Noonan: Ireland 'under no pressure' from Europe to alter 12.5% corporate tax rate

Ireland's 12.5% corporate tax rate will remain in place, despite recent controversies surrounding so-called tax breaks for US computer giant Apple, Finance Minister, Michael Noonan has said writes David Raleigh.

Speaking at a jobs announcement by US company WP Engine, who announced 100 online technological jobs in his native Limerick, Mr Noonan said Brussels could not pressurise Ireland into changing any of its tax rates.

"We're under no pressure. The European Commission acknowledge the right to set tax rates is a matter for sovereign governments. It's not a competence of Europe or the European Commission, so there's no pressure (from Europe) on us."

"It has been part of the Irish offering now for years; we could nearly put it on the (tricolour) now, because everybody knows internationally that the rate is 12.5%. Actually, when industrialists think of Ireland, they automatically think of 12.5%. But, just in case there is any doubt about it, I'll confirm it again in this year's Budget."

Earlier, addressing the CEO of Texas-based WP Engine, minister Noonan said: "The recent decision on Apple has had no effect on foreign direct investment in this country, but more importantly, there isn't any pressure from Europe for us to change our tax offering in any way whatsoever. They regard what happened (with Apple) as historic legacy issue from the past, they know we we made changes already, there's no pressure on us to change the 12.5% rate, or indeed to alter any of the other incentives that we have."

Mr Noonan said the priority for the government was to ensure further job growth.

"From an economic and social point of view the policy has to be to get the maximum number of people working. The nature of jobs are changing, jobs are more highly skilled than they used to be."

The Limerick TD said the best measure of prosperity for any country was how any people were employed there.

"By that standard we are doing quiet well at present. About 56,000 additionally are at work in Ireland in the last 12 months. For the first time for a long time the number at work has exceeded two million."

"That's more than double what it was in the 1980s. At the top of the Celtic Tiger (employment) was about 100,000 more than what it is now, but the Celtic Tiger was a false economy, built on cheap money and on one sector, building and development and so on. What's happening now is that the economy is growing across all sectors," he added.

Brexit

Mr Noonan said Brexit could positively effect the Irish economy, despite perceptions it will damage the export sector, especially the Irish beef export industry.

"I was in London last week for three days. There's a lot of concern in the city of London, and there is a great interest in Ireland as a location for the financial services industry, that may be disrupted by Brexit from the city," Mr Noonan said.

"So, that's another job for the IDA to make sure they are at the coal face explaining the advantages of Ireland."

budget

He said he would be fully announcing a raft of incentives for first-time home property buyers, but that the "big issue" was to get agreement across all ministers ahead of the October Budget.

"It's a fortnight away and there are lots of different inputs now - we have three independent ministers with separate views in the cabinet, and we have our own parliamentary party, influencing budget decisions, and then we have Fianna Fáil who are supporting us in terms of the opposition," he said.

"In terms of putting a budget in place, there are a lot of views that have to be taken into account, but so far, the views don't seem to be conflicting in any dramatic way, so I'm quiet confident that we'll put a good Budget through," he added.

During a mirthful moment, when the minister was asked if he was worried Michael Martin would soon come knocking on his door to say time was up for him and the rest of the present government, he chirped: "There are no signs of that. I don't think Michael Martin knows where I live, so he'd have difficulty knocking on the door."

Personal health and political future

The minister also deflected questions surrounding his present health status.

"I have nothing to say beyond what I said during the week," he added, regarding concerns about his health.

Asked if he had a desire to stay on as a member of the until the next election, Mr Noonan said: "I don't know when the next election is, so you're asking me to make a commitment to a target, which nobody knows when that target will be. So, we'll wait and see. I took on a job and I'm doing the job, and I'll continue to do it."

Judicial council

Asked about Chief Justice, Susan Denham's comments this morning, that Ireland's reputation is being effected due to a lack of action by successive governments around the question of the setting up of a judicial council, Mr Noonan said: "I never make comments on statements made by the judiciary, but I understand there was a statement from the department of justice, committing to move in the direction that the Chief Justice has indicated."

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