DENIS O'BRIEN'S WAY TO BEAT THE DOWNTURN

 

Madam, - Not even the combined talents of Lewis Carroll and Jonathan Swift would have been capable of generating the high farce which The Irish Timesdelivered on Thursday: a billionaire businessman who refuses to contribute a cent towards running the country is given space in your pages to lecture the rest of us on how it should be done.

Mr Denis O'Brien is worth more than €2 billion and chooses to absent himself from this country for the bulk of the year in order to avoid paying tax here.

Consequently, it is the view of Congress that he should not be afforded a public platform from which to lecture and hector those of us who do contribute.

It is telling that in what amounted to little more than a "slash and burn" tract, Mr O'Brien reveals how his own business profits from the services established and paid for by Irish taxpayers, when he writes: "My own businesses overseas have benefited from the expertise of officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs". Unfortunately, Mr O'Brien failed to furnish an address where we might forward the bill for the services of which he availed, at our expense. Or perhaps he really does believe that taxes are for "little people". - Yours, etc,

MACDARA DOYLE, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Dublin 1.

Madam, - Denis O' Brien urges one and all to tighten their belts and get behind the motherland. He does not appear to consider that he and his "tax-exiled" billionaire friends could make a significant difference to our Exchequer funds if they were to do what other citizens do - pay their fair share of income tax.

It is a bit "Irish" of Mr O' Brien to lecture us on how to run the economy when he is a voluntary "exile" to avoid income tax . - Yours, etc,

SEAN O'SULLIVAN, Sutton, Dublin 13.

Madam, - Denis O'Brien is right about the need to remain confident about Ireland's economic recovery. He is also right to highlight the creative spirit of Ireland's young population. However, his road-map for steering us through the current downturn was an example of why multi-billionaire businessmen should not govern the State. They have no conception of what "the State", "governance" or "the public sector" actually mean. In Denis O'Brien's world, the State is a badly run business that simply requires the "efficiencies" of the private sector.

Mr O'Brien says it is "a fact" that the private sector is more efficient. This is an assumption based upon presupposed criteria, not a fact. The inefficiencies of the "private" banking sector have contributed hugely to our current mess. Handing out 100 per cent mortgages was an efficient mechanism to make a short-term profit. Short-term profit-making for shareholders informs policy decisions in the business world. Long-term public investments for the citizen ought to inform public policy in the State.

Collective public goods such as education, transport and healthcare provide the political and economic stability required for a "high-wage economy". Mr O'Brien resorts to a simplistic cost benefit analysis which includes privatising certain State bodies such as CIE. This would make sense if the State were a business, but it is not.

In short, Denis O'Brien's solution is to make the state more competitive and run it like a corporation. For a true statesman (rather than a businessman) this equates to a lack of long-term vision. - Yours, etc,

AIDAN REGAN, Glenbeigh Road, Cabra, Dublin 7.