Quinn defends Reilly tax breaks

 

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has defended tax breaks to his Cabinet colleague Minister for Health James Reilly for a home in Co Offaly.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning, Mr Quinn said Ireland had inherited a “very rich architectural heritage of buildings going back centuries”.

To ensure the survival of that heritage, successive governments had provided tax incentives and reliefs to owners “on condition that they make those buildings open to the public”, he siad.

He was responding to Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett, who accused the Government of having “one law for the rich and one for the poor”.

The United Left Alliance TD said Dr Reilly was “claiming tax relief on his 13-bedroom mansion in Co Offaly”. This was at a time when ordinary householders were being “hammered” with charges, levies and taxes.

Council tenants were living in “dilapidated sub-standard homes and can’t get maintenance work done”, yet a tax relief “for people with mansions to do maintenance work on their homes is being provided by the State”.

He said that even the IMF “is questioning the fairness of the way in which the austerity measures are being disproportionately imposed on the least well-off”.

But Mr Quinn said the Dun Laoghaire TD would be aware, given his constituency, of the architectural heritage Ireland had inherited. Some buildings are private dwellings in which people live. "The maintenance and upkeep is very extensive because of their age and the manner in which they were built," he said.

Insisting there was “no one law for the rich and one for the poor”, the Minister said the laws in relation to heritage preservation were “open to everyone who was in a position to avail of them”.

However, Mr Boyd Barrett said it was "not acceptable" that tax breaks should be available to people earning annual salaries of €150,000 a year and over.

He  said Ireland's 11,000 highest earners pay only 20 per cent in tax, when ordinary workers were “crucified” with tax.

Mr Quinn pointed out that successive governments had supported measures to preserve Ireland’s architectural heritage and homeowners "only get the tax relief if they open the doors to the wider public. That is the public benefit for that measure.”

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