common visa for travel in Britain and Ireland.

However, Mr Ring said there was an emerging problem with a shortage of hotel beds in Dublin while he added that restaurants and hotels must keep providing value for money.

“In the past, prices weren’t very competitive. They are now. Hotels are competitive, food is competitive. but Dublin is the problem and we need more capacity, we need more hotels. Operators who have been coming here for 13 or 14 years are finding it very difficult to get hotels. What we need is we need more capacity – more hotels in Dublin, in the centre of Dublin, but we need to get tourists out to rural Ireland,” he said.